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Shahbaz was willing to have CJ removed after 'face-saving' restoration

Published May 19, 2011 09:07pm


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Shahbaz sharif, nawaz sharif
“On the issue of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Shahbaz claimed that the PML-N was open to negotiation, provided that Chaudhry was symbolically restored.” The conversation took place just a day before Nawaz Sharif would join a lawyers’ long march in a dramatic public protest for the reinstatement of judges deposed by Gen Musharraf, a demand that President Zardari had been resisting. In private, however, a different story was being told. - File Photo (Thumbnail illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/

KARACHI: Even as PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif was rallying street support by publicly refusing to back down from demands for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in February and March 2009, the party was privately telling American diplomats that the future of the then-non-functional chief justice was up for negotiation.

“Shahbaz stated that following the restoration, the PML-N was prepared to end the issue and remove Chaudhry once and for all,” reported Lahore Consulate Principal Officer Bryan Hunt in a secret American diplomatic cable describing his meeting with the younger Sharif on March 14, 2009.

“On the issue of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Shahbaz claimed that the PML-N was open to negotiation, provided that Chaudhry was symbolically restored.”

The conversation took place just a day before Nawaz Sharif would join a lawyers’ long march in a dramatic public protest for the reinstatement of judges deposed by Gen Musharraf, a demand that President Zardari had been resisting. In private, however, a different story was being told.

“Shahbaz stressed that his party could not afford the political humiliation of abandoning what had become a long-standing principle in favour of Chaudhry’s restoration,” Mr Hunt reported. “At the same time, Shahbaz claimed to understand that Chaudhry was a problematic jurist, whose powers would need to be carefully curtailed.”

Shahbaz Sharif strategised that as a judge who had taken oath under Gen Musharraf’s first provisional constitutional order, Chaudhry could be removed - once “some sort of face-saving restoration” had been carried out - “by adopting legislation proposed in the Charter of Democracy that would ban all judges who had taken an oath under a PCO from serving.”

A week earlier, in another meeting at the Lahore consulate, Shahbaz Sharif had proposed an alternative solution: creating the Constitutional Court envisioned in the Charter of Democracy and ensuring that “it be made superior to the Supreme Court. Iftikhar Chaudhry’s restoration … would then have little measurable impact, as the Constitutional Court, staffed by appointees from both parties, could nullify his decisions.”

Even before the restoration, Shahbaz Sharif confided, the PML-N leadership would agree to any constraints President Zardari might want placed on Chaudhry, “including curtailment of his powers to create judicial benches, removal of his suo motu jurisdiction, and/or establishment of a constitutional court as a check on the Supreme Court.”

“Although Nawaz publicly has said Chaudhry’s restoration is also a red line,” commented US Ambassador Anne Patterson in a separate report, “no leader in Pakistan really wants an activist and unpredictable Chief Justice. … Nawaz emerges stronger in the public eye and retains the ‘high moral ground’ by defending the judiciary.”

As late as January 22, in fact, PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique had told Mr Hunt that a minimum requirement for saving the coalition with the PPP in Punjab was “full retirement of Chief Justice Hameed Dogar and appointment of Justice Sardar Raza in his place.” Chaudhry did not seem to have been a concern.

But by March 2009 he had become the PML-N’s rallying cry, and the timing clearly had to do with political developments at the time: a February 25 Supreme Court decision had declared the Sharif brothers ineligible for office, and the president had imposed governor’s rule in Punjab.

“Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif told Principal Officer Lahore that the decision [to declare them ineligible to hold public office], which they claimed was entirely Zardari’s, was a declaration of war; they would … take their battle to the streets. Following the decision, PML-N certainly will participate in the lawyers’ march,” reported a February 2009 cable previously published in the media.

“Before the Court ruling, ‘95 per cent of the party’ had opposed joining the lawyers’ March 16 sit-in because it might lead to violence,” Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan revealed privately in a separate conversation at the US embassy.

“Now, the party had little choice but to support them.”

Cables referenced: WikiLeaks # 196903, 195758, 196939, 188203, 193807, 194540. All cables are available on


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Comments (23) Closed

Javed May 20, 2011 09:41am
The leak shows that political leaders in Pakistan can do anything to get the power. They have a different face in public and quite an ugly face in private. These guys have hurt Pakistan and its people in every possible way to grab power and wealth. We need to get rid of the current political leadership by replacing it with young, educated and honest lot to have any hope for a prosperous and peaceful Pakistan.
Syed M. Nazim May 20, 2011 10:12am
In Pakistan no political party except Tahrik e Insaf wants really strong independent judiciary. Tragedy is that Pakistani public is immature and completely indifferent from real problems of Pakistan and not ready to get out of clutches of corrupt,illiterate and incompetent politicians.This is the time to try new faces after seeing their manifesto.
MUF May 20, 2011 11:59am
Double face of our leaders is once again exposed.These two are especially having difficulty hiding behind their patriotic masks.
tmasood May 20, 2011 12:18pm
I do not belong to any political party but this propaganda is created to defame the PML(N)in the current scenario, as Nawaz Sharif is after accountability of the armed forces including agencies.
Aftab Kenneth Wilson May 20, 2011 12:24pm
Lot more will be exposed in near future. No need to be ashamed of our characters and moral behaviors because this is what we are no matter whether someone likes it or not. The whole nation is passenger of the same train which is heading towards another incoming train without knowing the end result.
Kashif May 20, 2011 12:31pm
Shairf Brothers always played with Pakistani People sentiment. All the bad deeds they had done in Past. They had attacked supreme court , they had sacked two COAS , they had blamed HUB POWER COMPANY for power generation, they had deal with Mushraf, they had never been top of the list of FBR for tax payer. As far as common Pakistani People, we have never been benefited by the restoration of Iftikahr Chudery. If Zaradari is blame for bad & poor governance than the poor & injustice in our court still exist which means Iftikhar Chudery is liable. Our judges read news paper , watch TV program & take SUO MOTO action which popular them. In last three years all the cases was highly public discussed thanks to our Media was heard in Supreme Court.
SAM May 20, 2011 12:33pm
these leaks have been timed with the demand by PML (N) for the accountability of army, which actually should be the right of the parliament. Who will bell the cat now?
Saleem May 20, 2011 12:40pm
All seem to be opportunists. Only Imran Khan stands out
khurshid ahmed k.s.a May 20, 2011 12:47pm
it seemed a claver move from reverse the public opinion regarding Army chief & P.M.L(N) stand against Amercan action carried out at abbot abad.
Kaleem May 20, 2011 12:50pm
Am I surprised? No I am not. Agreeing with one of poster here, they can stoop down to any level to cling onto power.
Saad H May 20, 2011 01:58pm
The name of the game is power, what we won't do for it?!
Aijaz Hussain May 20, 2011 02:26pm
They are politicians.What can you expect?
Omar May 20, 2011 02:34pm
Are we surprised that anything our "leaders" say is true? If they were honest and hardworking, Pakistan would not have muddled along for 60 years and become the mess it is today. These feudal chiefs, army heads and mullahs will do anything to sink our Nation as long as it benefits them personally. Is it any wonder that with such people in power we are where we are?
Saleem May 20, 2011 03:01pm
It seems that there was a difference of opinion between the Sharifs. The complete text of the cable clearly states that Shahbaz said that his brother does not agree with his viewpoint. Dawn must highlight this aspect, as it has done in its tv transmission.
Naeem Akhtar May 20, 2011 03:19pm
Did, People of Pakistan want to hear some thing new.
Aftab May 20, 2011 03:56pm
What was Sharif brother's stance when the same accountability and intelligence agencies stance was part of Kerry Lugar Bill. They opposed the bill and consequently the Govt had to withdraw to an extent from the very demands from the bill. Sorry to say but Sharif brothers can go to every step for their vested intrests as they showed with a deal with Mush to get away from prison.
Zain ul Abideen May 20, 2011 05:30pm
No surprise here. The Nawaz brothers are well known for their short sightedness and road building expertise not principles. It is true that only Tehreek-e-Insaaf sincerely wanted the judiciary restored the rest of them were in it for votes.
samar May 20, 2011 08:10pm
why publishing wikileaks pakistan at this time?to create more chaos in the country or dawn have different agenda?
fN May 20, 2011 08:12pm
HANG ON!! Negotiate with US??!! So who's running the country here, our so called elected leaders or Washington?!! We don't want any of these traitors running our country. They've shown their true face!
fawad May 20, 2011 11:32pm
i feel ashamed to be a voter of PMLN
KHAWAJA UMER FAROOQ May 22, 2011 11:02am
Corrupt politicions cant face true judiciary in country. Their unbeleivable stories of corruption several time revealed in media but these people are always consider themselve above the law. In sea of corruption and dirty politcs how these people can face and afford independent judicary. May 22, 2011 04:08pm
... just think why are we having these cables now.. and that tooo through DAWN/Nawa-e-Waqt Group... Just that Nawaz had the courage to hold Raiwind conference after OBL issue.. All... just think.. who is running the show ... say one thing against them and you are under their pin...
Sheryar Farooqui May 24, 2011 02:00am
Most Pakistani believe that all the parties that have been in power are corrupt & indulge in politics to make more & more money for themselves but the real problem is the pakistani people, despite knowing all this, we still end up with these monkeys, we have chosen this life of disgrace & mis-fortune for ourselves by allowing this happen for the last many years. Again after Zardari, no matter what happens PML(N) will come into power after Zardari....