| Chief Justice Chaudhry’s supporters celebrate in Multan on Monday. (AP)
Islamabad, May 7: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry today secured a major victory in the judicial tug-of-war with the Pakistan government after the supreme court suspended a probe against the top judge.
However, the apex court also accepted the government’s appeal that Chaudhry’s petition should be heard by a full bench and referred it to acting chief justice Rana Bhagwandas for further action.
President Pervez Musharraf suspended Chaudhry on March 9 over accusations of misconduct. A five-member panel, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), has been hearing misconduct allegations against him.
Chaudhry had challenged the competence of the council and had asked the supreme court to take up the case.
The larger bench of the supreme court, headed by Justice Javed Buttar, suspended the council proceedings two days before it was supposed to meet on May 9.
“It is a major victory for us and we will celebrate it,” Munir A. Malik, Chaudhry’s senior lawyer, told The Telegraph in Islamabad.
Another lawyer, who has voiced support for Chaudhry, said the supreme court’s ruling was a victory. “We hope this will lead to the independence of judiciary and the rule of law,” said Ikram Chaudhry, former vice-president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. A government lawyer said he would accept the decision.
“I’m neither happy nor sad. It’s the decision of the supreme court and we bow before it,” said the lawyer, Abdul Qayyum.
Hours after Chaudhry attended a massive rally in Lahore yesterday, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the government had the option of imposing a state of emergency and a decision would depend on the situation. Musharraf had previously ruled out an emergency but analysts said the government might be considering that as a way out.
Observers say Musharraf faces no imminent threat because he retains the support of the army but the crisis has weakened his position and could affect his plans.
Observers said the court’s decision was a serious blow to the government. Everything that was being discussed in camera till now will be available to the public. Musharraf's critics believe that he removed Chaudhry in an apparent bid to weaken the judiciary and ensure his re-election.