Kudos for Pakistan judiciary on ‘historic’ judgement


Islamabad : A caricature of a benignly smiling muscular youth dressed like Superman with the tag "Lawyers's Movement" on the front page of the English daily The Post summed up the popular mood in Pakistan a day after a Supreme Court verdict reinstated Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the chief justice.

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Commenting on the course ahead for Pakistan, the Daily Times said: "An early, rather than a late, general election is needed to steer us in the right direction. If General Musharraf wants to be president and/or army chief, he should leave that to the new parliament that is elected in the months to come."

The News said it was time for "a debate on the role of the military in the country's politics and on the need for evolving a mechanism to limit its role as assigned under the constitution".

Chaudhry "is the first chief justice in the country's 60-year-long chequered history who stood up against a military dictator and rejuvenated a nation extremely demoralised by successive dictatorial rules", said The Nation.

Most political parties gave expected reactions. But Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, a retired Supreme Court judge who had an axe to grind with President Pervez Musharraf for having deposed him, welcomed the verdict as "a liberation of the judiciary from the shackles that dictators had put on it".

Pakistan People's Party leader and exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto welcomed Chaudhry's reinstatement, saying the verdict "will be long remembered in the struggle for judicial independence".

In a statement from Washington, Bhutto said the ruling was also a giant step towards the supremacy of the constitution and parliament.

Nawaz Sharif, another exiled former premier who was deposed by Musharraf, applauded Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday and his fellow judges on the bench that decided the case for "providing the nation with a ray of hope".

Sharif observed that after this decision, the Doctrine of Necessity invoked by several military dictators in the past to justify their actions, "has been buried once and for all".

"It is obvious that dictatorship and the constitution cannot coexist and the country is now ready to rid itself of military rule," he added and hailed Chaudhry for refusing to resign under pressure.

On the diplomatic front, the US said the decision reinstating Chaudhry was "in accordance with the constitution".

"We expect the chief justice will return to his duties soon," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey. "This reflects well on the growing maturity of Pakistan's institutions. We're pleased to see the Pakistanis were able to resolve this peacefully."

The Post noted in an editorial that although the judgment was 10-3, with the minority being in favour of Musharraf, the case had reversed the trend of the Pakistani judiciary caving into pressures of "rampant praetorian regime".

"In one master stroke, the Supreme Court not only atoned for the judiciary's acts of omission and commission in the past, but also revived the people's hopes in the supremacy of the constitution, law and of course, institutions," The Post said.

The Daily Times noted that following Chaudhry's suspension on March 9 by Musharraf, "protests broke out throughout Pakistan and the protesters showed a resilience that remains unprecedented in the history of this country".