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Asma makes light of CJP’s record on HR issues

WASHINGTON: Asma Jahangir, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in an interview made light of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s concern for the “disappeared”.

She told Newsweek, “As far as the missing people are concerned, Chaudhry has not given a single judgment on it. He kept the Human Rights Commission’s petition pending for one-and-a-half months. But since we are lawyers of renown, it is very difficult for any judge to kick us around – he had to hear it. But he went at it very slowly. He did give a notice to the government, but he really didn’t give a judgment. There was not a single time when he said that those who kept these people should be brought to justice. All he was doing was saying to the government, ‘Let’s find some people.’”

Asked why Gen Musharraf acted against the chief justice, Jahangir answered, “Insecure dictators see ghosts everywhere. This is not the first time it has happened. He forced the Supreme Court justices to swear a loyalty oath to him when he came in. He’s insecure. Not only does he want a pliant judiciary, he wants a totally subservient one. But it’s very difficult in 2007 to have that with today’s free media and the independent bar. Musharraf claims that he is only following procedure – that Chaudhry’s suspension is standard reaction to the charges against the chief justice. The president has tried once again to lie and to mislead everybody. His move is not as casual and simple as he puts it. It was obviously pre-planned.”

She said Gen Musharraf was trying to make the world believe that these disappeared people were Islamic militants, which was not true. “I would say 60 percent to 70 percent on the list of the 141 disappeared people that we have given to the Supreme Court are Sindhi and Baloch nationalists who are secular. And some of these nationalists are well known in the country. They are poets and writers, and their work is secular. They have no connection to jihad, or Al Qaeda or Taliban. Either he’s living in denial or is misled.”

Asked if Gen Musharraf was worried the chief justice would rule against his retaining his two offices, Jahangir replied that this was not an issue. “We do not think that any judge has that kind of courage, including Chaudhry,” she said.

She said the police manhandling of the chief justice was frightening because “if they can treat a chief justice so shabbily and humiliate him so shamelessly, then nobody is safe”.

She said if the Supreme Judicial Council restored the CJP, there would be a question mark about his independence. “Would a chief justice who comes back riding on the shoulders of lawyers be able to sit on the bench and not be able to think about the fact that he owes his reinstatement to lawyers?”

Jahangir said the government probably felt that the longer it can prolong the proceedings the greater the chance that the movement will fizzle out. “My own assessment is that the situation will become defused because lawyers can’t stay on strike and keep protesting for months on end. But this government will make another mistake. This government is beyond repair.”

Source: Daily Times

Date:3/27/2007

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