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Profile: Iftikhar Chaudhry
Iftikhar Chaudhry was a participant or observer in the following events:
Iftikhar Chaudhry being arrested by secret agents. An agent is holding Chaudhry’s hair as he is being pushed into a car. [Source: Public domain]In June 2005, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appointed Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Pakistan’s judiciary had traditionally been complaint to military rule, and Chaudhry was not expected to act any differently. But in 2007, as the date for Musharraf’s relection neared, Chaudhry leads the judiciary in becoming more proactive defending civil rights and the rule of law. The Supreme Court begins issuing rulings against police abuse, forced marriages, unjust rape laws, and more. Most controversially, the judiciary begins demanding the appearance in court of hundreds of prisoners who had been secretly arrested by the ISI in recent years and never brought to trial. The ISI responds by mysteriously releasing about 200 people in late 2006 and early 2007.
Fearing an Independent Judiciary, Musharraf Acts - Musharraf claims that Chaudhry has become dangerous because he is releasing al-Qaeda linked militants, but in fact most of those released are political opponents from the regions of Sindh and Balochistan, where there are separatist movements. There is speculation that the Supreme Court will rule against allowing Musharraf to run again as president, since Pakistani law states that a serving military officer can not be elected president, and Musharraf has not resigned from the military. On March 9, 2007, Musharraf suspends Chaudhry on charges of corruption and misuse of authority and places him under house arrest.
Mass Protests Culminate in Chaudhry's Reinstatement - Musharraf and most political observers are surprised when mass protests ensue, mostly made up of Pakistan’s middle class, which is tired of military rule. Over the next months, the protests grow in size and number. The Pakistan government responds by frequently beating and/or arresting protesters. Press censorship is imposed and live television broadcasts are forbidden. But this does not stop the movement. On July 20, 2007, the Supreme Court reinstates Chaudhry as chief justice, dealing Musharraf’s reputation a heavy blow. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 380-381]
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. [Source: Anjum Naveed Associated Press]On October 6, 2007, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf won a parliamentary vote that gave him a second term as president (see October 6, 2007). However, Pakistani law prohibits an active military officer from running as president, and Musharraf is both president and the head of the military. Pakistan’s Supreme Court is to decide soon if Musharraf’s reelection vote is valid. The outcome is uncertain, especially since the Supreme Court is headed by Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was fired by Musharraf earlier in the year and then reinstated against Musharraf’s will (see March 9, 2007). But on November 3, before the court renders a verdict, Musharraf declares a state of emergency. He suspends the constitution and basic rights. He fires Chaudhry and all the other Supreme Court judges, and places them under house arrest. He also forces all other high court judges to sign a loyalty oath validating his actions. A majority refuse to sign and are placed under house arrest as well. All private television stations are taken off the air, leaving only one state-controlled network to give the news. Up to ten thousand activists and politicians are arrested. The main opposition politician, Benazir Bhutto, is placed under house arrest for several days. Musharraf then passes six constitutional amendments legalizing his rule. In a further effort to legitimize his rule, he also resigns from the army on November 28 and gives command of the army to Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a former ISI director. But still facing widespread condemnation at home and abroad, he lifts the state of emergency on December 15, rescinds the draconian measures he imposed, and releases the thousands who have been arrested (however, Chaudhry and the other fired judges remain under house arrest). He announces that elections to pick a new prime minister will be held in January 2008. Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “The forty-two-day-long emergency had blighted Pakistan, undermined its economy, destroyed what little trust the political parties and public had in Musharraf, and turned the increasingly influential middle-class and civil society against both the army and the president.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 387-388]
President Musharraf swearing in Yousaf Raza Gillani as Pakistan’s latest prime minister. [Source: Agence France-Presse - Getty Images] (click image to enlarge)In parliamentary elections in February 2008, a coalition of opposition parties led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) took effective political control from President Pervez Musharraf, although Musharraf remains president (see February 18, 2008). On March 22, the leader of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, picks Yousaf Raza Gillani to become Pakistan’s new prime minister. Gillani assumes the position in a ceremony on March 25. Zardari is the husband of the recently assassinated and very popular Benazir Bhutto. He reportedly wants the prime minister position for himself, but he is not yet eligible for it as he does not hold a seat in parliament. Gillani is a relatively unknown low-key party stalwart. The New York Times comments that Gillani’s selection seems a “prelude to a drive by Mr. Zardari to take the job himself in the next few months.” [New York Times, 3/23/2008] Within hours of becoming prime minister, Gillani frees the judges that had been placed under house arrest during Musharraf’s state of emergency several months before (see November 3-December 15, 2007). He frees Supreme Court head Iftikhar Chaudhry, the 13 other Supreme Court judges, and 48 High Court judges who refused to sign a loyalty oath. [New York Times, 3/25/2008]
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