Pak Affairs

An update on judges issue

Judges’ issue to be resolved in parliament: PM
Lawyers to hold peaceful march for restoration of disposed judges
AHRC urges Gilani to move resolution of judges’ issue in NA
Nawaz Sharif summons PML-N CEC meeting on May 30

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Human Rights Commission on Wednesday urged the government of Mr. Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani to move for a resolution on the issue of the deposed judiciary during the upcoming budget session of the National Assembly. The AHRC also demanded of the government to observe the Murree Declaration of March 9, 2008 with integrity and avoid any further delay in the reinstatement of the deposed judiciary.

Normally, not discussion on any other subject is allowed once the agenda had been announced. However, the government must fulfill the election pledges made to the people of Pakistan. The future credibility of the new government rests firmly on the pledges made to the people that elected it and it would be a terrible start to its tenure to lose the trust of the citizens at such an early stage. The failure in this, the most important of pledges, will be seen as a betrayal of that trust. The lawyers are again on the streets along with the deposed Chief Justice and other judges, demanding that the judiciary be restored to its former set up, before the emergency of last November pulled it apart.

On March 9, 2008 coalition parties agreed that the deposed judiciary would be restored within a month of formation of government, but differences between partners on the modalities of the restoration have caused delay after delay. When another “final deadline” – May 12, 2008 has passed, Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party broke away from the coalition in protest. Such squabbling over an issue of such vital importance to the public, and to the future of Pakistan, is troubling.

The government’s latest offering — to re-appoint judges with fresh oaths — reeks of intrigue and seems deliberately divisive, and judges have rejected the idea on constitutional grounds. Now, in the new package there are 62 points, only 11 of which were made by the public, and the media reports barely mentions the issue of reinstatement. Allegedly, there is no mention of the deposed judiciary but one line refers to the issue of the “a three year tenure for chief justice proposed”.

Though the law minister continues to assert that after the passage of the 18th amendment the deposed judiciary will be restored, for an issue that had Pakistanis up in arms for months, this seems to be just another weak promise. The draft is widely believed to contain provisions that will do away with excessive presidential powers, including the authority to dissolve the assembly. The Pakistan people’s party chief Mr. Zardari has given no date for presenting the constitutional package to the parliament, Lawyers and media are of the opinion that the package contains a “minus one” formula meant to quietly erase the deposed chief justice, Iftekhar Choudry, from the new set up.

It is widely speculated in political and media circles are speculating that the decision on restorations has been pushed back at least three more months, and that the issue is “on ice”. There are a number of reasons for these difficulties. The ruling coalition does not have a two thirds majority in the parliament, which is necessary for the passage of amendments in the constitution. This means that constitutional package will take months to get a two thirds majority and until that time the deposed judiciary will have to wait. Procedure therefore requires that the proposed amendment goes first to the National Assembly (where it takes at least seven days to debate), and then to the Senate where it will take another period of several weeks before it finally lands on the President’s desk.

The president then has the constitutional power to consider the proposed amendment for up to 45 days before making a decision. The amendment will markedly reduce the power of the president, particularly regarding the dismissal of the National Assembly through article 58(2)(B), and his signature will be a tough one to get. Pakistan is on the brink of a new crisis, and without this amendment, while little may have changed.

It should not allow the president to dilute the people’s mandate. These delays are harming the country, polarizing its forces and encouraging tyranny in an already sensitive economic and political climate. The reputation of Pakistan’s rule of law is under threat from all sides, with incidence of street crime and lynching on the rise, and corruption raging unchecked.

Lawyers to hold peaceful march for restoration of disposed judges
President of Supreme Court Bar Association Aitzaz Ahsan has said the lawyers community would hold a peaceful long march for the restoration of deposed judges. Talking to newsmen in Lahore today, he said long march would kick start from Multan on June 11 and leave for Islamabad from Lahore on June 12. Judges, lawyers and civil society members would participate in the long march. Aitzaz Ahsan appealed to the people to fully participate in the march for the independence of the judiciary.

Judges’ issue to be resolved in parliament: PM
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that economic development and restoration of law and order are his top priorities. In an interview with PTV on Wednesday, he said every party has its own manifesto and PPP wants progress of the country and supremacy of Parliament and constitution. He said terrorism is a threat to Pakistan’s development and its image and the country is pursuing policy against terror in its own interests. He said people of FATA are peaceful and want development of their region. Replying to a question, he said the judges’ issue would be resolved in Parliament.

Nawaz Sharif summons PML-N CEC meeting on May 30
Pakistan Muslim League -N Quaid and former Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has summoned the meeting of party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) at Model Town here on May 30. The PML-N sources said on Wednesday that party’s parliamentarians, central and provincial office-bearers and CEC members would attend the meeting. The meeting would discuss the matters pertaining to PPP’s proposed constitutional package and progress on restoration of deposed judges as well as determine the future line of action. He has also announced that if Musharraf is not quiting from presidency, he will join lawyers movement.-SANA

About the author

Rubab Saleem

Rubab Saleem is Editor of Pakistan Times

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