By Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD, March 27: Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, along with some of the deposed judges of the Peshawar High Court, met PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari at the latter’s residence here on Thursday to offer condolences on the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
“The meeting was only meant to offer condolences on the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto,” former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood told reporters outside the Zardari House, dispelling an impression that the meeting was linked to the issue of restoration of deposed judges.
But despite his denial that the visit had anything to do with the issue of reinstatement of judges, eye-brows were raised by the 45-minute meeting, with former chief justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui suggesting during an interview with the DawnNews, that it would have been better for him (Justice Iftikhar) to avoid meeting Mr Zardari, especially at a time when the issue of restoration judges was at a crucial stage.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Naseer Ahmad Chaudhry said that although the stated reason of the meeting was to condole the death of Ms Bhutto, there might be “more to it than meets the eyes”.
Instead of such meetings, he suggested, parliament should be allowed to debate the issue of deposed judges.
Deposed judges of the PHC Chief Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Shahjehan also attended the meeting besides SCBA President Aitzaz Ahsan, Senator Raza Rabbani and Naveed Qamar.
“How could the (deposed) chief justice ignore the botched attempt of Ms Bhutto on Nov 10, 2007, to visit him (Justice Iftikhar) at his official residence in the then besieged judges’ colony?” Mr Aitzaz Ahsan said, while talking to newsmen after the meeting.
Justice Tariq replied in the affirmative when asked if the code of conduct for judges allowed such meetings.
The activities of Justice Iftikhar on Thursday included a meeting with a six-member delegation of US congressmen, led by John F. Tierney, who heads the National Security and Foreign Affairs sub-committee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Mr Ahsan said it was meant to discuss the constitutional amendments made during the emergency rule clamped by President Pervez Musharraf as the then chief of the army staff on Nov 3.
Reinstated Pak CJ Iftikhar meets PPP chairman Zardari.
27 Mar 2008, 2223 hrs IST,PTI
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was recently freed from house arrest, on Thursday met PPP chairman Asif Ali Zardari to condole the death of his wife and former premier Benazir Bhutto.
Chaudhry, who was released by new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani shortly after he was elected to the post by the National Assembly on Monday, called on Zardari at his residence.
The meeting, however, was immediately criticised by prominent members of the legal fraternity.
Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui said Chaudhry should have avoided meeting any politician at a time when there were several controversies surrounding the reinstatement of judges deposed during last year’s Emergency imposed by President Pervez Musharraf. Chaudhry did not speak to reporters waiting outside Zardari House.
Retired judge Tariq Mahmood, a key player in the lawyers’ movement campaigning for the reinstatement of the deposed judges, told the media that the sole purpose of Chaudhry’s visit was to condole Bhutto’s death.
Mahmood said Chaudhry had not discussed any other matters with the PPP head. Chaudhry was among 60 members of Pakistan’s superior judiciary who were sacked in November last year for not endorsing the emergency rule imposed by President Musharraf.
The ruling Pakistan People’s Party and its ally PML-N have committed themselves to reinstating the deposed judges within 30 days of forming the country’s new government.
Sections of the legal community have said the reinstated judges could re-open petitions challenging the validity of Musharraf’s re-election for a second term while in uniform. Experts have also said the judges could review a controversial law issued by Musharraf to grant Zardari, Bhutto and other PPP leaders amnesty in graft cases.