Wrangling Over Restoration of Judges Intensifies in Pakistan
Posted Aug 25, 2008 10:35 AM CDT
By Martha Neil
Lawyers in Pakistan are planning new protests, starting Thursday, as wrangling among the country's ruling parliamentary coalition intensifies over whether to restore to office all 60 of the appellate judges removed by then-President Pervez Musharraf in November after he declared a state of emergency and imposed what many considered martial law. The group of deposed appellate judges includes the Pakistan supreme court's former chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry.
"The crisis has dispersed the euphoria generated last week by Mr. Musharraf’s exit and the end of nine years of military leadership. The alliance, once united in its efforts to remove the former military strongman, is now in tatters over who should replace him and how to reverse such actions as the judges’ dismissal," reports the London Times.
Disagreement among leaders of the coalition about restoring the judges to office was a key factor in a decision by former premier Nawaz Sharif to quit the coalition, along with his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, which was the second-largest member, reports Agence France-Presse. The news agency reports that Sharif says he quit the coalition after Asif Ali Zardari, head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which is the largest member, refused to honor a deadline set for today to restore the judges to office.
"The move is not expected to force a general election as the PPP, the largest party in the coalition, still has enough allies in parliament to hold the government together," writes Al Jazeera. "But analysts say governing in the long term will be difficult with Sharif in opposition."
The split apparently means that the two parties will field opposing candidates in an upcoming election for a new president to replace Musharraf in an election scheduled early next month, however.
"Sharif vowed to continue the 'struggle for restoration of the judges and genuine democracy in Pakistan' and said his party had chosen a retired Supreme Court chief justice to challenge Zardari in the September 6 presidential poll," the AFP article reports.
It and the Al Jazeera article say critics contend the PPP may be foot-dragging about restoring the judges to office because they could then overturn an amnesty on corruption charges that permitted Zardari to return to the country last year.
As discussed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, the country's lawyers have been at the forefront of protests for the past 18 months that led to Musharraf's resignation, after his efforts to gain control of a judiciary that has become increasingly independent in recent years were unsuccessful.