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ISLAMABAD, April 13: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed all petitions challenging the 17th constitutional amendment and the dual office of President General Pervez Musharraf. However, a decision in a case relating to the retirement age of the superior court judges was withheld. “For reasons to be recorded later, all the petitions are dismissed, but petition No 12/2004 is being de-linked to be heard separately,” Chief Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui announced in a unanimous short order.

The case relating to the retirement age of judges has been filed by Habib Wahabul Khairi of the Al Jihad Trust. He has challenged clauses 6 and 7 of the 17th amendment, objecting to the deletion of the provision under which the retirement age has been reverted to 65 from 68 years.

Led by the chief justice, a five-member bench comprising Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar and Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar concluded the hearing on seven petitions.

After the hearing, the bench retired for a while to come back and announce the short order at 1:45pm.

The petitions had been filed by Abdullah Khan Dogar of the Pakistan Lawyers Forum, Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the Watan Party, Awami Himayat Tehrik chairman Moulvi Iqbal Haider and Engineer Jamil Ahmed Malik of the Pakistan Communist Party.

Mr Dogar had challenged the vires of the 17th amendment, the dual office of the president and the Legal Framework Order. While Barrister Zafarullah Khan had criticized the holding of the two offices by the president, Moulvi Iqbal Haider had favoured the president’s decision to hold the two offices. Engineer Malik had challenged the assent of the dual office bill by the acting president.

“We are fighters and would continue our struggle till the end,” Mr Dogar told reporters soon after the short order had been announced.

Engineer Malik said he would file a review petition against the order.

During the hearing, the chief justice, addressing Mr Khairi, observed that the Supreme Court had decided many judgments on merit against the federal government during the last 15 months as compared to the past five years.

“Yes, this has helped in restoring the lost credibility of the judiciary among the public,” Mr Khairi conceded.

He contended that the terms and conditions of the superior courts’ judges were protected under the constitution and that parliament could only increase the retirement age and could not decrease it.

He requested the court to restore all provisions relating to the judiciary, which the constituent assembly had included in the original 1973 Constitution.

Earlier, Mr Dogar said that only the superior judiciary could block and check adventurers from imposing martial laws. He deplored that whenever a martial law was imposed, the constitution was first held in abeyance and then defaced.

Moulvi Haider presented some documents before the court to establish that reducing the retirement age of judges affected the independence of judiciary. He also placed before the bench a book

Dialogue authored by Senator S.M. Zafar.

Barrister Zafarullah cited Article 17 of the Constitution to establish that nobody in the service of Pakistan could be a member of any political party, adding that the post of the president was a political office while that of the army chief was a government service.

He said the dual office bill was an ordinary law and should be declared repugnant to the constitution.