By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: “The moment I am freed I will march to my office in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and assume my job,” a confident Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said on Wednesday, insisting that he was still the constitutional and legal Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Talking to The News, Justice Iftikhar said if restricted, he would hold his court in open field along with other honourable judges of the Supreme Court, who had refused to take oath under the PCO on and after Nov 3, 2007.
Full of resolve and determination, like always, Justice Iftikhar said that nothing constitutional and legal but only his illegal house arrest had barred him from attending his office. “As soon as I am free, I will go to my office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.”
He categorically said that he would not accept any condition attached to his release from the illegal confinement, which started on Nov 3 and was still continuing amid reports that the government was considering freeing him if he restricted himself from going to the Supreme Court.Rejecting any condition attached to his freedom, he said: “If today I, being the Chief Justice of Pakistan, bound myself to the unconstitutional orders of the chief of the Army staff, then tomorrow an inspector general of police might come up with his own constitutional amendments and order the arrest of any future chief justice of Pakistan.”
He said after his release, he would go the Supreme Court and his brother judges who did not take oath under the PCO would accompany him. Simultaneously, Justice Iftikhar said the (deposed) judges of the high courts would also go to their respective high courts. He disclosed that he was in contact with his brother (deposed) judges, whose number was more than 50.
Referring to his illegal detention, that of his family and his brother judges, he wondered if the top judges in any country had been treated in this manner anywhere in the world. He said such actions could not be accepted.
Undeterred from the harshness of his and his family’s illegal detention of now over 110 days, Justice Iftikhar said the Nov 3 order of the seven-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by him, had already declared the PCO unconstitutional and had also restrained the judges of the superior judiciary from taking oath under the PCO.
He said neither could the COAS amend the Constitution nor could he sack any judge. Justice Iftikhar said the whole nation demanded restoration of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary as had been proven in the Feb 18 elections. He declared that the future of the country could only be secured by constitutional rule and through institution building.
He said he was under oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution and this could only be done by supporting the Constitution and the rule of law and resisting unconstitutional orders.
While Justice Iftikhar is so clear about his “action plan”, the government believes that the deposed judges could only get back to their positions with the support of a two-third majority of the parliament.
However, opposition voices and the legal fraternity do not agree with this interpretation and say that unless the new parliament gives indemnity to Musharraf’s Nov 3 and post-Nov 3 unconstitutional actions, no constitutional amendment is required to restore the deposed judges Some legal experts, including Aitzaz Ahsan, say a simple executive order can undo everything that has been unconstitutionally or illegally done in the past few months.
By Ansar Abbasi