M A I N   N E W S

Suspended Pak CJ under ‘house arrest’
Nasir Iqbal

Islamabad, March 11
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry remained incommunicado yesterday for the second consecutive day and a heavy police contingent was posted to guard his residence.

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) described the action as a case of ‘illegal house arrest’. “Yes, he is in illegal detention,” Ali Ahmed Kurd, vice-chairman of the PBC, told reporters outside the official residence of the chief justice.

“There is no other way to describe the situation as no one is being allowed to meet him,” he said after police officials stopped him and other lawyers from going inside the chief justice’s residence.

The views expressed by Munir A. Malik, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, were equally strong as he described it an attempt to pressure the chief justice into resigning.

Nestled in the Margalla hills, the judges’ colony in Islamabad remained the focus of intense activity throughout the day as several leaders and members of lawyers’ associations gathered outside Justice Iftikhar’s residence.

A battery of newspaper reporters and television teams also accompanied them, trying to get a glimpse of the ‘suspended’ chief justice, who has not been seen in public since his fateful meeting with President Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi on Friday.

After the meeting at the President’s camp office in Rawalpindi, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry tried to return to the Supreme Court on Friday evening, but was stopped by police officials. They then escorted him to his official residence. Although there has been no official order of ‘arrest’ or ‘detention’, the gate of his house has remained in control of the police. The police were under instructions not to let anyone into the building.

A good number of lawyers stayed around after security officials informed them that permission was being sought from the higher authorities to allow them to go inside. But after waiting `for over an hour’, vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, Ali Ahmed Kurd, and president of SCBA, Munir Malik, decided to leave the place to hold a joint meeting in the Supreme Court building.

The meeting adopted yet another resolution accusing the authorities of trying to obtain Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s resignation by force. They regretted that the chief justice was not allowed to move freely and was not allowed to meet even his counsel.

All bar councils and bar associations have decided to observe a `black day’ on March 13 - the day the Supreme Judicial Council takes up the presidential reference. Black flags will fly atop all premises housing bar associations.

While demanding proceedings before the SJC to be held in the open court with full access to all lawyers and journalists, they offered legal assistance to the chief justice and resolved to defend him at the SJC on March 13. The committee also condemned the appointment of the acting chief justice and said only Justice Rana Bhagwandas, being the senior most judge, could act as the chief justice. The committee also called upon the chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to take a firm stand and face the allegations boldly to vindicate himself.

Meanwhile, a joint petition was filed with the apex court on Saturday by advocates Athar Minallah and Yahya Khan Afridi against the president’s move to suspend the chief justice.

— By arrangement with The Dawn



‘Won’t step down’

Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who has been restrained from functioning as the Chief Justice, is not going to step down voluntarily, claims Supreme Court Bar Association president Munir A. Malik.

“I along with other members of the SCBA have talked to the Chief Justice on his mobile phone and have requested him not to resign,” Mr Malik told journalists at the SCBA office here on Saturday.

He said that in response, the suspended Chief Justice, who is under house arrest since Friday, assured them that he would not resign voluntarily.

Later, during a press conference at the Supreme Court building, Mr Malik again called Justice Iftikhar from his mobile phone in the presence of journalists. The SCBA president told him that he was holding a press conference and sought his permission to avail speaker facility provided in his cellular phone so that everybody could listen to whatever he wanted to say. However, Justice Iftikhar requested Mr Malik not to put the phone near the mike and asked him to convey his regards to the journalists. — By arrangement with The Dawn



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