Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, (Urdu: اِفتِخارمُحَمّد چودهرى), (born 12 December 1948), is the 18th and the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan. Hailing from Quetta, Balochistan Province of Pakistan, Chaudhry started practice as an advocate at Sindh High Court in 1976, and ascended as a senior advocate at Supreme Court before taking a government law assignment in Quetta. In 1990, he was appointed as an additional judge at the Balochistan High Court. Later in 1999 he was nominated as Chief justice of Balochistan High Court by the President Rafiq Tarar. The same year, he controversially took oath under Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf, validating the LFO ordnance No. 2002, and ascended to the Supreme Court in 2002. On 30 June 2005, President Musharraf appointed Chaudhry as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. In 2007 Musharraf asked Chaudhry to resign, which he refused, therefore leading to his suspension on 3 November 2007. He was restored on 22 March 2009, along with several other judges.
His notable rulings including the suo motu notice of controversial privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mills, leading the case of missing persons in Balochistan, arguing and issuing orders against the New Murree project regarding as environmental catastrophe, ruling the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as unconstitutional and irrelevant. Recently, after proceeding the notice of contempt against the Prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani who forcefully refusing to direct a letter to Swiss authorities over President's hidden assets in Swiss Banks, Chaudry retroactively discharged and ousted Gillani and his government on April 26, 2012.
Career in law
Chaudhry has a Bachelors in Arts and Bachelors in Law (LLB) from Jamshoro-Sindh. He joined the bar in 1974. Later, he was enrolled as Advocate of the High Court in 1976 and as an Advocate of the Supreme Court in 1985. In 1989 he was appointed Advocate General, Balochistan by Akbar Bugti the then Chief Minister of Balochistan. He was elevated as Additional Judge, Balochistan High Court on 6 November 1990 until 21 April 1999.
On 22 April 1999 he became Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court. Besides remaining as Judge of High Court, he discharged duties as Banking Judge, Judge Special Court for Speedy Trials, Judge Customs Appellate Courts as well as Company Judge. Chaudhry also remained President of High Court Bar Association, Quetta, and was elected twice as Member of the Bar Council. In 1992 he was appointed as Chairman of Balochistan Local Council Election Authority and thereafter for second term in 1998. He also worked as Chairman, Provincial Review Board for the province of Balochistan and was twice appointed as Chairman of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Balochistan.
On 4 February 2000 he was nominated Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan. He is said to be the youngest Chief Justice of Pakistan, who will be serving the longest period that any other chief justice has ever served in the history of Pakistan's judiciary. On 30 June 2005 he became the Chief Justice of Pakistan. At present, Justice Iftikhar is also functioning as Chairman, Enrollment Committee of Pakistan Bar Council and as Chairman, Supreme Court Building Committee.
Oath taking under PCO 1999
After the proclamation of PCO, on 26 January 2000 an order Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2000 was issued that required that judiciary take oath of office under PCO. Four judges, including Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, refused to take an oath under the PCO, and therefore no longer remained part of the PCO Supreme Court. To fill the positions in the PCO Supreme Court Musharraf appointed other judges, including Chaudhry, to the PCO Supreme Court. Musharraf's extra-constitutional acts were legitimized by this PCO Supreme Court, and the Parliament elected under Musharraf legitimized everything including the PCO Supreme Court by the Legal Framework Order, 2002.
Suspension and Reinstatement, 2007
On 9 March 2007, Chaudhry was suspended by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Chaudhry was summoned to Army House and was asked to resign in the presence of five Army Generals, including heads of intelligence services. Chaudhry refused to resign so Musharraf decided to file a Presidential reference against Chaudhry for misconduct. Upon chaudhry's refusal to resign, Musharraf forwarded the case to Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) as per procedure in constitution of Pakistan.
It was the first time in the 60-year history of the Pakistani Supreme Court that a Chief Justice was suspended. The suspension was made on the grounds of complaints against Chief Justice Chaudhry for violating the norms of judicial propriety, corruption, seeking favours and misbehaving with senior lawyers. He was also accused of interfering in the working of the executive branch. On the other hand Chaudhry too decided in the first time of history of Pakistan to challenge Musharraf and his reference in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Musharraf could not swallow this as he had plans to get rid of Chaudhry by sending the reference to SJC.
He did not want Chaudhry to remain Chief Justice as he was an independent judge and had blatantly refused to facilitate Musharraf in his plans to get another five-year mandate through Supreme Court as his predecessors had done. Chaudhry on sensing that the judges of SJC were doing what was dictated to them by Musharraf refused to have his case heard in SJC and hence decided to challenge these dubious allegations in Supreme Court of Pakistan. Chaudhry's petition was taken up by thirteen member bench of supreme court, headed by Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday. Chaudhry was represented by five top lawyers of Pakistan, known as, Aitzaz Ahsan, Hamid Khan (lawyer), Munir A. Malik, Ali Ahmad Kurd and Tariq Mehmood. This panel of lawyers of Chaudhry was also termed a 'Dream Team', who fought valiantly for Chaudhry, inside and outside the court.
After his suspension, there was unrest in the country with regard to the validity of the allegations against Chaudhry, as well as doubt as to whether Musharraf technically had the power to suspend the Chief Justice under the circumstances. There was great outpour of public on roads to greet Chaudhry when he would travel to address Bar Associations. On 4 May 2007, as he headed towards Lahore from capital Islamabad, millions lined 250 km-long-highway all the way to catch a glimpse of Chaudhry. An otherwise four-hour journey took 24 hours. On 5 May 2007, Chaudhry with his counsel and politician friend Atizaz Ahsan reached the Lahore Bar Association in morning a dinner the association was holding in his honour.
On 20 July 2007, Chaudhry was reinstated to his position as Chief Justice in a ruling by the thirteen-member bench of Pakistans' Supreme Court headed by Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday. His counsel of five lawyers represented him against 16 senior lawyers representing the Federation. The ruling combined 25 constitutional petitions filed by various parties, but referred most of the issues raised by the 24 petitions not filed by Chaudhry himself to lower courts for extended adjudication. All thirteen of the sitting justices agreed that Musharraf's action had been illegal, and ten of the thirteen ordered Chaudhry was to be reinstated and that he "shall be deemed to be holding the said office and shall always be deemed to have been so holding the same."
2007 State of Emergency
On Saturday, 3 November 2007, General Pervez Musharraf, who was the President and Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan at the time, declared a state of emergency and suspended the nation's constitution and parliament at the same time. He locked all the judges up in order to take revenge on them for giving a judgement in Chaudhry's favour. The declaration accused the judges of violating article 209 of the Constitution of 1973. In addition, Musharraf put not only Chaudhry and all the judges under house arrest but also Chaudhry's young children.
Chaudhrys' youngest son, Balach, required physiotherapy that too was not provided. His daughter had to take her A'Level exam at home, held under the supervision of British Council Pakistan.
On 15 November Geo News reported that Chaudhry had ordered the Islamabad Inspector General of Police to take action against his and his family’s house arrest and their possible relocation to Quetta. According to the channel, Chaudhry held the interior secretary, the commissioner, the deputy commissioner and the assistant commissioner responsible for his house arrest. He said he was still the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the official residence was his by right.
Just after general elections in February, on 24 March 2008, on his first day of premiership the Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gillani ordered Chaudhry's release from house arrest.
In October 2008, Chaudhry visited the Supreme Court building.
The Lawyers' Movement announced a "long march" for the restoration of the judges, especially Chief Justice Iftikhar from 12 to 16 March 2009. The government of Pakistan refused to reinstate the judges and declared section 144 in effect in three of the four provinces of Pakistan thereby forbidding any form of gatherings of the "long march". Arrangements were made to block all roads and other means of transport to prevent the lawyers from reaching the federal capital, Islamabad. Workers of the main political parties in opposition and the lawyers movement as well as other known persons from the civil society were arrested. Despite these efforts, the movement continued and was able to break through the blockade in Lahore en route to Islamabad in the night between 15 and 16 March 2009. A few hours later, on the morning of 16 March 2009, the prime minister of Pakistan restored Chaudhary Iftikahar as chief justice of Pakistan through an executive order. after which the opposition agreed to stop the "long march".
Rulings considered Important
Some very important cases were heard in the supreme court in the 2007. Decisions have already been taken in some:
- The ‘New Murre’ housing project was an environmental catastrophe. Despite protests by the civil society and environmental groups, the military government refused to budge since many top politicians and some generals had a stake in this real-estate venture. Chaudhry ordered to shelve this project. He started earning respect for his ‘judicial activism’. He took suo motto actions on human rights, women rights cases besides offering relief to trade unions in some cases.
- Another sensitive issue was disappeared activists from Baluchistan province. A civil war has caught hold of Baluchistan since 1999. Hundreds of nationalist activists, including journalists and poets, have disappeared. When Human Rights Commission of Pakistan moved the Supreme Court against these disappearances, Chaudhry accepted the plea. The military regime was trying to hush up grave human rights violations (shootings, torture, and kidnappings) in Baluchistan.