Iftikhar asks new NA not to endorse Nov 3 actions

February 22, 2008

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KARACHI / LAHORE, Feb 21: Deposed chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has warned the newly-elected National Assembly against endorsement of the Nov 3, 2007, proclamation of emergency and the Provisional Constitution Order promulgated under it.The proclamation was illegal, unconstitutional and mala fide, he claimed in a telephonic address to the Sindh High Court general body meeting held on Thursday morning. The emergency was declared void by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court after its imposition and the order was made public through the (then) SC registrar, he told an applauding and slogan-chanting gathering of lawyers in his 35-minute address in Urdu.

He praised the lawyers for their struggle and described them as Pasban-i-Aeen (defenders of the Constitution) and expressed the confidence that it was about to bear fruit.

About the restoration of the pre-emergency superior judiciary, he said it did not require a two-thirds majority of parliament. An executive order was sufficient to reinstate the judges removed under the PCO. All those individuals who were sworn in under the PCO shall stand removed as they had taken oath in violation of the Nov 3 Supreme Court order annulling the emergency proclamation. They had no authority to exercise judicial power as they had been inducted by an administrative order, he added.

Endorsing the opinion expressed by retired justice Rana Bhagwandas in a recent newspaper article, Justice Chaudhry said all acts of the federal government and promulgation of different orders and ordinances after Nov 3 were unlawful.

“The Constitution was amended and emergency was imposed to perpetuate the one-man rule and no subsequent measure could validate them. History would not forgive us if we do not restore the rule of law,” he warned.

Speaking on the occasion, SHCBA president Rasheed A. Razvi said the lawyers would continue their struggle irrespective of any support extended by political parties. He said no political party was in the field when they had started the campaign on March 9, 2007. A majority of parties and, in fact, the entire civil society gathered behind them in due course because they (the lawyers) were fighting for a worthy cause.

Meanwhile, Advocates M. Saeed Abbasi, M. Imtiaz Agha and Aman Ahmed Kazi observed a token hunger strike on Thursday to protest against the removal of judges.

Later, the SHCBA strongly condemned the police action against lawyers of the Karachi Bar Association. It demanded an immediate and unconditional release of all detained lawyers, compensation for those who sustained injuries and punishment for the officials who indulged in excesses.

The association scheduled an emergency meeting of its general body on Monday to decide about the future course of action.

The association said the KBA members were subjected to violence for taking out a peaceful rally for the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution. An independent judiciary was essential for democracy and it urged the political parties represented in the legislatures to support the reinstatement of the sacked judges in their own interest and the interest of democratic rule.

LAHORE: In a similar address to the Lahore High Court Bar Association, the deposed chief justice said the judges would soon be restored and start dispensing justice.

He said an individual could not amend the Constitution, and the parliament had the power to undo the changes with simple majority. He said if the parliament endorsed the steps taken since Nov 3, 2007, it would lose its prestige and encourage negative traditions.

He said the election, which heralded the hope of a new beginning, should be made use of in the best possible manner. Because of the lawyers’ struggle, he said, the nation had taken the first step towards the independence of the judiciary and required to do more to establish the rule of law.

He said the people had shunned opportunists who had no regard for the independence of the judiciary, because they wanted justice and the rule of law. He said the day the emergency was imposed, the judges sat on the floor and delivered a verdict against the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) as they were denied access to their courtrooms.

He said those who had taken oath under the PCO and then endorsed its promulgation had no legitimacy or value. The deposed chief justice said the victory was near and the lawyers’ movement would soon get the fruit of their struggle.

He paid tribute to the lawyers and judges for their struggle and said the most senior judge of the Lahore High Court, Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, who also did not take oath under the PCO, would soon be the chief justice of the Lahore High Court.

Justice Iftikhar also criticised the government for tightening the police cordon around the Supreme Court Bar Association President Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan to restrict his movement. He also appreciated members of civil society, engineers, doctors, political workers and common people for taking part in lawyers’ movement.