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Iftikhar ‘declines Haj invitation’: Saudi ambassador meets deposed CJ

Published Dec 08, 2007 12:00am

ISLAMABAD, Dec 7: Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadh Al-Asseri met deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry at his heavily-guarded official residence here on Friday. Justice Iftikhar has been under house arrest since the imposition of emergency on Nov 3.

Although there was no official word on the deposed chief justice’s first meeting with a foreign diplomat, there were rumours that the ambassador had delivered a message from the government with an offer that he would be duly accommodated if he withdrew the demand for reinstating the judges who had not taken the oath under the Provisional Constitution Order.

According to a source close to Justice Iftikhar’s family, during the hour-long meeting, the Saudi envoy also extended an invitation to him to perform Haj which the latter politely declined, saying that his presence in the country was necessary in the current situation.

Political observers are attaching great significance to the meeting, keeping in view the reported role played by the Saudi government in facilitating the return of Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan.

Mr Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, it may be mentioned, had not been allowed to meet the deposed chief justice.

The meeting on Friday took place at a time when various options are being presented for resolving the crisis, the latest from detained Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan who in a recent letter had called for binding candidates for the election to defend the judiciary.

According to the source, Justice Iftikhar told the Saudi ambassador that he considered himself the rightful chief justice and the first thing he would do at the end of his detention would be to go to and sit in the Supreme Court. He said that he was ready to render any sacrifice or to wage struggle for the just cause of independence of the judiciary and restoration of the pre-PCO judiciary. Despite all the difficulties, the chief justice said, judges and lawyers would not abandon their struggle for independence of the judiciary.

Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told Dawn that the ministry had nothing to do with the meeting and it had not been arranged by the Foreign Office. It was not necessary for ambassadors to inform the Foreign Office or to obtain permission for such meetings, he said.

He conceded that the Saudi envoy had met the foreign secretary after his meeting with Justice Iftikhar, but to discuss some other issue.

JUSTICE DOGAR: Ambassador of China Luo Dhau Hui called on Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar at his chamber in the Supreme Court to convey his good wishes on his assuming the highest judicial office of the country.

The two exchanged views on issues of mutual interest.

Chief Justice Dogar expressed the hope that the Pakistan-China friendship would continue to flourish and said that cooperation and exchange of information and knowledge between the judiciaries of the two countries should be expanded.

He requested the Chinese ambassador to convey his good wishes and greetings to his counterpart, the President of the Supreme People’s Court of China.

Attorney General Malik Mohammad Qayyum attended the meeting.