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DAWN - Features; March 19, 2007

March 19, 2007

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Average CJP tenure lowest in current era

By Aileen Qaiser


AS the judiciary is confronted by yet another direct challenge from the executive with Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry rendered ‘non-functional,’ pending the outcome of a presidential reference against him before the Supreme Judicial Council, it would be interesting to take a comparative look at the tenures of the 20 Chief Justices of Pakistan since 1949, from the first, Justice Sir Abdul Rashid Abdur Rashid, who took office on 7 June 1949 to the twentieth, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was made ‘non-functional’ on March 9 (Table 1).

If we divide Pakistan’s political history into six periods and calculate the average tenure of chief justices during these periods, we will find that the average CJP tenure length in the current period from 1999 to 2007 is the shortest, i.e., one year and three months (table 2).

During this current era of about eight years from 1999 to 2007, there were six CJPs in total from Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui to Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

The current period also has the shortest average CJP tenure out of the three periods in which Pakistan has had a military ruler — Field Marshal Ayub Khan and gen Yahya Khan (1958-1971) Gen Ziaul Haq (1977-1988) and Gen pervez Musharraf (1999-to- date). The average CJP tenure during 1958-1971 (six CJPs in 13 years) is two years and one month, while the average CJP tenure during 1977-1988 (three CJPs in 11 years) is three years and seven months (table 2).

The average CJP tenure of one year and three months during this current period is less than half of the overall average tenure of the total 20 CJPs during the 58 years between 1949 and 2007, which is two years and 11 months.

Not only does the era 1999 to 2007 have the shortest average CJP tenure, this period also had two CJPs who served very short stints (table 1). They are Justice Bashir Jehangiri who was CJP for less than a month from 7 January 2002 to 31 January 2002, and Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, who served as CJP for about seven months from July 1, 1999 to January 26, 2000.

Three other CJPs who also had very short tenures had served during Gen Ayub Khan’s era. They were Justice Mohammad Shahabuddin, who was CJP for only nine days from May 3, 1960 to May 12, 1960; Justice S.A. Rahman for three months from March 1, 1968 to June 3, 1968, and Justice Fazal Akbar for five months from June 4, 1968 to November 17, 1968.

Although the 1958-1971 era had one of the longest serving CJPs, viz., Justice A.R. Cornelius who was CJP for seven years and nine months from May 13, 1960 to February 29, 1968, this 13-year period was served by six CJPs in total, and therefore, has a relatively low average CJP tenure of two years and one month.

Another interesting point to note is that while five CJPs with the shortest tenures in Pakistan’s history had served during the three periods in which military men headed the executive, three CJPs with the longest tenures had also served during these periods.

Justice Mohammad Shahabuddin (nine days), Justice S.A. Rahman (three months) and Justice Fazal Akbar (five months) served as CJPs during Gen Ayub Khan’s rule, while Justice Bashir Jehangiri (23 days) and Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui (seven months) had served during Gen Musharraf’s rule.

On the other hand, the three CJPs with the longest tenures, viz., Justice Mohammad Haleem (eight years and nine months), Justice A.R. Cornelius (seven years and nine months) and Justice Hamoodur Rahman (seven years) had served during the eras of Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Ayub Khan/Gen Yahya Khan. The current era 1999-2007 is the only one of these three periods which does not have a CJP with such a long tenure.

Pakistan’s overall average CJP tenure of two years and 11 months is comparatively short when compared with the overall average tenure of CJs elsewhere. The US for example has one of the longest average chief justice tenures, perhaps due in part to the fact that the appointments of CJs under the US constitution are for life. The country has only had 17 chief justices in total since 1789, making the average American chief justice tenure to be 12 years and eight months.

The UK’s average tenure of the head of judiciary, known as Lord Chancellor, is four years and five months. The current Lord Chancellor is the country’s 67th since 1707.

However, one country that has an overall average chief justice tenure that is even shorter than Pakistan’s is India. The latter has had 37 chief justices since 1950, making the average Indian CJ tenure to be one year and six months in the past 57 years.

This, however, is little consolation for Pakistan where the independence and integrity of the judiciary has time and again been directly challenged by the executive pillar of state ever since the first military takeover in 1958.

It is not surprising that while the period before the first military takeover from 1949 to 1958 had the longest average CJP tenure of four years and six months (two CJPs in nine years), thereafter in subsequent periods of our history, not only did the average CJP tenures become shorter and shorter generally, but the tenures of individual CJPs tended to be very erratic in length ranging from nine or 23 days to three or seven months to nearly nine years in office.

This can, perhaps, be attributed mainly to the fact that how long each CJP stayed in office became less dependent on the retirement age and more dependent on whether the CJP supported the ruler in legitimising his rule and other extra-constitutional measures necessary for his rule, or whether he was inclined to exert his independence from the executive.

This tussle between the executive and the judiciary persisted even during 1989-1999, a period with the second shortest average CJP tenure in Pakistan’s history. Six CJs had served during these 10 years from Justice Mohammad Haleem to Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, making the average tenure one year and seven months.

Table 2: Average tenure of CJs

Period Average tenure

1949-1958 4 years 6 months

1958-1971 3 years

1977-1988 3 years 7 months

1989-1999 1 year 7 months

1999-2007 1 year 3 months

1949-2007 2 years 11 months

Table 1: Chief Justices in Pakistan’s history

Name of Chief Justice From To Tenure length

Justice Sir Abdul Rashid Abdur Rashid 7-6-1949 29-6-1954 5 years

Justice Mohammad Munir 29-6-1954 2-5-1960 5 years 10 months

Justice Mohammad Shahabuddin 3-5-1960 12-5-1960 9 days

Justice A.R. Cornelius 13-5-1960 29-2-1968 7 years 9 months

Justice S.A. Rahman 1-3-1968 3-6-1968 3 months

Justice Fazal Akbar 4-6-1968 17-11-1968 5 months

Justice Hamoodur Rahman 18-11-1968 31-10-1975 7 years

Justice Mohammad Yaqub Ali 1-11-1975 22-9-1977 1 year 10 months

Justice S. Anwarul Haque 23-9-1977 25-3-1981 3 years 6 months

Justice Mohammad Haleem 25-3-1981 31-12-1989 8 years 9 months

Justice Mohammad Afzal Zullah 1-1-1990 18-4-1993 3 years 3 months

Justice Dr Nasim Hassan Shah 17-4-1993 14-4-1994 1 year

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah 5-6-1994 2-12-1997 3 years 6 months

Justice Ajmal Mian 23-12-1997 30-6-1999 1 year 6 months

Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui 1-7-1999 26-1-2000 7 months

Justice Irshad Hassan Khan 26-1-2000 6-1-2002 2 years

Justice Bashir Jehangiri 7-1-2002 31-1-2002 23 days

Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmad 1-2-2002 31-12-2003 1 year 11 months

Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui 31-12-2003 29-1-2005 1 year 6 months

Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry 30-6-2005 9-3-2007 1 year 8 months

(Non-functional)

Justice Javed Iqbal 10-3-2007 Acting-Chief Justice

Billionaires & millionaires

We, the Pakistanis, are classified in two major categories – two per cent and 98 per cent – but quite a few of us count themselves among the two per cent.

We are told that those falling in the two per cent category are feudal lords, bureaucrats, plunderers of the national exchequer and natural resources, and all others who had been ruling the country without having been given a mandate in a genuinely democratic process, i.e. free, fair and transparent election.

The top brass of every political party represents the 98 per cent and hates the two per cent, maintaining that the two per cent has been exploiting ‘the other per cent’ for decades together, rather since the country’s birth.

The common approach, however, is that billionaires and millionaires form the two per cent.

Karachi has the distinction of having an almost equal population of both the categories. This may be a disputable claim but there are reasons to believe that there are millions of millionaires in Pakistan and quite a good number of them lives in Karachi. There are several million residential units, houses, flats, etc., and the smallest one in a posh locality costs no less than Rs10 million. The value of a bigger one cannot be imagined by a common man. Generally speaking, the common man can only dream of a residence of his own. That’s why he is called common man and counted among the 98 per cent. If he tries to buy a flat or house in any regularised locality, he has to arrange hundreds of thousands of rupees first which he simply cannot.

One may not dispute the fact that properties in all residential, commercial and industrial areas of Karachi are owned by those who claim to be among the 98 per cent. In addition, owner of each multi-million property has many other expensive ‘essentials of life’ at his disposal.

Do we count all these Karachiites as commoners? Do we believe these people owning many multi-million assets represent the 98 per cent while sitting in the elected houses? Not only Karachi, all the urban centres, besides much of the country’s rural territory, have an undeterminable number of affluent people calling themselves the underprivileged individuals.

If the assets and total income of every citizen is documented under a foolproof system, it may transpire that the two per cent is no more two per cent but, perhaps, at least 20 per cent and thus the ratio may be revised as 80:20.

The weird KESC

Is the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation taking its consumers for a ride? In the aftermath of the brief rain, at least three people were electrocuted by the KESC’s snapping overhead wires. The utility issued an advisory to consumers “to protect themselves and their children from electrocution during rains”.

Telling people to avoid fallen wires and pools formed by rain is ridiculous. These wires are everywhere – the highway, streets and on every path people use. How can people know when and where these hanging swords will fall? And how can people possibly know that electric current is running in a pool or puddle one is compelled to wade through? At best, one can avoid touching electric poles, which most people often do.

The KESC seems to be unnerved by cases decided by the Sindh High Court in favour of electrocution victims. The power utility is often ordered to pay the heirs of a victim for its inefficient system. The KESC really needs to take measures and ensure that its fault does not cost people their lives.

Spring in city

Passing a cluster of mangroves off the DHA on a recent morning, I was thrilled to hear the dulcet songs of birds. They were celebrating spring!

In many areas of Pakistan, spring transforms the landscape almost overnight when the blooming trees don flowery garbs of eye-catching hues. Karachi does not have such superb garments in its seasonal wardrobe. But traces of spring can be found at places if one lends an eye and ear. In flowerpots, along roadside nurseries, and, of course, in the newly laid parks, are fragrant flowers attracting bees and bugs. Common sparrows sitting in windows and on walls and trees chirp so noisily that they wake many people from deep slumber.

One wonders whether these pleasant tunes will be available to future generations as development activities are gobbling up the mangroves along the beach and the trees lining city roads.

A dying art

Once an icon of our culture, snake charmers today are struggling for survival – the victims of growing poverty and the advent of commercial ventures.

The exotic sight of these mystical men enticing snakes to dance to the music of flutes has long captured the imagination of foreign tourists. The dexterity with which the charmers handle snakes such as cobras and vipers added to the allure of the street- performances.

The practice of snake charming – catching snakes, keeping them in captivity for extended periods, and training them to perform – has traditionally been passed from father to son. For generations, it has provided a critical means of support to many families.

Large numbers of snake charmers once could be seen walking the streets and towns of Karachi, their cloth-covered baskets hanging from bamboo poles slung across the shoulders. But such sights are increasingly rare, as snake charmers have become an endangered species.

At a site near the Bagh Ibne Qasim and Sea View where snake charmers have long gathered, those who still practice the traditional art have declined in the last few years.

Basheer Hayat, an illiterate and a snake charmer by profession, still inhabits the site. He said his life had become very difficult since the officials of DHA and police restricted him and his fellows on the beach front. He has handled snakes since he was a child, and snake charming performances have been the only source of income for his family.

“Today, I am on the verge of starvation since I can only make street performances for fear of getting arrested by the police at the beach,” he said.

Many snake charmers have left their ancestral profession due to abject poverty. A few of them carrying their cloth-covered baskets are now seen begging near traffic signals in posh areas while others are seen playing their flutes at weddings and local festivals in slum areas.

— Karachian



© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2007