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Musharraf’s Emergency unconstitutional: Pak SC

Last Updated: Saturday, August 1, 2009 - 10:17

Islamabad: In a verdict with significant
ramifications for President Asif Ali Zardari and the ruling
PPP, Pakistan Supreme Court on Tuesday declared as unconstitutional
and illegal former President Pervez Musharraf`s imposition of
emergency in November 2007.

The appointment of hand-picked judges during the
emergency and their endorsement of Musharraf`s actions too
were declared unconstitutional by a 14-judge bench headed by
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
The apex court said the parliament should decide the fate
of some 37 ordinances given permanence during the emergency.

Among these laws is the controversial National
Reconciliation Ordinance, which was passed by Musharraf to
grant amnesty to Zardari and other PPP leaders in graft cases.

The order issued by the bench said parliament would have
to decide on these ordinances within the next four months.
Legal experts said if the NRO is scrapped, Zardari would have
to quit as President.

The bench also declared as illegal Musharraf`s action of
sacking 61 members of the superior judiciary, including Chief
Justice Chaudhry, who did not endorse the emergency imposed on
November 3, 2007.

The bench delivered its verdict after holding
deliberations behind closed doors for over five hours. The
decision came in response to a petition filed on behalf of two
High Court judges who were removed from their positions due to
the emergency.

The proceedings in the Supreme Court over the past few
days triggered a wide-ranging debate on Musharraf`s actions
during the six-week-long emergency. The apex court issued a
notice to Musharraf to appear before it to explain his actions
but he chose to ignore it.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar,
who was hand-picked by Musharraf to replace Chaudhry, was
declared an "unconstitutional" Chief Justice. The bench said
all appointments made by Dogar were unconstitutional.

Lawyers across Pakistan held impromptu celebrations
after hearing the apex court`s verdict. The lawyers, who had
gathered at bar association offices in most towns and cities,
distributed sweets among the people and danced with joy. They
also shouted slogans against Musharraf and called for his

However, during the hearing of the case, Chief Justice
Chaudhry said the apex court could not sentence Musharraf as
it did not have the authority to do so. He also said the bench
would not issue any judgement that "could damage the system".

President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani
welcomed the court`s verdict. Zardari described the judgement
as "a triumph of democratic principles (and) a stinging
negation of dictatorship" that was "most welcome".

The rejection of dictatorship by the apex court is "a
triumph of the principles for which the PPP fought and its
chairperson Benazir Bhutto and countless workers laid down
their lives," he said.

Gilani said the verdict was "a good omen for the future
of democracy in the country".

A nation-wide movement by the lawyers and the opposition
PML-N in March forced Zardari to restore Chief Justice
Chaudhry to his position. Since then, the independent-minded
Chaudhry has often taken on the government on a wide range of
issues, including the fixing of prices of petroleum products.

There were also indications of manoeuvring behind the
scenes to ensure that Musharraf, who still enjoys the backing
of the army, was not humiliated in any way.

A recent meeting between army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez
Kayani and leading lawyer and PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan
triggered speculation that the military had conveyed a message
that the judiciary should not rock the boat.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009 - 10:17

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