Pak CJ case
US ‘concerned’ over Pak CJ’s sack
Pakistan ready to show flexibility on Kashmir
Dalal to get US chemistry award
Pak CJ case
The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Friday held a brief hearing for 80 minutes in the reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and adjourned proceedings till March 21.
The hearing which began at about 3.40 p.m was held in camera. Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan led a six-member panel of defence council while the federation was represented by attorney general Makhdoom Ali Khan.
Outside the court and in major cities lawyers and political workers clashed with the police in protest against the removal of Justice Iftikhar. The capital Islamabad was virtually sealed by the police and security forces.
Hundreds of people, besides the lawyers, however, broke barricades and clashed with the police which resorted to heavy teargas shelling and baton charge.
In Islamabad more than 300 lawyers and political workers were arrested. Some top politicians, including MMA chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, were also confined in police lock up and prevented from leading planned Friday prayers on the Constitution Avenue opposite the court building. Authorities said they may be released by night.
One of the panel’s lawyers Tariq Mahmood in reply to mediapersons’ questions said nothing very substantive was discussed. The main objection to the composition and competence of the council to hear the reference would be taken up on March 21.
Tariq told reporters that the defence attorney Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan requested adjournment because the defence team was not allowed to meet the chief justice to prepare his defence. He said the prosecution had also not provided full charge sheet and relevant documents.
Aitzaz called for open trial and took exception to the gag order issued to the media by the registrar of the council. He said the government is misinterpreting the directive to abridge free coverage of the case. He said the only other reference against a judge in country's history in 1971 was heard in camera because the respondent himself had requested it. Justice Iftikhar, on the other hand, is seeking open trial to let the nation know all about facts.
Aitzaz sought withdrawal of the SJC’s gag order. He said the order was not passed in the presence of the respondent and his counsel but was made available to the government which divulged it to the media. “No order can now be passed except in the presence of the respondent or his counsel,” Ahsan said.
Meanwhile, lawyers' protest rallies in other major towns were generally peaceful except some brief encounters between the police and protesters in Lahore. Former president Rafique Tarar joined the protest in Lahore despite illness and almost fainted during the shelling. He was driven to hospital for treatment and was shifted to Lahore later.
Meanwhile, according to a PTI report Internet and phone lines in many parts of Pakistan, including the capital and commercial hub of Karachi, were snapped for over two hours today ahead of the resumption of the trial of suspended Supreme Court Chief Justice.
The government denied that it had suspended mobile phone and Internet services, but users reported widespread disruption of services. As authorities put in place strict security arrangements at the Supreme Court located next to Parliament here ahead of Chaudhry's appearance before the Supreme Judicial Council, international and mobile phone lines and internet links went dead.
This led to rumours that the government may have played a role in the disruption of telecommunications to ensure an information blackout.
The links were restored at around 1330 hours, about 90 minutes before Chaudhry's trial resumed.
Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani said: "There is no major breakdown in the telecommuncation sector anywhere in Pakistan and in many parts of Islamabad, things are working fine. It may be a partial breakdown somewhere." A Pakistan Telecommunications Authority official said a partial breakdown occurred after a line in Karachi caught fire and caused the disruption. "But it is not a major fault and there is no need to panic," the official said.
US ‘concerned’ over Pak CJ’s sack
Almost a week after Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf sacked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Bush administration broke its silence on the matter calling, it one of "deep concern."
Asked about the removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "It's a situation actually that we have been monitoring very closely for some time."
"It is a matter of deep concern. And we believe that the resolution of this matter should take place in a way that is completely transparent and strictly in accordance with Pakistan's laws," he said on Thursday.
Justice Chaudhry was fired from his job on March 9.
McCormack contended it is "essential for any developing democracy to adhere to the rule of law and conduct any investigations, any proceedings that may follow on from those investigations in a clear, aboveboard, transparent manner that strictly accords with Pakistan's laws."
He called Justice Chaudhy's removal an "internal Pakistani matter," but admitted officials in President George W. Bush's administration had talked to Islamabad about it.
"We have talked to them about it. I can't tell you at what level we have, but we have talked to them about it. I wouldn't use the word 'complaint' because I don't think it's appropriate in this particular case, but we have talked to them about it," he said.
Marvin Weinbaum at the Middle East Institute noted "official circles" in Washington may not be comfortable with the firing of Justice Chaudhry, but doubted that they "will want to get involved."
Earlier this week, New York-based Human Rights Watch claimed Justice Chaudhry was dismissed because he was hearing cases on the disappearance of people targeted in the US-led war on terrorism.
Justice Chaudhry, appointed by General Musharraf in 2005, had taken up several human rights cases, including initiating proceedings in cases involving enforced disappearances.
Husain Haqqani, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, pointed out that Justice Chaudhry's willingness to hear cases that the government did not want heard was his "undoing" even though he really did not give tough judgments.
"His judgments just made life complicated or plain embarrassing for the military-intelligence bureaucracy," Haqqani said.
He, however, disagreed with suggestions that General Musharraf fired the Chief Justice to placate Washington.
Haqqani said General Musharraf would win no points in Washington for getting rid of Justice Chaudhry.
"On many occasions, Musharraf has argued that he cannot take action against Pakistan's jihadis because of court rulings in their favor. The firing of the Chief Justice effectively establishes that Musharraf and the army have full control over the judiciary and, if they had wanted, they could have got rulings from courts against jihadis," he added.
Analysts were quick to point out that it is not uncommon for governments and the judiciary to be at loggerheads.
Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, director for South Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said General Musharraf saw Justice Chaudhry "as a loose cannon, someone he couldn't control, and took action accordingly."
Islamabad, March 16
Pakistan has entered into a dialogue process with India and hope that it would result in a just and lasting solution of this dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Addressing the inaugural session of a two-day conference on ‘Kashmir and Models of Resolution’, he said there would be no compromise on the Kashmir issue and no solution would be accepted against the aspirations of the Kashmiris.
President General Pervez Musharraf has shown tremendous courage to resolve the issue and have presented proposals with a hope to find a solution to it. Peace could only be ensured by giving rights to the Kashmiris and it would also promote peace, progress and prosperity.
Aziz said the solution of the Kashmir issue would promote progress and prosperity in the region as both the countries would be able to utilise their resources for the welfare of the people. — PTI
Washington, March 16
The Florida Section of the Society has selected Dalal as the recipient of the 2007 Florida Award which recognises his leadership and contributions toward the advancement of the profession of chemistry.
"Professor Dalal has had a sustained and distinguished track record in researching the magnetic properties of molecules and solids," said Professor Joseph Schlenoff, the interim chairman of FSU's Department Of Chemistry And Biochemistry .— PTI