04 May, 2008

Pakistani Judges

The BBC has an interesting article on the recent reinstatement of senior judges in Pakistan: Saga of restoring Pakistani judges

As you know, when Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, staged his autogolpe last year, he illegally sacked a load of senior judges, for fear that they might rule that his unconstitutional acts were unconstitutional. He replaced these judges with some lickspittle toady judges who could be relied upon to give convenient verdicts. Musharraf's autogolpe ultimately failed - although he remains in office as president, effective power now seems to lie with the coalition government of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PPP-N). This issue of reinstating the sacked judges has become a source of tension within the government. Nawaz Sharif, head of the PML-N, has taken a hard line, demanding that the sacked judges be reinstated and that the quisling judges who took their jobs be themselves sacked. The PPP (led by Asif Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's widower, and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani, meanwhile, has taken a more cautious line, arguing that the reinstatement of the judges should take place in the context of a general reform of the judiciary, and that the judges who took the sacked judges' jobs should merely revert to their former positions.

A compromise between the coalition partners seems to have been reached - the judges will be reinstated later this month, and the ones Musharraf promoted will take up their old jobs. However, there are still stormy waters ahead. The incumbent judges could try to keep their flash jobs by ruling against the reinstatement of their predecessors. There is also the theoretical possibility that Musharraf could invoke his constitutional powers to sack the government, in order to prevent the return of judges who might well rule that his continued holding of the presidency is unconstitutional; this is however unlikely, given his total lack of credibility and the government's recent electoral mandate.

One final exciting thing about all this is that the reinstatement of the judges could mean that everything that happened since they were sacked occurred in a legal void, with pretty much everything happening since Musharraf declared his state of emergency being up for legal challenge.

1 comment:

Queenie said...

Sounds more complicated than an EU treaty referendum.