The latest violence which followed today’s reopening of Islamabad’s Red Mosque once again dramatizes the pressures facing Pakistan’s President. Musharraf’s western allies accuse him of not doing enough in the “war on terror” while at home he is under attack by religious militants and a growing pro- democracy movement.
The latter scored a major victory last week when Pakistan’s Supreme Court reinstated Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who had been suspended last March. The suspension sparked a mass movement led by lawyers, challenging the constitutionality of Musharraf’s actions.
Beena Sarwar reports on the dramatic confrontation between the President and the judge.
Explosion at rally
Islamabad, July 17, 2007
VOICE OF BEENA SARWAR, BY TELEPHONE IN BOSTON: The violence has targeted military officers and civilians around the country, even the capital. A suicide bomber rode a motorcycle into a political rally in Islamabad last week, killing several lawyers, members of the Pakistan People’s Party. This was minutes before the main speaker arrived, Iftikar Chaudhry, Pakistan’s chief justice, who President Musharraf suspended in March. The attack underscored the gravity of the threat to Musharraf and democracy in Pakistan from religious militarism pushing for a Taliban-style govennment. Tribal area militants recently abandoned a ten-month old deal with the government meant to stop attacks on troops patrolling the border with Afghanistan. Militants say the government violated the deal by establishing checkpoints and raiding suspected militant hideouts. They gained impetus from the army’s bloody assault on Red Mosque and lack of transparency about civilian deaths. Such violent has occasionally overshadowed the secular national movement for democracy that Chaudhry spearheaded. He challenged his ouster in court and crisscrossed Pakistan campaign style, drawing increasingly large crowds.
Courtesy of ARY
IFTIKAR CHAUDHRY, PAKISTANI CHIEF JUSTICE: It is the duty of our government and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary. The judiciary shall decide matters before the impartially on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law.
Chaudhry has come a long way since January 2000, when he swore a new judicial oath supporting Musharraf’s military rule. Judges who refused were subsequently dismissed. But in 2005, after becoming chief justice, he began investigating disappearances and government corruption. He privately expressed doubts about the constitutionality of an army chief running for president. On March 9, Musharraf suspended Chaudhry on charges of misconduct and nepotism. As police crack down on his supporters, public outrage and support for Chaudhry grew, creating a new political nemesis for Musharraf. The Supreme Court reinstated Chaudhry three days after the bomb attacks on the Islamabad rally. The historic judgment is seen as a victory for democracy. For the Real News, I’m Beena Sarwar in Boston.
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