Supreme Court hearing precipitated emergency?


Islamabad : The immediate provocation for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to impose emergency possibly came from the hearing of the Supreme Court Friday, when it indicated it would not be amenable to giving his election a green light.

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Hearing the legal challenge to Musharraf’s qualification to contest the presidential poll, the apex court had also observed that the imposition of martial law would not affect its working.

In a premonition of coming days, the head of the 11-member Supreme Court bench hearing the matter, Justice Javed Iqbal had observed that taking oath under a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) will be a personal decision of a judge.

In fact, eight Supreme Court judges Saturday refused to take a fresh oath of allegiance under the PCO and set aside the imposition of emergency. However, it is more of a symbolic gesture, because as per the PCO, Pakistan’s 1973 constitution has been abrogated.

The government has also invited some judges of Supreme Court and high courts to take the oath late Saturday night.

That the target of the emergency is the judiciary was borne out by the detention of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry within the court premises. He was later escorted out by the army troops and kept under house arrest. The government informed him that his services were no longer required.

Early reports said the Supreme Court Bar Association chief was also arrested after the imposition of emergency.

The hearing Friday had also witnessed a “heated debate” between Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum, lawyers of the petitioners and members of the bench.

The Nation newspaper Saturday reported Justice Iqbal as saying that elements from all corners were trying to put pressure on the apex court these days, but the matter would be decided strictly on merit.

The Supreme Court had wanted to continue the hearing Saturday and early next week to reach a quick decision on the landmark case, but it was not agreed to by the appearing lawyers.

Instead, the bench decided to continue hearings Monday and Tuesday.

Interestingly, the attorney general had told the judges that the government had no intention to impose martial law. “I have been meeting with the president but I have not found any such intention,” Qayyum had told the bench.