President Pervez Musharraf had suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry’s from his office on March 9, of this year. The suspension had sparked protests and rallies by lawyers and opposition parties, along with Islamic militants leading to the inevitable violence and mayhem.
General Musharraf’s Critics had accused him of sidelining Mr. Chaudhry so he could install a judge who would be more likely to bend to his authority.
The case, or reference, as it is known, against Mr. Chaudhry centered around charges of misconduct, including demanding a later-model Mercedes as his official car. Mr. Chaudhry refused to resign, insisting that he was innocent. He then challenged his suspension in the Supreme Court, arguing that the Pakistani constitution gave neither the president nor the military chief the power to remove the chief justice. His supporters seized on the case as a battle for judicial independence. Even more, the judge became an emblem of mounting discontent against military rule. – New York Times
Musharraf planned to seek a new five-year presidential term from outgoing lawmakers rather than wait for parliamentary elections due by January.
Critics also oppose Musharraf holding the dual posts of president and chief of the military, as he has since seizing power in a 1999 coup. – Fox News
The verdict is a major blow to Musharraf’s standing and probably the biggest challenge to his dominance since he seized power in a coup in 1999. It could further complicate his bid to win a new five-year presidential term this fall.
“It’s being seen as a blow to the credibility of President Musharraf,” NPR’s Philip Reeves reports from outside the courthouse in Islamabad. “… a significant one at a time when he’s immersed in a number of problems in other fronts, not the least of which is a battle against Islamist violence.”
Could this endanger Musharraf’s control of Pakistan?
“It might,” Reeves says. “He still has the support of the army as far as we know. But the people who support the chief justice, be they lawyers or be they members of the opposition, are saying right now that they see this as a significant moment in establishing an independent judiciary.” – NPR
Some say that the fears of Radical Islamists taking over the country in the event of Musharraf’s exit are over blown.
But for the moment, moderate, pro-Western forces appear far stronger than radical Islamists, and would likely emerge victorious from the turmoil that could follow the president’s removal.
Islamist parties have never scored higher than 12 percent in a general election. And while there are real concerns that the government has lost control of territory near the Afghan border, there is no sign that senior military commanders sympathize with the extremists there, even though Pakistan once supported the Taliban. – Sign On San Diego