PkMAP calls Quetta strike, bar refuses to support protests

By Malik Siraj Akbar

QUETTA: A major party in Balochistan called a strike and public rally on March 13 to protest against the suspension of the chief justice of Pakistan, but a lawyers’ body refused to support the action.

Mahmood Khan Achakzai, president of the Pakhtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party, told an impromptu press conference at Quetta Press Club that his party would observe a complete shutter down strike in Quetta on March 13. The chief justice’s suspension, he said, was an attack on the judiciary.

“It is not as if the judiciary has a completely transparent track record. It has, time and again, supported the military rulers. We also have our reservations against Justice Ifthakar Mohammad Chaudhary, but the way he was removed has come as a great shock for democratic forces,” Achakzai said.

Achakzai, who is also president of the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM), appealed to political parties, lawyers’ bodies, media organisations and the general public to support the strike on March 13 in order to convey a message to the government that the people of Balochistan are against the “violation of the Constitution” and they are with Justice Ifthakar.

The strike on March 13 would be followed by a public rally at Mizan Chowk at 3:00 pm.

“The government has kept the chief justice of Pakistan under house arrest for more than 48 hours. This is no way to treat a chief justice. Without substantiating his allegations, the president has brought disrepute to the institution of the judiciary and the entire country,” Achakzai said.

He charged that the removal of Justice Chaudhary was politically motivated. The government was making the upcoming general elections controversial months before their occurrence by taking such ‘objectionable measures’. Unless the general elections are held under the supervision of an interim government and an independent Election Commission, comprising judges who did not take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), the transparency of the upcoming electrons would remain doubtful, he said.

Meanwhile, Amanullah Kanrani, vice chairman of the Balochistan Bar Council, told a news conference that Justice Chaudhary was “unnecessarily being portrayed as a hero”.

Kanrani said the Balochistan Bar Council would not protest against the removal of the chief justice, nor boycott court proceedings on the call of the Pakistan Bar Council, which he described as “a group of privileged lawyers”, for March 12.

“A judge has to be a role model. Justice Chaudhary did nothing for the people of Balochistan. It is falsely believed that he took tangible measures to find the missing persons in Balochistan. Not a single person in Balochistan was found by the intervention of Justice Chaudhary. Then why should one sympathise with him?” Kanrani said.

Kanrani, who is also secretary general of the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), said the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the founder of his party, had made Justice Iftikhar the Balochistan advocate general and then a high court judge, but he did not even turn up for Bugti’s funeral.

He said Justice Chaudhary’s role had been controversial in several matters. For instance, he punished a police officer only for allowing an elderly person to offer his Zuhar prayers during the working hours of the court, Kanrani said. He took no notice of a petition filed against the manhandling of Amirul Mulk Mengal, former Balochistan chief justice and governor, at a Frontier Corps (FC) check post.

“He even darkened the future of several children when they were driven out of their school from the Quetta cantonment area when he did not take notice of the case. He disappointed the public representatives of the NWFP Assembly by interfering in the constitutional powers of the assembly regarding the Hasba Bill,” Kanrani said.

Kanrani also found fault with Justice Chaudhary for calling a peace agreement between Badh Shah Kan Qasirani and Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani, two Baloch tribal elders, a crime and for “sanctioning an operation” against tribal elders in Sindh, Balochistan and the Punjab.

“These tribal elders were only targeted because one of them participated in the grand Baloch jirga in Kalat last year while the others belonged to the Pakistan People’s Party,” he added. He also accused the former CJP of violating the merit principle in Balochistan by using his office to influence the appointment of prosecutors.

Kanrani did not comment when it was suggested that his pro-government stance on this matter was a concession for which he would be made a high court judge. This was the first time that Kanrani’s press conference was widely covered by state-run media outlets. Journalists also received several phone calls from government media officials asking if they had covered the press conference, prompting speculation of a deal between Kanrani and the government.

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