In reading about Pakistani politics I got the impression that the judiciary is closely associated with the military. However, I remember that Musharraf's fall from power began by his confronting the Supreme Court and trying to fire its head. How do these two points square?
I think this was part of a power play between then President Pervez Musharraf and chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2007 over Musharraf's attempt to get an extraordinary prolonged mandate as his predecessors had also done, but as Chaudhry would not support.
Here's an excerpt from the Aug 16th 2007 edition of The Economist:
In 2002 General Musharraf amended this clause to grant himself a one-off dispensation [from the constitutional rule whereby the president may not hold a second office]. He would like to do so again. But constitutional change requires the support of two-thirds of parliament, which he does not have. Alternatively, General Musharraf could try to get re-elected as a civilian. He would then quit the army, either before his tenure expires on November 15th (though he says December 31st), or else he would hope to be re-elected by the next parliament. Either way, he will be at the judges' mercy. The constitution says the president must have held no other public office for two years.
As to the root causes why the opinions were not fully aligned between the Pakistani judiciary and military in 2007, I think these were mainly attributed to Chaudhry as a personal actor, who had considerable popular support as well as support in the resulting lawyers' movement. I've also heard complaints from inside Pakistan that Western media tend to simplify and portray Chaudhry as a blameless hero: but as always, there must be interesting shades of gray, which I'd also be curious to learn about.
There were plenty of conflicts between the US-backed military dictator and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Chief among them were following:
- The privatization of state owned Pakistan Steel Mills by Musharraf's puppet Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and the corruption that surrounded the whole thing.
- The Missing Persons Case - The disappearences of dissenters and Human rights activists at hands of Government agencies. CJP agreed to hear to these cases against intelligence organizations and took personal notice of the Human rights violations by the state agencies. Every day passing made him even more resolved in solving the case and forcing the agencies to produce the abducted people in front of the court.
- Increasing interference by the courts in irregular conduct of the administration to put an end to the rampant corruption and nepotism especially by the military Junta and their political stooges.
- The final straw was when CJP approved some petitions for hearing which challenged Musharraf's occupation of the posts of President and Army chief simultaneously and also a legal reference challenging that the current Parliament had no constitutional jurisdiction to re-elect Musharraf for another tenure.
This alarmed the Military Junta as it was getting clearer every day that the Judiciary may undo everything they had done if it was allowed to go ahead with their new found independence and courage, something which was never seen in the judiciary in the past, when they always put a legal stamp on all illegal acts of Army.
Musharraf chose to strike first, he asked Iftikhar Chaudary to visit him in presence of Top military brass including the heads of the much feared intelligence agencies. To his greatest surprise, Iftikhar refused to "Go away quietly" by resigning as demanded by the Junta. Defiance wasn't a dish that the dictator tasted often.
The result was something not seen in Pakistan for decades. People lined highways just to get a glimpse of the man.
It wasn't just what he did, it was what he had become. He had become a symbol of resistance against the military dictatorship and against the human rights abuses committed under the pretext of Global war on terror, which was very unpopular in Pakistan back then and most Pakistanis did not believe it was their war, rather a foreign war imposed on them by American establishment. Military Junta of course milked it a lot and politcal dissenters were booked as terror suspects every where.
In any case, the following were the root causes of the quarrel Musharraf had with judiciary:
- Halting of shady deals on national assets made by the Political stooges of the Junta
- Halting of the crackdown on political dissenters operated by the military intelligence agencies, by investigating the missing persons cases put forth by the families of the said people.
- Creating legal obstructions in path of administration which greatly annoyed the dictator as he was used to get what he wanted, the way he wanted.
- Threatening to strip Musharraf off his military uniform by hearing legal petitions against it. Musharraf knew that his power came from that uniform. If that went away, so would he. Eventually that's what happened.
- Threatening Musharraf's ambitions of re-electing himself for another term in the office as President.