Chief Justice Chaudhry to pass seat to gentle successor

Published: November 19, 2013
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Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. PHOTO: ONLINE/FILE

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. PHOTO: ONLINE/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is due to retire on December 12 and government officials are counting the days until he hands over the Supreme Court to his successor.

The outgoing chief justice has made the court the country’s third power centre, alongside the army and fledgling civilian government. But he has made many enemies along the way.

Chaudhry and his judges have frequently and successfully challenged the government. He has even taken on the military, an unprecedented challenge to the most formidable institution.

Supporters say Chaudhry has cracked down on corruption and fought for human rights in the country. But critics accuse him of overstepping his authority, paralysing government and undermining democracy.

Chaudhry’s successor Tassaduq Hussain Jillani – nicknamed “the gentleman judge” for his mild manner – is expected to maintain the court’s focus on rights but steer clear of intervening in government policy.

“He is the opposite of the current chief justice,” said retired Supreme Court judge Nasir Aslam Zahid. “He’s very mild, he hears all sides, he does not lose his temper.”

The judicial handover will be the last in a year of orderly transitions for coup-prone Pakistan. A May general election marked the first time one democratic government handed power to another. The army chief steps down this month.

Celebrated lawyer and rights activist Asma Jahangir said the new chief justice would preserve improvements that Chaudhry had introduced but the top court would be less combative.

“The judiciary will stay independent but there won’t be such undermining of other institutions as there is now,” she said.

A dapper lover of poetry, antiques and films, Jillani is related to the new ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani and a former prime minister who Chaudhry forced to step down last year.

He has largely avoided the high-profile political cases that Chaudhry has revelled in and he has called for judicial vigilance to be tempered with restraint.

“If the courts fail to maintain this delicate balance, none else but people’s confidence in the judiciary would be the worst victim,” Jillani wrote in a recent ruling.

Confidants say Jillani often refers to a warning from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that constant judicial intervention had weighed on an already stagnating economy.

When staff of a privatised bank challenged redundancies, Jillani ruled it was “for the bank management to decide about the usefulness of the employees” – an unusual ruling in a court known for its populist judgements.

Chaudhry’s tenure

Under Chaudhry, judges often took notice of executive issues including everything from traffic regulations to civil service appointments. Foreign investment dwindled as deals got tied up in court.

To the delight of many citizens struggling with rising prices, Chaudhry recently froze increases in taxes and electricity tariffs that the cash-strapped government needed to plug a gaping budget hole and qualify for an IMF loan.

The government, fed up with seeing decisions overturned, has put off filling 70 posts, including law minister and the heads of state energy companies, until Chaudhry retires.

Chaudhry has challenged such appointments before. He has made record use of laws that allow top judges to open a case without a complainant. Each day, he scrutinises press clippings for possible cases and reactions to rulings.

The media-shy Chaudhry does not give interviews but he said in a recent speech that he considered the Supreme Court to be the protector of the common man.

His critics are cautious. Journalists, lawyers, and politicians have all been charged with contempt of court.

Even Chaudhry’s fellow judges are reluctant to disagree. Chaudhry’s bench has issued unanimous rulings since 2009, highly unusual for top judges, said lawyer Fawad Chaudhry, who is not related to the chief justice.

Chief Justice Chaudhry burst into prominence in 2007 when he resisted then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf’s bid to cling to power. It was unprecedented defiance of the military by a judge who until then seemed an unlikely rebel.

Musharraf sacked him, triggering street protests by black-coated lawyers. Their anger galvanised opposition to Musharraf, who stepped down as president just over a year later after his allies were trounced in an election.

Chaudhry was later restored to the Supreme Court in triumph. Since then, he has taken on all comers.

One of his most celebrated fights has been with the military security services, demanding they reveal the fate of thousands of missing people.

Generals have appeared in court, along with a handful of tortured prisoners, though no one in the security services has resigned or even been charged over the disappearances.

“The courts listened to us compassionately and did what they could but many times their orders are not obeyed,” said Amina Janjua, who represents families of the missing.

She hopes that the new chief justice might have more success in challenging the military. But, she said, even the courts know their limits.

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Reader Comments (48)

  • kamran
    Nov 19, 2013 - 3:10PM

    Overstepping his authority? Not a single terrorist has been convicted or punished in his tenure.

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  • azmat
    Nov 19, 2013 - 3:10PM

    Justice truly is blind!

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  • sabi
    Nov 19, 2013 - 3:30PM

    He will not be missed!.Recommend

  • Anserali Khan
    Nov 19, 2013 - 3:37PM

    People trust him.Under the circumstances he has done excellent job.
    Just think about it,what the rules would have looted if he was not there and Supreme Court was not guarding the constitution?.
    The Nation will always remain grateful to him and the fellow Judges of the Supreme Court and High Corts

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  • Ali Raja
    Nov 19, 2013 - 3:48PM

    @Sabi,

    Not in a good way :D

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  • Pashtun voice
    Nov 19, 2013 - 3:58PM

    He could have had a great legacy but sadly he turned out to be a massive disappointment. I truly regret wasting my time and energy protesting for his release!

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  • Mubashir
    Nov 19, 2013 - 4:08PM

    Instead of being justice oriented court, it seemed to be people sentiment oriented court. Rather focusing on judgments, it seemed to be focusing on how to make the headlines.

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  • imran bhatt
    Nov 19, 2013 - 4:11PM

    Only PPP haters will surely miss him.

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  • Nov 19, 2013 - 4:11PM

    Where do the retired CJs go?

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  • Ali Tipu
    Nov 19, 2013 - 4:48PM

    So what happened to Don Arsalan Iftikhar case? Does anyone here have any information about it?

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  • lalai
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:01PM

    From zero to hero ad back to zero- He is no Nelson Mandellla- Indeed his stand was brave against Musharraf but he couldn’t resist the temptation of power once back in office.

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  • A J Khan
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:06PM

    Iftikhar Chaudhry was much ado about nothing. He was noisy, rude & failed to bring nuch needed reforms to otherwise most ineffective Judiciary. He was attention seeker for which he would play to galleries & get involved in politics.

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  • Fahad Zafar
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:12PM

    I think Chief Justice should be elevated as President of Pakistan with real powers to maintain a watchful eye on the workings of government.

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  • A-No.1
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:22PM

    What will be Arsalan’s fate?

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  • khalid
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:28PM

    He dismantled musharaf regime but could not withdraw immunity of Zardari. Let him retire peacefully.

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  • usman786
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:29PM

    @Allah Ditta:
    Which case has been resolved during his tenure? Did we get back looted wealth from big fish? just some billions and cancellation of sale deeds at throw away prices donot make him great; that was his job. Sh Rashid can give you list of pending and unresolved cases. What happened when Qazi’s son is involved? So was it true that he bargained for delay in cases? Delayed in writing letter to swiss govt who is sitting on our looted wealth? Either he is innocent or people fooled him and delayed the cases. Justice delayed is justice denied.
    Hope to see him as President of Pak after 2 years …as per deal.

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  • Mohammad
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:37PM

    Iftikhar Chaudhary is the only and ultimate responsible for the massive destruction of Pakistan, instead of being quiet on his dismissal, even if it was not legitimate ( I think completely legitimate), he opted to protest and turned a peacefully running country into a major troublesome.

    There was no problem, whatsoever before the dismissal of CJ, Musharraf was running the country in the finest way, there was no issue of anything in the country, everyone was quiet and happy, economy was booming and we were leading into major economic upstream.

    The lawyers, the judges along with the some media, ruined everything and further by PPP & now PMLN governments.

    Chaudhary, you were the worst judge of Pakistan history. Thank you not.

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  • Mohammad
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:39PM

    I am sure the people who have awarded honorary medals and degress to CJ, must be so disappointed today as Iftikhar Chaudhary turned out to be massive fail.

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  • Mohammad
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:41PM

    CJ saved his job.. that’s it. He loves to be VIP which he was successful with the help of lawyers. All those lawyers are cursing him right now.

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  • Salman Hussain
    Nov 19, 2013 - 5:51PM

    No matter what his son did in Civil Department but Mr. Justice did strict action against criminals and tried to make a peaceful country being a Citizen of Pakistan I won’t forget him and his name always will be written in Golden Words. I salute you Mr. Chief Justice for your honestly.

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  • ZED
    Nov 19, 2013 - 6:16PM

    Thank heavens for that. Finally!

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  • Fawad
    Nov 19, 2013 - 6:18PM

    Why am I not surprised. Word ‘gentleman’ is a very gentle way of saying ‘toothless’. Goodbye independent judiciary. Another gift from PMLn.

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  • Jibran
    Nov 19, 2013 - 6:19PM

    @A-No.1:
    What will be Arsalan’s fate?

    He has already moved to UAE. My guess is that his business will soon be wound down, as he lacks any real expertise. His clients were just paying for his father’s position.

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  • Iram
    Nov 19, 2013 - 6:25PM

    Neither Malik Riaz nor Arslan proved guilty by his court but justice is served to both.

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  • Raza
    Nov 19, 2013 - 6:25PM

    Arsalan k abbu Good bye, Is Taliban going to give him farewell ?

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  • Asad
    Nov 19, 2013 - 6:55PM

    “media-shy judge”….for crying out loud…..there hasn’t been a more prominent media wh0r£ in recent times.

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  • Hassan
    Nov 19, 2013 - 7:26PM

    As the government puts people who are not on merit but rather on political basis.
    Then it expects that’s the Supreme Court accepts their political appointees!!

    If government put people on merit there will not be this problem.
    But unfortunately merit will only be in media not in reality!!!

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  • unbelievable
    Nov 19, 2013 - 7:28PM

    The judicial system was ineffective and corrupt when he assumed office – and is equally ineffective and corrupt as he leaves office. Grabbing headlines rather than fixing things maybe his epitaph.

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  • Mirza
    Nov 19, 2013 - 8:10PM

    Gen Zia’s seconding coming is nearing its end. Time for another re-incarnation of Zia.

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  • F Khan
    Nov 19, 2013 - 8:22PM

    The nation should be thankful to the present CJ. The new CJ now know what exactly NOT to do.I have an appeal to the new CJ (who ever he is). My Lord, please get this nation a break from suo moto.If a policeman issues a ticket….right or wrong…..suo moto action ho jata ha.

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  • Afrooz
    Nov 19, 2013 - 8:24PM

    Ifthekhar Choudhary was a showman .. who played to the gallery and acted like a self-presumed Caliph. Not only was he a pain on the side of the govt, but his brazen interference has set a bad precedence for lower courts who have now started venturing out of their traditional juristiction – be it the economy (price hikes) or in cricket. All that was still forgivable – but his open partiality for the PML(N) government was shocking, not to mention the open corruption on display when his own son was found breaking the law.

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  • unbelievable
    Nov 19, 2013 - 8:28PM

    @Anserali Khan:

    People trust him.Under the
    circumstances he has done excellent
    job.

    Can you name a single bad guy that was put in jail by CJ? Can you name a single improvement in the judicial system that he implemented during his tenure?

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  • Paki
    Nov 19, 2013 - 8:34PM

    His justice is like his eyes, Blind, Kana, Tehraa ..

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  • Ariba
    Nov 19, 2013 - 8:43PM

    He did fulfill his duty, by getting Sharifs in Parliament.

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  • imran ali
    Nov 19, 2013 - 8:51PM

    3 Kana destroyed my beloved country….1).Gen.ZIA 2)Mullah Omar 3) Iftikhar Chaudhary…..

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  • SK
    Nov 19, 2013 - 10:27PM

    @usman786:
    Well my question is will any Supreme Court Chief Justice of Pakistan ever will be able to bring back the hoarded wealth in foreign banks. Pakistan will have to be reborn to do that. As present Chief Justice was not able to , the incoming Chief Justice won’t either. All the corrupt politicians past or incumbent will make sure it never happens. So meek , mild CJP who does not meddle with corrupt lawmakers is in everyone interest.

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  • sadiq
    Nov 19, 2013 - 11:00PM

    Supreme court is a kangroo court. What happened to Kamran Faisal case. SC was supposed to decide the cause of death. It is not suicide, if I write a report, saying that it is suicide. You have to present evidence, pictures, Xrays etc. The doctors are a bunch of un-ashamed liars.
    Inspite of Pakistan Forensic Lab calling it a murder,SC has yet to have evidence presented in an open court., or to make a ruling.
    Chief justice is responsible for re instating Kamran Faisal, back to the den of murderers, without any protection., He is partly responsible for this death.

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  • pashtunyar
    Nov 19, 2013 - 11:06PM

    @Allah Ditta:
    ‘To the garbage heap of history!’

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  • Tariq
    Nov 20, 2013 - 12:01AM

    38 comments and not one person has brought up the biggest crime in Chaudhary’s career. His accepting the oath of office under Musharraf’s PCO and his subsequent validation of Musharraf’s illegal actions. People have such short memories. Until his falling out with the dictator, Chaudhary was the biggest enabler of Musharraf’s illegal takeover. All the huffing and puffing by this man to appear to be a protector of the constitution cannot wash away his taking oath under Musharraf’s PCO.

    Chaudhary was also given an opportunity to wash the black mark resulting from the infamous Z.A. Bhutto case from the face of the Pakistani judiciary. Even people who hated Bhutto admit the trial conducted by Maulvi Mushtaq and the Supreme Court hearing led by Anwar-ul haq were a complete travesty of Justice. Chaudhary was given a chance to partially right this historic wrong by Zardari’s reference, and he chose to sweep the matter under the rug. At the very least he could have asked the sole hanging judge still alive (Naseem Hassan Shah) to come to the supreme court and set the record straight.
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  • AAK
    Nov 20, 2013 - 6:16AM

    Pakistan is lucky end product of this blind justice is “Arsalan Chaudry” alas he could be elevated as Chief Justice Of Pakistan,He Is the man who can bring real change in Pakistan,as he did in his personel business.

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  • AAK
    Nov 20, 2013 - 9:23AM

    How much Hate people have for this Garbage heap.

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  • Pankaj
    Nov 20, 2013 - 10:47AM

    @Mohammad:
    your comment is painful but right! Mush should have been elected as wellHe was actually on verge of settling all disputes including Kashmir with india. Indian people did stupid mistake by not electing Atal bihari and pakistani did same by not electing Mush.

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  • Abid P. Khan
    Nov 20, 2013 - 7:53PM

    @Ali Tipu:
    “So what happened to Don Arsalan Iftikhar case? Does anyone here have any information about it?”

    .
    Please don’t ask such embarrassing questions.

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  • Maula Jatt
    Nov 20, 2013 - 11:55PM

    CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is a national hero for Pakistan, especially the common man. He is a man of impeccable moral fiber and character, who opposed all forms of injustice against Pakistanis. We love him and he shall be missed.

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  • Usman
    Nov 21, 2013 - 6:19AM

    @Mohammad: Peacefully running country? Surely your not talking about Pakistan. Why don’t you try spending a day their? I wonder where do E.T.s enthusiastic readers live?

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  • AAK
    Nov 21, 2013 - 9:43AM

    There is possibility after the departure of this blind judge, his credentials will be challenged in the court ,where he has to prove that he really passed Matric or not.
    Cases against Arsalan will also be opened.

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  • Abdullah
    Nov 29, 2013 - 10:22PM

    Axis of Corruption, illegitimate power & wealth looting messers: Zardari + CJ + Kiyani

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  • SK
    Nov 30, 2013 - 8:14AM

    @Pankaj:
    People like you are hope in India that some day the two neighbours may find some common grounds to live in peace.

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