On 16th of February, 2007 an open letter addressed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) was written by Mr. Naeem Bokhari. This letter was more of a charge sheet against the CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry and later formed basis of a reference against him. There were and still are several conspiracy theories regarding the origin of this letter as to who instigated/sponsored or paid Mr. Bokhari to write the controversial letter. The most commonly believed theory is that since the then President Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf and his Prime Minister Mr. Shaukat Aziz were unhappy with the judicial activism of the CJP and his ‘undue’ interference in the executive functions of the State, they were behind this move to remove Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry from office. What happened afterwards is history; a ‘revolutionary’ movement which started as a movement for Independance of Judiciary but soon became a movement for restoration of Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry and managed to achieve just that. The movement culminated with a long march and the restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as CJP On March 16th, 2009. Honestly speaking, regardless of the questions surrounding the open letter and its consequent implications, truth value of the allegations contained therein could never be ascertained since there was no proper investigation or inquiry into any of the allegations.
Now almost six years after the open letter from Mr. Neem Bokhari, a seemingly frustrated Chairman NAB (National Accountability Bureau) writes to the President of Pakistan, what seems like another ‘open’ letter and another charge sheet against the Judiciary; the CJP. Both letters held the conduct of Supreme Court in question and contain allegations against the CJP.
Between these two letters, especially after the restoration of CJP in 2009 there have been several confrontations between the Government and Judiciary. The most significant of them was the NRO case which resulted in contempt notice to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and his subsequent removal from office. This was seen as some local and international circles as overstepping of judicial authority. The CJP’s wand of suo moto has been most active acquiring the role of a ‘supervisor of the executive’ justified by the malfunctioning of government machinery. While this interference into functions of the executive seems noble and for ‘public interest’ it is interesting to note that Supreme Court fervidly claimed that it’s Registrar cannot be summoned by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament because Article 175(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan provides for separation of powers between the executive and judiciary. It should also be noted that PAC did not summon the Registrar in his judicial capacity, which he has close to none, but in his administrative capacity which falls within the ambit of the executive and not the judiciary.
At the end of his letter the Chairman NAB warns the President of his resignation; “Should these issues not be addressed expeditiously I will regretfully be forced to tender my resignation.”
But what methods are available to the President to “address” these issues? The only constitutional step available is filing a reference with the Supreme Judicial Council. This was done by President Musharraf and it cost him his government, his Presidency, his uniform and reputation.
I have the utmost respect for Mr. Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, but like him I too believe that no one is above the law, not even the Supreme Court or the CJP. If an allegation against a Prime Minister or an Ex- Army Chief can be investigated into, and verdict can be passed regarding their guilt or innocence, same should be allowed for the CJP. And unless this is done the pillar of ‘equality before law’ shall remain a few inches short of providing foundation to democracy.