In a telephone address to lawyers in Pakistan’s capital, the ousted chief justice of the Supreme Court urged the lawyers today to continue to defy the state of emergency imposed by the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, according to a report in the New York Times.
The Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was ousted on Saturday after emergency was declared in Pakistan. He was earlier ousted by Musharraf who had him replaced by another judge. But following protests from lawyers and a Supreme Court decision in his favor, he was reinstated after four months.
“The lawyers should convey my message to the people to rise up and restore the constitution,” Chaudhry said in his telephone interview, according to the New York Times.
This suggests that the former Chief Justice is willing to play a larger role than as a judge handing out orders and judgments under the constitution. He is willing to involve and lead the people in defending the constitution, and demanding its restoration.
Movements like that of the lawyers, and under the leadership of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, are likely to help hold the moderate center in Pakistan, and prevent fundamentalists from taking advantage of Musharraf’s self-serving declaration of emergency.
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry cannot also be dismissed as a political rabble rouser. As the former Chief Justice he speaks for the constitution and the democratic institutions it was required to defend. Also unlike the politicians, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry does not have a track record of working with the Pakistani military when it suited him.
Rather than pursue their own agendas, the politicians like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif should rally behind him. He is the leader for the moment – unpartisan, and strongly supportive of the constitution and democratic institutions. He alone can lead a bi-partisan movement that can bring together the whole of Pakistan society – before the Islamic fundamentalists inside and outside the military and intelligence agencies can take control.