November 2006 News

PPP criticises AJK CJ’s appointment

2 November 2006
The Dawn

Islamabad: The People’s Party Parliamentarians on Thursday jumped into the controversy over the appointment of a new chief justice of Azad Kashmir over the heads of seniors, calling it a “battering” of judiciary as political sources said the matter might be brought up in the National Assembly. Justice Riaz Akhtar Chaudhry took over as the chief justice last week less than a month after being elevated to the state Supreme Court from the post of High Court chief justice, superseding the senior-most hopeful Justice Manzoor Hussain Gillani in an unprecedented move linked to Islamabad. “The independence of the judiciary continues to take a battering under the … military dictatorship although an independent judiciary is key to building an enlightened and tolerant state,” PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in a statement. Political sources said the opposition was planning to raise the issue in the National Assembly session likely to begin next week as the appointment was made by the Azad Kashmir president on the mandatory advice of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz as the chairman of the Azad Kashmir Council, the state upper house. A discussion on the issue is likely to be sought through an adjournment motion or a call-attention notice, the sources said. The PPP’s intervention in the matter is the first by a mainstream Pakistani political party after the appointment was denounced by the Azad Kashmir chapter of the Jamaat-i-Islami. “Two senior judges of Azad Kashmir have been superseded to pave the way for the appointment of Justice Chaudhry,” Mr Babar said about what he called contravention of the famous “Judges Judgement” of 1,996 in Pakistan that called for senior judges to take precedence over junior ones for promotion so they could give judgements without fear of whether they would be promoted or not. “The regime has sent the message that it picks and chooses judges according to its political decisions,” he said, recalling that Justice Chaudhry was named a permanent judge of the state high court in 1997 while Justice Gillani was there in 1991. “Under the judicial rules, Justice Gillani, as the senior-most judge in the supreme court, had a legal and legitimate expectancy to be nominated the chief justice,” Mr Babar said, adding “The supersession of the senior-most judge has left many questions unanswered, which is harmful for the independence of the judiciary.” While the appointment was theoretically made by the state president on the advice of the AJK Council, the PPP spokesman blamed it on Azad Kashmir’s new prime minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan who, he said, had come to power after rigged elections in July that were supervised by Justice Chaudhry as acting chief election commissioner. Mr Babar said Justice Gillani, as acting chief election commissioner before Justice Chaudhry, had proposed a new computerised voting system to enable Kashmiris in Pakistan to vote in a fair and transparent manner in Azad Kashmir’s general elections. But, he said, the proposal was shot down by “the ruling regime” on the grounds that an acting chief election commissioner could not bring basic reforms to the form of voting, and as a result the July elections were rigged. He said Mr Attique “then went on to appoint Justice Chaudhry as chief justice within one month of his promotion to the supreme court” and added “It is unprecedented that a one-month judge is appointed chief justice superseding senior members.”


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