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AJK Judicial crisis: editorials April 7

7 April 2010 One Comment

The News International
While some of the events seen recently in Azad Kashmir parallel those seen in the Federation of Pakistan, the situation in the territory has quickly become even more chaotic. We have two chief justices presiding over cases, a deadlock between the president and the prime minister on the issue and an infuriated judiciary which says the CJ deposed by the acting president on the advice of the PM can only be restored by the Supreme Judicial Council. In the meanwhile the acting CJ too continues to perform duties. The allegations of corruption and particularly those of using influence to have a daughter’s grades elevated are also rather familiar ones to all of us who followed the prolonged judicial crisis at home and the eventual restoration of the judiciary deposed by President Musharraf in March 2009. A year later, the advantages of an independent judiciary are obvious.

So far, Prime Minister Gilani has declined to intervene. Given the extent of the crisis, it is uncertain how long this detachment can persist. But it is a fact that many of the problems of AJK have been created by manipulations from here. As a consequence the democracy the territory has known has been a warped one. Institutions have not developed and systems of checks and balances have not evolved. This is a key factor behind the farcical situation seen there now and should act as a reminder that we need unfettered democracy in AJK if its problems are to be solved. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=232873

The Nation
The judicial crisis in Azad Kashmir bodes ill for the nation and must be resolved at the earliest. The roots of the stalemate can be traced to the differences between Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider and President Raja Zulqurnain. Anyhow, tinkering with the system just to settle personal scores is most unfortunate.
To begin with, the manner in which the Prime Minister deposed Chief Justice Riaz Akhtar Chaudhry raises some questions. True, he first filed a reference against him in the AJK’s Supreme Judicial Council, based on the charge that the CJ had acted in contravention of the Constitution and was therefore not fit to hold the office; but the fact remains that giving a Chief Justice his marching orders all of a sudden amounts to upsetting the apple cart as many view it as an attempt to target the independence of the judiciary. Worse still, the move to appoint the acting Chief Justice, which was seemingly done to normalise the situation, has proved to be counterproductive. While the President was away to attend a meeting abroad, the PM through the acting President appointed Syed Manzoor Hussain as acting Chief Justice. When the President returned, there was no other option left for him but to reinstate the deposed Chief Justice. One would have wished that the PM had not acted in haste and had rather consulted with the President beforehand to avoid the tussle. At this point in time, the stalemate shows no sign of resolution and rather appears to be getting worse by the hour. It is quite sad to know that presently, there are two Chief Justices working simultaneously in the AJK, which among others would badly affect the dispensation of justice. The idea of two Chief Justices at loggerheads with each other is contrary to the Constitution, to say the least. A forward bloc consisting of 10 ministers has been formed, posing a threat to the government led by Raja Farooq Haider. Likewise, lawyers have announced rallies and a movement in support of the deposed Chief Justice. If the crisis remains unresolved, it would greatly undermine the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Azad Kashmir. Besides, we must also be on our guard against New Delhi, which is ever ready to fish in troubled waters.
It should be clear that the dismissal of CJ Chaudhry opened a Pandora’s box, leading to the present mess. Gone are the days when the rulers could act like General Musharraf and sack judges of apex courts through executive orders. The Supreme Judicial Council is looking into the matter and the best strategy would be to respect its verdict. http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Editorials/07-Apr-2010/AJKs-judicial-crisis

The Dawn, April 6
In what appears to be a copycat act of political misadventure, the Azad Kashmir executive has blundered into a crisis that is unlikely to strengthen democracy in a liberated territory or be a feather in the ruling party’s cap.

‘Judicial reference’, ‘non-functional’ and ‘SJC’ (Supreme Judicial Council) are words too recent to be forgotten. They rocked Pakistan in 2007 and had consequences that ultimately led to Pervez Musharraf’s ouster. The judicial reference sent by acting president Shah Ghulam Qadir has now reportedly been withdrawn by President Zulqarnain Khan, but that doesn’t appear to have solved the crisis. If Chief Justice Reaz Akhtar Chaudhry had committed such grave crimes as violating and subverting Azad Kashmir’s interim constitution, surely, the reference could have been filed by the president after his return. Why this hurry? This undue haste not only triggered a thoroughly unnecessary confrontation between the executive and the judiciary, it has created a rift between the president and the prime minister.

AJK Prime Minister Farooq Haidar now says that his president has no right to withdraw the reference against the CJ and reinstate the sacked judge. We have no doubt that in a scenario all too familiar to us the other side would not be without its army of legal experts justifying the president’s order rescinding the acting president’s order.

Unless attempts are made to defuse the crisis, one can see a period of prolonged political instability over what essentially is a constitutional matter. The head of the ruling Muslim Conference, Attique Ahmad Khan, was within his right to support the president. But most certainly he has not helped matters by asking the people to take to the streets if the ‘non-functional’ chief justice is restored.

Once again, the seniority principle was violated in the appointments of the judges to Azad Kashmir’s apex court. More regretfully Pakistan’s former prime minister Shaukat Aziz , as head of the Azad Kashmir Council, and the intelligence agencies had a role in making appointments which have led to the current crisis. We hope that sanity will prevail, because Azad Kashmir cannot afford the kind of street turmoil Pakistan saw in 2007.  www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/a-plea-for-sanity-640

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