Sunday, February 25, 2024

Pak’s influential Chief Justice Chaudhry to retire

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Islamabad: Pakistan’s longest serving Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will retire on Wednesday, ending an era marked by aggressive judicial activism that even snared a serving Prime Minister.
Chaudhry, credited with making the judiciary a strong pillar, is a man feared by the political class and the bureaucracy. He has built a reputation for himself through direct confrontation with the civilian government and the powerful military to an extent. Chaudhry, 64, himself believes that his legacy will continue even after he departs from the Supreme Court.
“When such judges are still in the apex court, no one can derail the system from the path of rule of law. I lived my life, I fought my wars but not against the poor and weak but against the power, cruelty and injustice,” he said recently.
He said historians will judge how the Supreme Court worked under him. “You can see not just one but 20,000 cases which we resolved.”
Born in Quetta on December 12, 1948, Chaudhry is the longest serving Chief Justice in Pakistan’s history. He was appointed the top judge on June 30, 2005 but remained dysfunctional from November 3, 2007 to March 16, 2009 after he was deposed by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. He became a symbol of the lawyers’ movement against Musharraf and their protests eventually played a crucial role in the fall of his dictatorial regime. (PTI)
After his reinstatement in 2009, Chaudhry took up scores of suo motu cases against corruption and rights violations and issued strong judgements. Though seen with suspicious eyes by the political class and the bureaucracy, Chaudhry is a darling of the masses. Chaudhry forced former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to step down in 2012 after he refused to implement the Supreme Court’s orders to revive graft cases in Switzerland against then President Asif Ali Zardari. Many critics had then described Gilani’s ouster as a “judicial coup”. PTI SAP BOD RHL BOD 12101542
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(Reopens FGN8) Critics accuse him of overstepping the boundary of the judiciary and ignoring key issues like terrorism and sectarian violence. Detractors point out that Chaudhry never spoke on or addressed the issue of lower courts freeing terror suspects due to lack of evidence and fear of witnesses to testify. Chaudhry’s reputation was also hit after his son Arsalan Iftikhar was accused of corruption. A former middle-ranking government official, Arsalan switched to business and rapidly amassed a huge fortune. Reports said Arsalan was allegedly involved in influencing the Supreme Court’s decision in key cases. Chaudhry took suo motu action but was criticised when he initially decided to head the bench that heard his son’s case. Detractors said he behaved like a father and not the Chief Justice. Chaudhry took on the powerful military establishment, especially on the issue of “missing persons”, or those detained without charge in Balochistan by intelligence agencies. But even here, detractors say, Chaudhry never confronted the army in the way he repeatedly targeted the former Pakistan People’s Party-led government. Rumours of his financial clout are a frequent topic of discussion among Islamabad’s elite. The rumours were fuelled further when an entire five-star hotel was allegedly booked for his daughter’s recent wedding. (PTI )

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