Crisis in Azad Kashmir over issue of 'sacked' CJ

Crisis in Azad Kashmir over issue of 'sacked' CJ

4 April 2010
The Dawn
Tariq Naqash

MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir faced what appears to be a serious judicial and political crisis on Sunday after a clash between the offices of the president and prime minister over the filing of a reference against Chief Justice Reaz Akhtar Chaudhry and appointment of Justice Syed Manzoor Hussain Gillani as acting CJ. The chief of the ruling Muslim Conference, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, threw his weight behind the president and, in a statement issued from Saudi Arabia, urged the people of AJK to take to the streets. The reference accusing Justice Reaz of violating and subverting AJK's interim constitution and committing misconduct was filed by acting president Shah Ghulam Qadir on the advice of Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) which rendered him non-functional and issued notice to him to appear before it on April 7. President Raja Zulqarnain Khan cut short his two-week visit to the United Kingdom and returned home on Sunday 'to undo the move'. According to sources, Justice Reaz met he president along with Tourism Minister Sardar Siab Khalid. Later, Raja Zulqarnain called on Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and reportedly handed over a 'note' calling for 'reinstatement of the non-functional CJ and sacked ad hoc judge Mohammad Azam Khan' and sought his help. However, Mr Gilani advised him to resolve the matter in consultation with the AJK prime minister. In the meantime, the AJK presidency leaked reports to some private TV channels regarding reinstatement of the chief justice and the confusion compelled Prime Minister Haider to immediately call a press conference at Kashmir House. He said the AJK president could not 'suspend or reinstate' any judge, particularly when the matter was pending before the SJC. He denied that that his office had received any letter or document from the presidency, seeking reversal of Saturday's decisions. He said the president was bound under Section 7 of AJK's interim constitution to act in accordance with the advice of the prime minister and he could not initiate any order on his own. AJK Law Minister Abdul Rashid Abbasi and Information Minister Farooq Ahmed Tahir were also present at the press conference. Law Secretary Raja Mohammad Abbas said that even the prime minister could not withdraw the reference which was before the SJC. 'If the president has issued any order to this effect without the advice of the prime minister, then it does not carry any legal effect,' he said. Earlier, an official of the AJK president's secretariat had sent an SMS to this correspondent claiming that the president had withdrawn the reference. According to the sources, Prime Minister Haider also called on President Zulqarnain Khan along with the AJK law minister but the crisis was not resolved. The Muslim Conference parliamentary party was holding a meeting in the evening against the backdrop of Sardar Attique's statement that the MC 'stands completely dissociated from any unconstitutional move against the judiciary'. In Muzaffarabad, police evicted two SC officials from the court building where they had gone to take possession of record of the reference 'following the reinstatement of Justice Reaz'. In Mirpur, supporters of Justice Reaz were reported to have occupied the court's circuit office.


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