Musharraf Versus Chief Justice Iftikhar

Musharraf may move against Pakistan CJ again
Hamid Mir in Islamabad | October 15, 2007 |

Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf is planning to attack Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry again with the active support of Benazir Bhutto and covert support of the United States. High level meetings are going on in Islamabad in the last two days to chalk out a new strategy against Justice Chaudhry who is becoming a real threat to the Musharraf-Benazir understanding by puncturing the highly-publicised presidential ordinance through which leaders of the Pakistan People's Party got amnesty from corruption cases.

A top government official claimed that the chief justice is also becoming a threat against war on terror because he provided relief to many pro Al Qaeda and Taliban elements in custody of the intelligence agencies.

Some recent suo moto actions of the chief justice have also spread waves of fear in top power circles of Islamabad and they have advised Musharraf to take some precautionary measures against any judicial offensive from the Supreme Court.

Reliable sources have confided that some powerful people including Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz are not happy over the suo moto actions of chief justice against Islamabad's Inspector General of Police and then a surprising action against the 499 owners of agricultural farm houses in Islamabad. The IGP was involved in beating journalists on September 29 and the chief justice suspended him despite all the efforts of prime minister to save him. The chief justice also directly challenged the powerful farm house owners by directing the police to raid them and investigate that why these farms are being used as residences instead of for farming. Interestingly Musharraf, Aziz, Senate Chairman Muhammad Mian Soomro and many influential army officers have purchased these expensive farm houses from the Capital Development Authority.

These owners representing different powerful lobbies are of the view that despite all the efforts of the government, Chief Justice Chaudhry is not ready for a truce with the establishment and he can create a problem against the government. They are urging the President to try to remove Chaudhry from office with the help of the PPP.

It is learnt that government is thinking of fixing the tenure of chief justice for two and a half years. Chaudhry was appointed on May 5, 2005. He will retire in 2012 but if the tenure of his office is reduced he will be forced to vacate office in November 2007. In that case, he will remain a Supreme Court judge. The government can reduce the tenure of the chief justice only through a constitutional amendment.

A top government legal expert informed a high powered meeting that former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto removed Justice Anwar ul Haq in the 1970s by reducing the tenure of the chief justice through the 6 th constitutional amendment. After the 6 th amendment Justice Yaqoob Ali Khan became chief justice and the tenure was reduced to four years. When General Zia ul Haq imposed martial law in 1977, he again appointed Anwar ul Haq as the new chief justice and 6 th amendment was cancelled through the 8 th amendment. It was Justice Anwar ul Haq who pronounced the death penalty on Bhutto.

The present government can pass a new constitutional bill in the current parliament only with the help of PPP which is also feeling threatened after the first hearing against the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance in the Supreme Court last Friday. A three-member SC bench stopped any benefits from the amnesty ordinance.

A well-informed government source admitted to this scribe that any "unpleasant" decision of Supreme Court regarding the dual offices of President Musharraf can derail the democratic process and in that case government will be forced to take some extraordinary measures to save the country from anarchy.

A government source said if Supreme Court goes against the NRO, that decision will be accepted because the government doesn't want any unnecessary confrontation with judiciary but a verdict against the presidential election can create a situation which may lead to a big crisis.

Another government source said that it will not be difficult to satisfy the "international community" about any fresh move against a judicial "threat" to President Musharraf because international powers are well aware that Pakistan cannot play its active role in war against terror without Musharraf.

It is also interesting that Chief Justice Chaudhry is not part of the bench which will start the hearing the case relating to the dual offices held by Musharraf�from October 17. But the government is concerned that at least seven Supreme Court judges are considered allies of the chief justice.

Sources in Islamabad's power circles are clearly indicating that this time Musharraf is planning to move against Justice Chaudhry in the name of saving the war on terror.


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