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ISLAMABAD, May 26: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on Saturday said authoritarianism was maligned because it was the antithesis of the concept of separation of powers and devoid of checks and balances.

“It is a system inclined towards the abuse of power, misuse of authority and devoid of respecting fundamental rights of the citizen like right to life, liberty, equality and prosperity,” the chief justice said, adding that such system paid no heed to fundamental rights like freedom of conscience, thought, expression, religion, movement and association.

Justice Iftikhar was speaking at a seminar on “Separation of powers and judicial independence” at the Supreme Court auditorium.

Organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), it was also addressed by its president Munir A. Malik, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, the legal counsel of the chief justice, former SCBA president Hamid Khan, former Pakistan Bar Council vice-chairman Ali Ahmed Kurd, PBC vice-chairman Mirza Aziz Akber Baiq and Sindh High Court Bar Association president Abrar Hasan.

Huge projection screens were installed at different spots outside the SC building to ensure that people see proceedings of the seminar. This is the first-ever public appearance of the chief justice after the May 12 Karachi bloodbath.

A large number of lawyers, political and social activists gathered outside the Supreme Court to welcome the chief justice.

It took the chief justice over two hours to reach the Supreme Court building from his residence to address the seminar. It was all dark when the chief justice reached the court premises at 8.40pm as all lights on the Constitution Avenue, which usually remain illuminated all night long, were switched off.

The auditorium resonated with anti-government slogans and greetings for the chief justice throughout the speeches of participants.

However, Ali Ahmed Kurd requested the audience not to chant slogans during the chief justice’s address.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry made no mention of the reference and said a vibrant and independent judiciary was essential for the promotion of good governance.

He stressed the need for a comprehensive policy and legal frameworks for independent and functional judiciary to ensure rule of law and access to justice, particularly for the vulnerable.

The reason why the Constitution dealt with judicial organ in greater detail was to ensure that courts remained free and independent of any pressure, influence or inducement by the executive, he added.

“Courts can not be free if they do not enjoy institutional and decisional independence also ordained in the Holy Quran and, therefore, the courts have to be independent.

“A vibrant, dynamic and independent judiciary will not only help reduce poverty, but will also establish our credentials in the comity of nations as a nation that values and respects the rule of law and human rights,” he said.

AP adds: The chief justice did not specifically mention Gen Musharraf in his address, but made a veiled criticism of the president, saying the centralisation of power in one man could be dangerous. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he said.

He also said it was a delicate task to maintain the separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, calling judicial independence a “bulwark against abuse of power”.

Saturday’s speech, which started six hours late, culminated an evening that had the trap-pings of a well-planned political rally.

About 8,000 jubilant lawyers and supporters from opposition parties gathered outside the court building, chanting slogans against Musharraf.