Pak CJ seeks PM`s explanation on `plans` to remove top judges

Pak`s Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry sought a signed explanation from Pak`s PM in the wake of reports that the government was planning to remove key members of the superior judiciary.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Chief Justice Iftikhar
Chaudhry today sought a signed explanation from Premier Yousuf
Raza Gilani in the wake of reports that the government was
planning to remove key members of the superior judiciary,
deepening the rift between the two sides.

The drama began late last night after several TV news
channels reported that the PPP-led government was
contemplating the withdrawal of a notification issued in March
last year to restore the Chief Justice and dozens of members
of the superior judiciary, who were sacked by former military
ruler Pervez Musharraf during the 2007 emergency.

The Chief Justice and all judges of the apex court, who
were in their homes when the channels beamed the news,
returned to the court and held a meeting that continued well
past midnight.

A statement issued to the media at about 1 am local time
said the Chief Justice had constituted a 17-member full bench
to take up the government`s alleged intentions to de-notify
the restoration of judges.

When the full bench convened this morning, Chaudhry told
Attorney General Anwar-ul-Haq to submit a statement signed by
Prime Minister Gilani giving the government`s viewpoint.

The bench told Haq that the court wanted to fully
understand the government`s stand on the matter.

The apex court issued the order despite a statement
issued by Gilani last night in which he said that the media
reports about withdrawing the notification for the restoration
of the judges were "baseless."

Gilani said "certain elements" were trying to create a
"bad taste among the institutions but these conspiracies will

"We respect judiciary. The government will take every
possible step for strengthening of institutions. The Pakistan
People`s Party`s leadership has scarified their lives for the
independence of judiciary," he said.

During today`s proceedings, Chief Justice Chaudhry
observed that reports about the removal of key judges were
seen in the media whenever the apex court took up any
important case against the government.

He said the apex court had been showing tolerance despite
abusive language being used against the judiciary. "Why is the
government getting into a confrontation with the judiciary?"
the Chief Justice asked the Attorney General.

Chaudhry agreed with the Attorney General`s observation
that there should be an inquiry into yesterday`s media reports
about the withdrawal of the notification restoring the deposed
judges. The standoff comes at a time when the apex court has
mounted pressure on the government to implement its verdict
annulling the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a graft
amnesty issued by Musharraf that benefited over 8,000 people,
including President Asif Ali Zardari and several close aides.

The government has not yet acted on the apex court`s
order to revive corruption cases against Zardari in
Switzerland, saying the President enjoys immunity from
prosecution under the Constitution.

The apex court is currently hearing a suo motu case on
the implementation of its order striking down the NRO and
directing the government to reopen graft cases against those
who benefited from the graft amnesty.

The court will take up the government`s application
seeking a review of the order annulling the NRO on November 1.