‘Chief justice got his comeuppance’

By Malik Siraj Akbar

QUETTA: The removal of Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary on Friday received mixed reactions in his home province of Balochistan. Justice Iftikhar was the first person from Balochistan to hold this office.

“It is a very sad development and a brutal assault on the judiciary. But the judiciary itself is equally responsible. Had it not accepted dictations from the military from day one, it would not have had to face this day,” Tariq Mahmood, former Balochistan High Court judge, told Daily Times.

Mahmood, who resigned as a high court judge in protest against Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), said the until the judiciary asserted its independence, “we will see such dark days again and again”.

Tahir Mohammad Khan, a Supreme Court advocate, said the allegations against the chief justice should have been investigated before he was removed.

“The unsubstantiated allegations against the CJP have hugely damaged the credibility of the judiciary. But the president has also acted very irresponsibly. If the allegations are false then it (the suspension) is very unreasonable. The Supreme Judicial Council should have been asked to conduct a probe and then it should have recommended punitive measures against the CJP,” said Khan.

Amanullah Kanrani, vice chairman of the Balochistan Bar Council, said Friday’s events were the “expected culmination of the military-judiciary nexus”.

“The CJP was bound to meet such a humiliating fate given the fact that he agreed to act under a president who violated the Constitution. If the former CJP did not protest against the violation of the Constitution by Musharraf, why should one protest against his dismissal? The people of Balochistan are not bothered about this move,” he said.

Hadi Shakil, president of the Balochistan High Court Association, said the decision was politically motivated. Given that general elections are expected this year, the president wanted to bring the judiciary under his full control.

“A message has been conveyed to all the judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts that they should blindly support each step taken by the military regime. Otherwise, they will meet the same fate as the CJP,” he said.

Senator Kamran Murtaza, a member of the Bar Council, said it was a day of mourning for the lawyers in Pakistan. “It is an unimaginable attack on the judiciary. The president has crossed all limits,” he said, adding that Justice Iftikhar was being punished for his ruling against the government in the Pakistan Steel Mills case.

Advocate Kachkol Baloch, Balochistan’s leader of the opposition, said that even a “Punjabi Baloch” was no longer acceptable to the rulers in Islamabad. “The government does not trust anyone from Balochistan and it views every Baloch suspiciously. The military has hijacked every state institution. For how long will we tolerate this?”

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