‘Sleepless nights for Zardari, Musharraf’


Islamabad : For once, both Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and his predecessor seem to be in the same boat, spending sleepless nights over the reinstatement Saturday of sacked Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury.

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Zardari would be fearing a review of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) Musharraf had enacted in 2007 granting Zardari, his slain wife Benazir Bhutto and a host of Pakistani politicians immunity from the corruption cases pending against them.

The NRO had also permitted Zardari and Bhutto to return home from exile in October 2007.

On his part, Musharraf would be keeping his fingers crossed on the Supreme Court examining the validity of the emergency he declared Nov 3, 2007 and three apex court judgements following that.

What will also be keeping Musharraf on tenterhooks is the fact that it was he who had sacked Chaudhury and the entire Supreme Court bench when they refused to take fresh oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) that was proclaimed along with the emergency.

This was the second time Musharraf had acted against Chaudhury, suspending him March 9, 2007 after the chief justice refused to go slow on his judicial activism by taking up issues like rising prices and privatisation.

Musharraf also made a presidential reference against Chaudhury on grounds of misconduct but the latter fought back and was reinstated July 20, 2007.

In October that year, Musharraf won a controversial re-election and the Supreme Court opened a hearing on its validity.

It was on the point of delivering a verdict that was expected to go against the president when Musharraf imposed an emergency to prevent this.

Chaudhury had led a lawyers’ long march last June to demand the restoration of the 60-odd Supreme Court and high court judges who had been sacked but the government was unmoved.

Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif led a similar protest last week, following which the government buckled and gave in to the demand Monday.

“Therefore, both Pervez Musharraf and Asif Zardari might be having sleepless nights nowadays,” noted political commentator Amir Mir wrote in The News Thursday.

This was “given the fact that both had apparently given unannounced indemnity to each other in two phases – firstly by Musharraf before the elections and secondly by Zardari after the elections to cover up each others’ wrong doings.

“As Musharraf had introduced a presidential ordinance before the 2008 elections to help Zardari get rid of the corruption charges pending against him without facing a court trial, the latter had returned the favour by rejecting Nawaz Sharif’s demand to proceed against Musharraf on treason charges under Article 6 of the constitution for having staged a military coup in 1999 against an elected government,” Mir wrote.

He quoted Chaudhry’s close circles as saying there was “every possibility” of his going for an immediate review of the three verdicts passed by the Supreme Court – under new Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar Nov 4, 2007, Nov 6, 2007 and Feb 14, 2008, validating Musharraf’s emergency declaration.

Chaudhry, in fact, never accepted his dismissal.

In an open letter Jan 30, 2008 addressed to world leaders, he said: “I am the constitutional Chief Justice of Pakistan and have already ruled that the November 3, 2007 actions by Musharraf were unconstitutional”.

“There can be no democracy without an independent judiciary, and there can be no independent judge in Pakistan until the action of November 3, 2007 is reversed. Whatever the will of some desperate men, the struggle of the valiant lawyers and civil society of Pakistan will bear fruit. They are not giving up,” Chaudhury added.

Little wonder then, that Musharraf is spending sleepless nights.