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Pakistan retires 37 judges
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

The government has notified the retirement of 37 judges of the Supreme Court and three provincial high courts who have declined to take the oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) promulgated after the imposition of the emergency that purged the judiciary of independent judges.

The order is a sharp rebuff to a countrywide demand by opposition parties, lawyers and civil society organisations who have been demanding reinstatement of the deposed judges and withdrawal of the PCO.

According to the notification issued by the ministry of law, the judges who stand retired include 13 of the Supreme Court, 12 of the Sindh High Court (SHC), 10 of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and two judges of the Peshawar High Court (PHC).Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Khalil Ramday and Javed Iqbal of the SC are among those sacked by the government.

In a vindictive move, the government further notified that these judges would not get any retirement benefit. They have also been ordered to vacate official residences in order to accommodate new judges who have been inducted since emergency.

The deposed judges claim that they continue to hold that position under the constitution that was suspended by Musharraf as army chief when he imposed the emergency on November 3. A seven-member bench of the court met the same afternoon under Justice Iftikhar and ruled that the emergency and the PCO are illegal and unconstitutional.

The newly appointed chief justice Hameed Dogar nullified the ruling through an executive order. Lawyers have boycotted superior courts and have been staging demonstrations daily for restoration of the judiciary. Most opposition parties have supported their demand while exiled premier Nawaz Sharif has made his participation in the elections conditional to reinstatement of deposed judges. PPP's Bhutto and Maulanana Fazlur Rehman refuse to back the demand apparently out of ire by Supreme Court's rulings against National Reconciliation Order (NRO) that pardoned Bhutto's corruption cases and Hasba Bill of Fazl.

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