Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was born on 12 December 1948 in Quetta Pakistan. He is the current Chief Justice of Pakistan. He was appointed as Chief Justice by Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf on May 7, 2005. He was suspended by President General Musharraf on March 9, 2007, when he refused to oblige Musharraf by refusing to resign. After having been elected as President for second term by the Parliament, Musharraf in November 2007 pre-empted an impending court decision against his re-election and suspended the constitution and declared a state of emergency. Justice Chaudhry convened a seven-member bench which issued an interim order against this action.
In March 2009, the Lawyers supported by various political parties, started a decisive movement to reinstate Chaudhry Iftikhar and other deposed Judges. A long march from all over the country was declared soon after. Finally, the government reinstated Chaudhry Iftikhar and other deposed Judges on 16 March 2009 through an executive order by the President of Pakistan.
Chaudhry belongs to the Ghorewaha clan of Muslim Rajputs, his family originally hailing from Faisalbad.
Chaudhry has a Bachelors in Arts and Bachelors in Law (LLB) from Jamshoro-Sindh. He joined the bar in 1974. Later, he was enrolled as Advocate of the High Court in 1976 and as an Advocate of the Supreme Court in 1985. In 1989 he was appointed as Advocate General, Balochistan. He was elevated as Additional Judge, Balochistan High Court on 6 November 1990 until 21 April 1999.. On April 22, 1999 he became Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court. Besides remaining as Judge of High Court, he discharged duties as Banking Judge, Judge Special Court for Speedy Trials, Judge Customs Appellate Courts as well as Company Judge. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also remained President of High Court Bar Association, Quetta, and was elected twice as Member of the Bar Council. In 1992 he was appointed as Chairman of Balochistan Local Council Election Authority and thereafter for second term in 1998. He also worked as Chairman, Provincial Review Board for the province of Balochistan and was twice appointed as Chairman of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Balochistan.
On February 4, 2000 he was nominated Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan. On June 30, 2005 he became the Chief Justice of Pakistan. At present, Justice Iftikhar is also functioning as Chairman, Enrollment Committee of Pakistan Bar Council and as Chairman, Supreme Court Building Committee.
On March 9, 2007, Chaudhry was suspended by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf also filed a Presidential reference against Chaudhry for misconduct.
It was the first time in the 60-year history of the Pakistani Supreme Court that a Chief Justice was suspended. The suspension was made on the grounds of complaints against Chief Justice Chaudhry for violating the norms of judicial propriety, corruption, seeking favours and misbehaving with senior lawyers. He was also accused of interfering in the working of the executive branch.
After his suspension, there was unrest in the country with regard to the validity of the allegations against Chaudhry, as well as doubt as to whether Musharraf technically had the power to suspend the Chief Justice under the circumstances.
On May 5, 2007, Chaudhry with his counsel and politician friend Atizaz Ahsan, who is also the party member of the PPP, traveled from Islamabad to Lahore to address the Lahore High Court Bar Association. Demonstrations of support along the route slowed his motorcade to the point that it took him 25 hours to reach the dinner the association was holding in his honor. Demonstrators chanted slogans supporting Chaudhry and demanding Musharraf to step down. In his speech he criticized dictatorship and emphasized the importance of the rule of law thereby politicizing the office of Chief Justice.
On July 20, 2007, Chaudhry was reinstated to his position as Chief Justice in a ruling by the thirteen-member bench of Pakistani Supreme Court headed by Justice Khalil ur Rehman Ramday. He was represented by Aitzaz Ahsan, Shahid Saeed, Gohar Khan and Nadeem Ahmed [PLD 2007 SC 578] against 16 senior lawyers representing the Federation. The ruling combined 25 constitutional petitions filed by various parties, but referred most of the issues raised by the 24 petitions not filed by Chaudhry himself to lower courts for extended adjudication. All thirteen of the sitting justices agreed that Musharraf’s action had been illegal, and ten of the thirteen ordered Chaudhry was to be reinstated and that he “shall be deemed to be holding the said office and shall always be deemed to have been so holding the same.
On Saturday, Nov 3, 2007, General Pervez Musharraf, who was the President and Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan at the time, declared a state of emergency and suspended the nation’s constitution and parliament at the same time. The declaration accused the judges of violating article 209 of the Constitution of 1973.
Further, according to the constitution, the state of emergency only suspends certain fundamental rights of citizens and all other structures and functions of the state remain functioning as normal, but through this proclamation the government had suspended the constitution itself in accordance with Supreme Court’ decision rendered in Zafar Ali Shah’s case and issued a provisional constitution order (PCO) in its place. Such an action was considered legal by Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in the aforesaid case.
After the imposition of emergency and suspension of constitution, Chaudhry constituted an eight-member bench of Supreme Court judges duly headed by himself, and in utter violation of Zafar Ali Shah’s case immediately quashed the provisional constitution order, declaration of emergency and the suspension of the constitution, and ordered all civil and military personnel to ignore the order. He also ordered all the chief justices of high courts and judges of the Supreme Court and High Court not to take oath under the PCO whereas he himself had taken oath under a similar PCO earlier.
On 15 November Geo News reported that Chaudhry had ordered the Islamabad Inspector General of Police to take action against his and his family’s house arrest and their possible relocation to Quetta. According to the channel, Chaudhry held the interior secretary, the commissioner, the deputy commissioner and the assistant commissioner responsible for his house arrest. He said he was still the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the official residence was his by right.
Reinstatement in 2009
Just after general elections in February, on March 24, 2008, on his first day of premiership the Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gillani ordered Chaudhry’s release from house arrest. However, he did not restore the chief justice. Later three agreements for the restoration of the judges were signed by Asif Ali Zardari, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif, the chairman of the PML-N, the chief opposition party. But the chief justice remained unrestored. This led to a revival of the lawyers movement for the restoration of judges.
In October 2008, Chaudhry visited the Supreme Court building.
The Lawyers’ Movement announced a “long march” for the restoration of the judges, especially Chief Justice Iftikhar from 12 to 16 March 2009. The government of Pakistan refused to reinstate the judges and declared section 144 in effect in three of the four provinces of Pakistan thereby forbidding any form of gatherings of the “long march”. Arrangements were made to block all roads and other means of transport to prevent the lawyers from reaching the federal capital, Islamabad. Workers of the main political parties in opposition and the lawyers movement as well as other known persons from the civil society were arrested. Despite these efforts, the movement continued and was able to break through the blockade in Lahore en route to Islamabad in the night between 15 and 16 March 2009. A historic procession was carried out in the leadership of ex. Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from his residence Model Town Lahore. When this Long March reached Gujranwala, A few hours later, on the morning of March 16, 2009, the prime minister of Pakistan restored Chaudhary Iftikahar as chief justice of Pakistan through an executive order. after which the opposition agreed to stop the “long march”.
“Time International” magazine Write about Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary
Pakistan’s Reluctant Hero
The drive from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, to the hill station of Abbottabad usually takes two hours. But when the recently suspended Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry drove that route to address the local bar association two weeks ago, the journey clocked in at 14. Every small town and junction along the way was thronged with cheering crowds. Banners waved, music blared, and dancing ponies performed. Crowds at rallies for Pervez Musharraf can be just as big, but these days most of the President’s well-wishers are bused in. “The government rents crowds for their rallies, but we are not getting money or food to be here,” says Rauf Naizi, a 33-year-old farmer who had been waiting hours to see Chaudhry. “We come just to pay tribute to the Chief Justice.”
Politics has long been theater in Pakistan, and the current spectacle of a waning President and a crusading Chief Justice has the country enthralled. Three months ago Musharraf accused Chaudhry of misuse of office, leveling charges of nepotism and corruption. Chaudhry denies wrongdoing and refuses to go. The resulting furor threatens Musharraf’s increasingly tenuous hold on power. Musharraf says he’s the only leader capable of reining in the Islamic militants that threaten Pakistan, but his detractors claim that his stranglehold on power has sidelined moderates and delivered Pakistan’s government into the hands of an extremist minority. Chaudhry just wants his job back. The fortunes of the two men mirror that of Pakistan. Will the country become more open and democratic, committed to civilian institutions—or will it collapse further in on itself, victim to government crackdowns and the extremist forces that lurk in the shadow of martial law?
A drive anywhere for the Chief Justice these days takes on the trappings of a campaign rally. But Chaudhry is no candidate. He is a symbol, rather, of a yearning for democracy and an independent judiciary, and the people of Pakistan are coming out in the tens of thousands to show their support. Even visits to the Supreme Court in Islamabad, where the charges against Chaudhry are being debated, are cause for protests—or at least they were, until the recent enactment of a ban on any public gatherings of more than five people. The battered 1994 Mitsubishi Pajero that the Chief Justice uses for his journeys outside the city has become a national icon, its number plate, LOH 3, shorthand for a nationwide debate on the role of the military in government.
Slightly cross-eyed and patently uncharismatic, Chaudhry stumbled into his present stature through a steadfast desire to do what was right. On March 9, Musharraf, backed by his generals and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, asked Chaudhry to resign. A video frame of that meeting, broadcast by the government on national TV, was meant to show the nation that even the Chief Justice was not above the law. Instead it unleashed outrage against the military. “That frame, of the Chief Justice sitting in front of the general, did for Pakistan what the Tiananmen Square photo of the boy standing before the tank did for China,” says former Law Minister Iftikhar Gilani. “Almost every Pakistani has seen that image, and it has become a symbol of defiance against military rule.”
Chaudhry wasn’t always a hero. Despised by some lawyers because of a perception that he took a progovernment stance on revenue cases, he was known as an abrasive, activist judge. As a Supreme Court Justice he was widely criticized for legitimizing martial law in 2000 and for a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2002 that permitted General Musharraf to keep his uniform while holding the office of President. “I wanted to take up arms against him,” says Muneer Malik, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, who now works on Chaudhry’s defense team. In 2005 Chaudhry was promoted to Chief Justice. But then he started investigating extrajudicial detentions and querying a spate of disappearances of activists. Earlier this year, he held the privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills—a pet project of the Prime Minister—to be unconstitutional. Many in Pakistan suggest that Musharraf’s principal motive in dismissing Chaudhry may have stemmed from fears that the increasingly independent Chief Justice would obstruct the President’s bid for another term, which requires a constitutional amendment ratified by the Supreme Court and approved by Parliament. Chaudhry in private conversations had expressed doubt that the President should also be head of the army, says Asan Iqbal, Secretary of Information for deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League. “It was after that that the government got very concerned,” Iqbal says.
When news broke of Chaudhry’s suspension, Pakistan’s black-suited lawyers campaigned to reinstate him. Opposition parties and thousands of ordinary Pakistanis quickly joined the movement. Posters and stickers of Chaudhry’s face are plastered on walls, bumpers and T shirts across the nation. Talk shows fete the “judge who said no.” Says Supreme Court advocate Athar Minallah: “It’s not about the Chief Justice anymore. It’s about the future of this country. It’s about having systems, having institutions that are not dependent on individuals. It’s all now about democracy.”
When Musharraf first came to power, he seemed for a time to be decisive and enlightened, and after Sept. 11 won full backing from the U.S. Maintaining his position as head of the army, he assured the country, was a temporary measure to ensure stability. If he ever felt the people were not with him, he said, he would quit.
That was then. Angry at what he has termed sensationalist reporting, Musharraf launched a crackdown on the press two weeks ago. Live coverage of rallies related to Chaudhry have been banned, as have live talk shows on the issue. Opposition party organizers are routinely detained prior to planned antigovernment demonstrations. Outspoken activists have been charged with terrorist acts and others have simply disappeared. Qazim Bugti, mayor of a small town in the insurgency-wracked province of Baluchistan, was picked up in November. His is one of 99 abductions documented by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan last year.
Though the country has had something of an economic boom of late, the blush is off the rose. Prices are rising and blackouts common. Extremist groups have gained power—last week an Islamic court in the tribal areas sentenced and executed four people for adultery. Towns in the northern provinces bordering Afghanistan are run by a Pakistani Taliban that has shut down barbershops, girls’ schools and polio-vaccination programs. In Islamabad, students from the fundamentalist Jamia Hafsa seminary have occupied a children’s library less than a mile from the Parliament building. Abdul Aziz, head of the Lal Masjid mosque where Jamia Hafsa is located, preaches against the government, calling for its overthrow if Islamic law is not implemented and claiming that he has 10,000 suicide bombers ready to be deployed. “What do you want us to do, storm the place?” asks Wasim Sajjad, leader of Pakistan’s Senate. “We have a huge army, we can do it. But this is a very sensitive time. Elections are coming. The moment we do something, we will be blamed.”
Musharraf’s lack of a popular mandate means that he has been unable to confront those like Aziz, and has had to form alliances with conservative groups, costing him the support of moderates. “The rate of evaporation of support for Musharraf over the past few months is unprecedented,” says Iqbal. “I don’t come across a single person who is defending Musharraf today.” Even support from the U.S. seems to be wavering. Representatives Tom Lantos and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen along with Senator Joe Biden wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently, saying that, “It is our impression that many Pakistani citizens view the President’s campaign against the nation’s Chief Justice as an attempt to cow the judicial system into sanctioning electoral rigging and extraconstitutional delay of a return to a fully civilian government.”
To quell unrest, Musharraf’s best move could simply be to reinstate Chaudhry. “Then he wouldn’t be the 100-foot giant stalking the cities and roads of Pakistan,” says Aitzaz Ahsan, Chaudhry’s lead counsel. But many consider it unlikely that the President will back down. Islamabad these days is permeated by fear that martial law will be declared. “My worry is that [Musharraf] is about to do something really silly and really dangerous,” says Gilani. Musharraf “has now developed a larger-than-life self-image,” adds Iqbal. “He thinks that he is Pakistan’s destiny.” Certainly he was once seen as the savior of the country for taking power in a time of upheaval. Maybe Musharraf can secure that legacy by allowing democracy to be restored.