Profile: Iftikhar Chaudhry.
By: M Ilyas Khan BBC News, Karachi.
The chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, has won many plaudits for bravery as the only judge in the nation’s judicial history to have stood up to a military ruler and won. In the process, he emerged from being just another chief justice in Pakistan’s largely- mistrusted legal system to a rallying figure for tens of thousands of people demanding justice, rule of law and democracy. Twice, in May in Karachi and again in Islamabad in July, he has found himself at the centre of deadly clashes over his “suspension” by President Pervez Musharraf in March. On both occasions his public image as a national icon remained untainted even though some quarters tried to paint him as a “blood-thirsty judge”. Most observers say his legal battle with the military government has left the judiciary more independent and a bar more united than ever in its demands for the restoration of the rule of law. Conventional career Justice Chaudhry climbed the ladder of his profession just like everybody else. Born to a lower middle class family in the western city of Quetta in 1948, he studied law at the local university and started a legal practice in Quetta in 1974.
He tried his hand at all fields of law; civil, criminal, tax, revenue and, at a later stage, constitutional matters. He qualified for legal practice at the Supreme Court in 1985. In 1989, the Balochistan provincial government appointed him as its advocate general, and the next year he became a judge of the Balochistan High Court. He became the chief justice of Balochistan High Court in April 1999 and was elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2000. On June 30 2005 he was appointed as the chief justice of Pakistan. During this period, Justice Chaudhry did not betray any signs of breaking with the past traditions in order to chart an independent course for himself. He sat on four pivotal Supreme Court benches between 2000 and 2005 that validated the military takeover by Gen Musharraf, his referendum, his legal framework order (LFO) and the 17th constitutional amendment that gave the president additional powers and allowed him to continue as the army chief. Though Justice Chaudhry voted with the majority on each bench, he did not head any of them. Embarrassed government However, after becoming the chief justice, he became a judge eager to secure the independence of the Supreme Court. Being the youngest chief justice, he showed a lot of energy in working overtime to clear the backlog of cases, and established a separate human rights cell at the court for cases involving honour crimes. He also took on the government, reversing a major privatisation deal that was approved by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and forcing the country’s intelligence agencies to admit they held dozens of people in secret custody. On both counts, he greatly embarrassed the government. Getting the administrative and policing system to deliver in such cases often necessitated harsh handling of officials in the court. He grew increasingly unpopular with those officials, but became the darling of human rights groups whose activists came out in large numbers to support him when he was suspended by Gen Musharraf on 9 March. Observers believe that two factors have played a decisive role in elevating him from the realm of the ordinary to the status of hero. First was the TV image of the judge being reprimanded for alleged misconduct by an increasingly unpopular military ruler, in uniform and in his military residence to which the judge had been “summoned”. The second was his courage to refuse to step down and his determination to face the charges. The two have combined to backfire for Gen Musharraf, at least for the time being.
ref. link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6909711.stm