Protests in Pakistan as Chief Justice appears before judges' panel

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Iftikhar Chaudhry was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan from 2005 to 2007, when he was suspended.

Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry arrived to court to appear in front of a panel of previously subordinate judges to answer charges filed against him by the President General Pervez Musharraf.

The Chief Justice's motorcade was surrounded by thousands of well wishers and lawyers who have come out on the streets of Pakistan's capital to express their solidarity as Pakistan observes a nation wide partial strike and black day.

In a brief statement to the press, the Chief Justice said, "I am appearing in front of junior judges who are under investigation for corruption."

The Chief Justice has been held incommunicado without access to the outside world since Friday when he was suddenly removed from his office by Pakistan's military government. Telephone, Internet, and mobile phone service has been suspended to his house which is under “high security” according to government officials.

Chief Justice Iftikhar is well respected by his colleagues and international community for taking a firm stand against government's human rights abuses and abductions.

New York based Human Rights Watch has issued a statement demanding an immediate release and reinstatement of the Chief Justice Chaudhry Iftikhar. "By brazenly and unlawfully dismissing, detaining and humiliating the chief justice of the Supreme Court, President Musharraf has created a constitutional crisis at the judiciary’s expense," said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights watch.

Ikram Chaudhry, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, told a British news service: "General Musharraf is trying to bulldoze the judiciary. He wants to leave no stone unturned."

Reporting yesterday's wide spread strike by the bar associations across Pakistan two major private news channels were forced to go off air for reporting and showing “anti-government” protests.

Tensions are high and the police and other security personnel have been placed on high alert. Military government's information minister has however categorically denied that the government is considering a declaration of emergency.