February 2008 News

Kashmiri lawyers plan crossing LoC for peace

28 February 2008
The Dawn
Tariq Naqash

MUZAFFARABAD: A representative delegation of senior lawyers from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) plans to visit the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) to establish interaction and a touching base with their counterparts and the common people, their leader said here on Thursday. “Not only the governments in Islamabad and New Delhi but also in Muzaffarabad and Srinagar should help us realise this long-cherished programme at the earliest so that we, the lawyers, can also put our share in fulfilling our national responsibilities,” AJK Bar Council vice- president Chaudhry Mohammad Ibrahim Zia said. “We want to take a message of peace across the dividing line that the Kashmiris either living on this or that side are one nation and cannot be split for good. And that a solution to this longstanding problem will have to be evolved by all stakeholders through peaceful means, the sooner the better,” he added. Mr Zia spoke to Dawn here on Thursday during a judicial strike which the lawyers in this part of the Himalayan region are observing since November 3 when President Pervez Musharraf deposed the chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry through a controversial Provisional Constitution Order, triggering the country’s worst ever judicial crisis. Though AJK has its own superior courts, which have no formal connection with Pakistan’s superior judiciary, yet the legal fraternity here has been regularly observing boycott of judicial proceedings on each Thursday, apart from holding other strike programmes and rallies from time to time “to express solidarity with their co-professionals in Pakistan.” “We cannot stay aloof from the developments taking place in Pakistan because we believe that only a strong Pakistan can guarantee something good for the Kashmiris. And strength of any nation hinges primarily on the independence of its judiciary,” Mr Zia said. Commenting on the situation in Pakistan, the AJK Bar Council vice-chairman opined that Pakistan had faced less external threats than internal threats only because of President Musharraf. “Mr Musharraf dragged the army in politics detracting it from its basic responsibilities,” he said, but praised the incumbent army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani for ordering the army personnel to stay away from politics. “This decision will bring stability to Pakistan which subsequently will go to our benefit as well, apart from the people of Pakistan,” he said. Mr Zia also underscored the essentiality of a permanent chief justice in the AJK High Court, terming it mandatory under the region’s interim constitution. According to AJK’s interim constitution, the chief justice is appointed by the AJK president on the advice of the AJK Council, the so-called upper house of the AJK legislature headed by the prime minister of Pakistan. Mr Zia said rumours were making the rounds that the acting HC CJ, Sardar Mohammad Nawaz Khan, was being appointed as ad hoc judge of the AJK Supreme Court in what smacked a big conspiracy. “I have met and called upon the (AJK) president to avoid any decision which is unconstitutional and bound to affect the independence of judiciary,” he said, warning that any such step would meet strong resistance from the legal fraternity. He expressed the hope that being a “very sagacious politician” the president would not fall prey to any conspiracy that could undermine the prestige of his own office.

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