With less than a week to Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) elections, Asma Jahangir Group is trying its best to maintain a balance between garnering support of ‘PCO judges’ and convincing undecided voters they are not banking on it.
‘PCO judges’ is the term popularly applied to judges who took oath under General Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) in 2007 and were elevated on the recommendations of former CJP Abdul Hameed Dogar. Their appointment was declared unconstitutional in the Supreme Court’s judgment of July 31, 2009. About 104 judges were ousted, out of which 45 belong to the Punjab. Most of them are voters of the SCBA.
According to an Asma Jahangir Group member, around 100 of the PCO judges support their candidate, Yasin Azad. On Friday, Azad – during his address at a reception given by former Attorney General Justice (retired) Malik Muhammad Qayyum at Cosmopolitan Club, Jinnah Garden – said that his rival candidate Justice (r) Rasheed A Rizvi also enjoyed the support of two PCO judges.
He criticised his opponents, without naming anyone, and accused them of trying to damage his campaign by associating PCO judges with him. Azad also said that Rizvi falsely claimed that he had refused to take an oath under PCO. “I have seen the notification and Rizvi wasn’t even on the list of the judges asked to take oath,” he said.
When the stage secretary was about to invite Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry, a former judge of the Lahore High Court, who was ousted by the SC judgment for a speech, he said, “I have been told to introduce him with the title ‘Justice retired’. But I think being an honest lawyer is a superior honour to being a judge. That is why I will introduce him as Advocate Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry.”
Asma Jahangir, the SCBA president, also attended the reception. A group member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that not many PCO judges had been invited for fear of alienating voters “since lawyers in general consider support of ‘PCO judges’ against the lawyers cause”.
The member also told The Express Tribune that all PCO judges will be invited to a reception at Lahore Gymkhana a few days before the election.
Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon, when contacted, said that most of the former judges have been holding meetings at least once a week. “A date for the next meeting has not been decided yet, but we will meet at least once before the election,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2011.
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