Pakistan reinstates Chief Justice

Just a year back they brought down a dictator; now they have restored the independent judiciary. My countrymen do me proud. This is people power.

Update: Dawn reports that the ranks of the lawyers movement have also been swollen by the presence of a large number of students. This is significant, since students, especially middle-class ones, have generally been apolitical and to the extent that there has been any student politics in Pakistan, it is mostly dominated by the squabbles between the youth wings of the different national parties.

Pakistan's PM has ordered all lawyers and political activists arrested this week to be freed (EPA)

Pakistan’s government has announced the reinstatement of Iftikhar Chaudhry, the deposed chief justice, in a bid to defuse the country’s political crisis and end a protest march that was threatening to turn into a violent confrontation.

Yusuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, said Chaudhry would be reinstated as Pakistan’s supreme court chief justice on March 21, the day his replacement was due to retire.”I announce the restoration of all deposed judges ,including Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry, according to a promise made by the president of Pakistan and myself,” Gilani said on Monday in a televised address to the nation.

He also ordered all lawyers and political activists arrested over the past week to be freed immediately.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from outside Chaudhry’s residence in Islamabad, said the “decision really has defused tensions and averted a political showdown”.

She said “a lot of Pakistanis will say that this is the beginning of the end of Zardari. … It is also significant that Zardari did not make the [reinstatement] announcement”.

International concerns

In recent days, US officials, including Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, had spoken to the country’s leaders, urging them to reach a deal.

Washington and other Western nations have been concerned that the crisis would weaken the country’s battle against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters operating along its border with Afghanistan.

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Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Lahore, said that Monday’s announcement could be seen as an embarrassing climb-down by the government or a move towards national political unity.

But for the several hundred jubilant lawyers and activists gathered outside Chaudhry’s Islamabad residence to celebrate, it was clear how they were taking it: the government backing down in the face of their protests.

Tariq Mehmud, a retired judge and a leader of the lawyers’ campaign, said it was a “victory for those who fought for independence of judiciary”.

But he cautioned that Chaudhry “has to forget the past. He has to forget the conduct of those who were apparently against him as well as us”.

March called off

The government concession came as thousands of protesters led by Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader, held a day of protest in Lahore on Sunday, and set off for Islamabad for the climax of a series of protests they had dubbed “the long march”.

To stop them from driving into the capital, the authorities had beefed up security, put the army on alert and positioned containers and trucks across roads outside the city, with violent confrontation appearing inevitable.

In depth

Video: Pakistan activists launch long march
Diary: Round one to Sharif

Following Gilani’s announcement, Sharif said he was calling off his protest march.

“We are now calling off this long march,” he said from inside his vehicle amid a sea of jubilant supporters in the central city of Gujranwala on Monday.

“Today the nation has received very happy news. We have said that we will restore the judges and the independent judiciary and by the grace of Allah we have achieved it,” he said, adding that “very soon we will play our role in implementing real democracy in this country”.

Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, had thrown his support behind the protest campaign by lawyers and judges, and senior members of his party were quick to claim an emphatic win for the government’s climb-down.

Genesis of crisis

Sharif latched on to Chaudhry’s cause two years ago but the current crisis began when Asif Ali Zardari, the president, ejected the PML-N from power in Punjab last month, after the supreme court barred Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz from holding elected office.

Chaudhry, the former supreme court justice, was dismissed by Pervez Musharraf, the former president, on November 3, 2007 along with 60 other judges, when Musharraf declared emergency rule in a move to extend his presidency for another term.

Anti-government protesters fought running battles with police in Lahore [AFP]

Most of the judges had since been reinstated after Zardari took over as president six months ago.But Zardari repeatedly reneged on promises to return Chaudhry to his post with analysts suggesting that he feared the chief justice could pose a threat to his position.

Gilani’s early-morning announcement on Monday on Chaudhry’s reinstatement concluded a day of dramatic developments.

Before dawn on Sunday, hundreds of police surrounded Sharif’s residence in Lahore, carrying an order for his house arrest.

Sharif rejected the order as illegal and later left the house in a convoy of vehicles as police stood by.

Some of the protesters defied police barricades to gather near the city’s main courts complex and pelted riot police with rocks.

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

5 thoughts on “Pakistan reinstates Chief Justice”

  1. For days I heard government officals come on TV talk shows and pass arrogant statements, showed no regret or a hint of shame for turning away from their promises. The sheer amount of blatant lies was mind numbing. The amount of state power unleashed to stop long march brought the country to a stand still and all this done by the party who claims to be more democratic then the word DEMOCRACY itself. But yesterday all there state tools, all the blockades all the arrogance was turned to smoke when brave people of Lahore stood defiant to Punjab police, mere 1500 protesters fought off a police equipped with the latest right gear, an unlimited supply of Tear Gas and least concerned for law itself. Yet they could not take the building of Lahore High Court, and those 1500 gave a hope to all citizens of Lahore, to 160 million Pakistanis, to Nawaz Sharif to Aitizaz Ahsan and then there was no stopping. For the first time in the history of Pakistan people came out to protect what they believe was there’s, for what was RIGHT. For the first time corrupt politicians with no morals, no principles saw what people power is all about. A government whose arrogance was second to none came down on its knees.
    My country men you made me proud! you made every freedom loving person on this planet proud, and once again reminded to the whole world what is the power of people, what is our power and what we can do.

    Hail Free judiciary! Hail People of Pakistan

  2. Yay. What took that creep so long? You’d think that would have been the first thing he did. I wonder if Clinton’s call to him had anything to do with it. That would be nice… but, it’s an outrage that he was ousted to begin with, and anybody with eyes could see that is true because the lawyers went postal. I hope it really is the beginning of the end for Zardari, AND his son. That whole royal succession from the Bhutto line thing creeps me out. If the kid puts it together on his own merits someday, fine, but the bequeathing him the party thing was so indicative of exactly what was wrong with the Bhutto clan’s idea of democracy, and her husband’s slowness to reinstate Chaudhry is further evidence of it.

  3. The whole time they were going postal, I was sending links and lots of pictures to my lawyer friends here, shaming them for not doing similarly.

  4. Congratulations to all on restore of chief justice Ifthikar Muhammad Chaudary, now we can hope that implementation of law is on way,

    Today Pakistan see one of its best day because of Nawaz Sharif efforts in long march, in the end he get success and finally Ifthikar Muhammad Chaudary restored and all judges comes to the same position of 2nd November

  5. One must recall that Negroponte (the one man epicentre of all the right wing coups for over 2 decades whether in South America or here) was the fixer who negiotiated Benazir Bhuttos , and hence Zardaris , return to Pakistan by getting all outstanding cases of corruption;laundering and Murder lifted so they could enter the country without going directly to jail.

    The original plan appears to have been to get Benazir to be the cilivian face of the negroponte/bhutto/musharraf neo-con governing roadshow.Only by understanding this can one get the motivations of zardaris , quite consistant , actions.

    The chief justice was a major obstacle to that end.

    The other factor is that the Punjab police are pretty low paid locals as well and , like the Iranians when ordered by the Shah , are likely to bulk from the final solution of killing their own , in some cases , extended Family Members on the orders of zardari.

    The real lesson for supporters outside the country is that if you want genuine solidarity with the Peoples movement then you have to accept that the Peoples Party , like Abbass Fatah , have gone beyond the deep end , and a kinder gentler PPP no longer exisits.I hope Tariq Ali and George Galloway take this on board , as the brilliant non-ideologically blinkered Dalrymple did long ago , when they are doing their inevitable critiques of what is happening on the streets.

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