Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has said that if the past governments and courts had not endorsed the decisions of the military dictators the democracy in the country would have taken firm roots by now and the institutions have become stronger. He was speaking at a reception hosted in his honour by Association of Pakistan Lawyers UK.
He said after the decision in Steel Mills case then government of Pervez Musharraf sensing the threat that the judiciary was heading for its independence took the actions of March 9 and November 2007. November 3 would always be remembered for the reason that for the first time in the country’s history a seven-member Supreme Court bench immediately granted stay against the Martial Law order issued by the President and Commander In-chief General (r) Pervez Musharraf.
Justice Iftikhar said Judges did not have gun but a pen which if used at proper time and place would benefit the nation. He said the present parliament deserved full appreciation that it did not endorse or approved any unconstitutional action after November 3, 2007 as a result of which all unconstitutional steps taken during that tenure were declared null and void. He said if the courts had declared the actions taken by military dictators in 1958 and 1977 as extra constitutional or unconstitutional the situation today would have been totally different.
He said the time came when in the history of the country the court intervened and declared all actions taken by the dictator as illegal and the lawyers, civil society and media came out in its support.
The Chief Justice said a 14-member bench on July 31, 2009 had taken the landmark decision in the annals of judicial history which in some way is the magna carta of the judiciary that strictly forbids imposition of martial law in future and provides for the judges neither they would endorse any such unconstitutional dispensation nor take oath in an unconstitutional manner. This decision has erected a wall against unconstitutional actions; he said and added a new clause has been incorporated in the code of ethics for the judges that taking oath from a dictator would be treated as its violation.
He pointed out that a number of judges had to make exit after that decision. But when it comes to principles you have to take difficult decisions, he maintained and vowed to continue taking decisions in accordance with the constitution and law. The courts had taken hard decisions on the issue of Karachi and Balochistan and gave no concessions to any party he mentioned. He lauded the role of the overseas community in the country’s economy and assured early resolution of their problems.
UKLCJP chair Sibghatullah Kadri QC said “unfortunately our courts in the past had provided justification to the dictators to rule the country under the doctrine of necessity who hanged one of the elected prime ministers while forced another to exile. He said the Chief Justice had taken many suo motu actions on important issues especially the cases of missing persons which the Chief Justice was hearing by himself. He said democracy would not be strong unless justice is allowed to prevail but the question irked the minds of the overseas community why an elected government did not implement the court’s decisions.
Organizer of the event, Barrister Amjad Malik said the British Pakistani lawyers also took part in the movement for independent judiciary and demonstrated against the decisions taken by then military dictator. “Today the judiciary is independent and making historical decisions but unfortunately were not being honoured by the democratic government”. Later, Barrister Saleem Qureshi presented his book to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry