News / Asia

Pakistan's Highest Court Loses Independent Chief

Pakistani lawyers hold up a poster of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as they mark his retirement outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Dec. 11, 2013.
Pakistani lawyers hold up a poster of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as they mark his retirement outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Dec. 11, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
— Pakistan's Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry retired on Wednesday. The fiercely independent judge played a key role in establishing independence of the judiciary in Pakistan and led a nationwide legal movement that forced out a military ruler. But Chaudhry’s tenure was not free of controversies.

In 2007, Chaudry rose to prominence when he increasingly questioned attempts by then-president, General Pervez Musharraf, to cling to power.

The military ruler asked the judge to step down.  Chaudhry refused. That kind of defiance was unprecedented in Pakistan where the judiciary was long seen as pro-army.

Musharraf later fired him and hundreds of other judges by imposing a state of emergency. The controversial move triggered nationwide street protests.

The galvanized opposition led to the election defeat of Musharraf’s political allies, eventually forcing the once powerful military leader to step down and allowing the judges to return.

In a report this month, the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists said Chaudhry's tenure strengthened human rights in Pakistan. 

“An independent judiciary is crucial for human rights and there is no doubt that the Pakistan judiciary began to hold the executive branch in particular to account and for many Pakistanis the Supreme Court came to be seen as a beacon of hope for ending corruption and for imposing justice. No question about that,” said Sam Zarifi, regional director of the International Commission of Jurists. 

Under Chaudhry, the Supreme Court intervened in matters ranging from traffic regulations to civil service appointments and even questioned contracts between the government and foreign companies - one of the reasons experts cite for declining foreign investment in Pakistan.

And instead of reforming the judiciary, some critics say that Chaudhry ignored many human rights cases and focused only on high-profile ones. 

“The lawyers had hoped that they would come back as a reformed court with some humility and wisdom but we did not expect that they are going to come back to gain power," said Asma Jehangir, a senior attorney who took cases before the Supreme Court. "I think the courts are not there to show that they are powerful but they are effective. So, for us as lawyers we feel that many of our clients and litigants have not got justice because their cases have not been heard because the chief justice was too busy doing high visibility cases.”

Still the Supreme Court’s fight with the military and its intelligence agencies over rights abuses was widely praised. Pakistani security forces have been frequently accused of detaining suspects without charging them, citing a need to combat terrorism.

Under Chaudhry, the court consistently demanded the authorities reveal the whereabouts of hundreds of missing people who relatives allege were held by security personnel.

But court monitors like Zarifi say the court did not go far enough.

“While the court has been very effective and active in trying to set in place the identification of those subjected to enforced disappearances when it comes to actual accountability, the court has been very, very strangely reluctant. We still have not seen any members of the security forces held to account despite very clearly being implicated,” he said.

Chaudhry's designated successor, Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, is described by legal observers as “a gentleman” and expect him to steer clear of intervening in government policy. But attorney Jehangir says that may not be easy.

“I am hoping that it will be better," she said. "There is a very thin line between justice through a process and rough and easy justice. Now he [Chaudhry] has left that taste of rough and easy justice in the public, which means that the judiciary that is going to succeed him will have a very tough time.”

Jillani will take the oath of office on Thursday.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid