Govt warned against disrupting march
KARACHI, June 6: Leaders of the lawyers’ movement for the reinstatement of the deposed judges have declared that lawyers will embark on a long march to Islamabad on June 9 to mobilize support for their cause and warned that the fate of the present assemblies will be threatened if the judiciary is not restored to its Nov 2 position.
Addressing a joint news conference with the component parties of the All-Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) at the Karachi Press Club on Friday, the office-bearers of various bar associations and political leaders rejected the constitutional package proposed by the Pakistan People’s Party and termed it a diversionary tactic with mala-fide intentions.
The President of the Sindh High Court Bar Association, retired Justice Rashid A. Razvi, said members of the SHCBA, Karachi bar and Malir bar associations would converge on the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum on June 9 at 8am. From there, the caravan of “judicial independence and the rule of law” would proceed, he declared and warned that any move to pre-empt or prevent the lawyers’ caravan would prove counter-productive.
He advised the government to desist from diversionary tactics and reinstate the deposed judges without any further delay in accordance with the Murree Declaration.
Holding Musharraf responsible for the all the problems that the country is currently faced with, he said that the lawyers’ movement was not person-specific, but it was basically aimed at strengthening the institutions.
Muneer A. Malik, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said it was not only the movement of lawyers but also of all those who believed in the independence of the judiciary, the supremacy of the constitution, and those who were committed to democratic norms and ethos. He said no parliamentary and democratic system could function properly unless it was based on an independent judiciary.
He said the lawyers had serious reservations over the wording of proposed article (270) pertaining to the president’s power to grant pardon. He believed that it had the ingredients of indemnifying the acts of the president and said the lawyers’ struggle had begun to ensure that the three institutions of governance would operate within their parameters without infringing upon each other’s rights.
Mr Malik also had serious objection to the provisions of 209 as formulated in the constitutional package as it gave substantive powers to the executive to send a judge on leave. He said that the creation of a judicial council comprising non-politicised retired judges in place of the Supreme Judicial Council was tantamount to subverting the independence of the judiciary. He claimed that if the government felt that members of a certain bench would give adverse judgment it could easily send some of the judges on leave and reconstitute the bench.
Besides other amendments, he said, differences also existed on the proposed change in Article 184(3), which pertained to take suo motu notice. Under the proposed amendment, he said, the power would become merely declaratory. He said such provisions were an attempt to confuse and sidetrack the issue of the deposed judges and to put it on the backburner. However, he reiterated that the country could not rid itself of the crisis unless the judges’ issue was resolved.
Mr Malik said: “If you (the present rulers) choose to take the correct measures and restore the judges through a resolution and an executive order, people will support you and no one will have the courage to derail the democratic process.”
On the occasion, representatives of the People’s Movement for Justice promised their support for the long march, saying that they would take part in the march despite administration’s strong arm tactics.
KBA President Mahmoodul Hassan said that the constitutional package was a farce and declared that if the deposed judges were not reinstated the fate of the present assemblies would be sealed. He said the authorities were taking coercive steps against the lawyers and threatening them in various parts of the province to keep them away from the long march.
He demanded the impeachment of retired general Pervez Musharraf and urged civil society to join the lawyers’ struggle by participating in the long march. He hoped that the participants of the long march would be accorded warm welcome at different destinations en route to Islamabad.
Asadullah Bhutto, central leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami, said the APDM had whole-heartedly supported the lawyers’ movement and their long march and appealed to the people to join the caravan of the “judiciary’s independence and the rule of law”.
He believed that the constitutional package was an attempt to divert attention from the real issue. He was highly critical of an attempt by the government to link the reinstatement of the deposed judges with the approval of a so-called constitutional package. He was also critical of the government’s alleged strong-arm tactics to subvert the long march. He alleged that hotels and rest houses were being directed by the authorities not to provide accommodation to the participants of the long march.
PML (N) leader Salim Zia, whose party is part of the ruling coalition, said the package was contrary to what was agreed upon in the Murree Declaration and believed that the package was introduced with mala-fide intention.
HRCP promises support
A co-chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, former senator Iqbal Haider, expressed the commission’s whole-hearted support to the lawyers’ movement for the reinstatement of the deposed judges, the restoration of the independent judiciary and the rule of law.
He assured the lawyers community of the participation by HRCP office-bearers and members in the long march of the lawyers from Multan to Islamabad for achievement of ‘the noble causes’, which were imperative for the protection of the human rights and national interest.
Mr Haider said there was no tenable justification to link the reinstatement of the judges of the superior courts and their chief justices with the constitutional package.
He emphasised that the delay in the restoration of the independent judiciary was committed by the PPP’s slain chairperson, Benazir Bhutto. He said any kind of delay in fulfilling the commitment was creating unrest in the country and harming the function, image and credibility of the government and its coalition partners. He urged the government to realise the importance of this issue, stating that the earlier the judges were restored unconditionally, the better it would be for the people and the coalition government.