A Tribute to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
Human beings cannot be perfect but they can excel in virtues and be embodiment of a thoroughly upright conduct. There is a perennial tussle going on between the generally acknowledged vices and virtues within a man. One can be repository of an exemplary character and vice versa one can be as sinister as a proverbial Satan.
Chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is regarded as a shining symbol of uprightness and a true custodian of the supremacy of law. Cast in a mold of probity and with a soul aflame for truth and justice, he is waging a lone crusader’s war for a civil society. He is the beacon for a civil society, and for a pluralist and accountable democracy, where all should be equal before the law from prime minister even to a rape victim.
I find myself handicapped for want of appropriate plaudits and commendatory diction to befittingly portray the sublime personage of the incumbent Chief justice of Pakistan. The Honorable Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the 18th Chief Justice of Pakistan, is creating a glorious judicial history in a country like Pakistan that otherwise is beset with a pandemic of moral and legal aberrations.
Let us for the sake of contrast and comparison put Zardari and chief justice Chaudhry on two extremes then the former would be a custom made model of dark side of human beings and the other a magnificent monument of righteousness and absolute integrity.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has been putting up a brave fight and upholding the finest tradition of an impeccable judiciary against formidable challenges that can be likened to the morning star appearing in a predawn phase of darkness.
There is long litany of stupendous cases that the incumbent chief justice has dealt with and did not dither while handing out a verdict that was outright in the public interests and was absolutely untainted. It could have been only a lion hearted person like him to be countenancing a crowd of hardened goons and ripened thugs and award them the verdicts and sentences that they deserved. In fact he is a man whose life is enriched with unselfish service.
He has been dispensing justice in a murky atmosphere of utter disregard for law, pathetic violation of the constitution and apathy to the mounting grave problems of the country by the leaders, the parliamentarians, the bureaucrats and minions of government departments.
It was a giant step towards rebuilding a civil society and bolstering the honor of Judiciary, when undeterred, he told on the face of a reckless and desperate dictator that he would fight out with him a judicial battle in case he was sacked. That was a turning milestone that inspired and emboldened the civil society, the lawyers, the intelligentsia, the students, the youth, and politicians to unfurl a sustained campaign that resulted in the ouster of the self-deluded dictator.
It is manifest all along the judicial journey of CJ Chaudhry that barring one or two minor occasions, he stood like a rock in face of visibly heavy odds and burgeoning pressures and rebuffed offer of perks and material enticements to be partisan. He sternly spurned all temptations that could detract or derail him from the chartered path of dignifying the institution of judiciary.
Chief justice is blessed with a dauntless perseverance, a piercing acumen, and unfaltering devotion to duty. By displaying an unimpeachable honesty and a dogged spirit, he has firmed up the rule of law and cornered the rogues.
Zardari was reluctant to reinstate Chaudhry Iftikhar fearing that the judge would repeal amnesty granted to him under the NRO by the ousted president Pervez Musharraf. It was under inexorable public pressure and the historic march from Lahore to Islamabad that the Prime Minister Gilani had to impromptu announce his reinstatement.
That refusal on the part of the PPP government to restore Chief justice Chaudhry to the promised position brought at par the ousted president Musharraf and the one who was his successor, Asif Ali Zardari.
A cursory glance at the cases disposed off or being heard by the apex court would lead to an utter amazement, as to how the chief justice has been braced against the crocodiles of corruption and retrieving the embezzled or looted money back to the national exchequer.
The judgments or the proceedings on several cases are watershed and would be written as historic in the judicial annals. Some of these gigantic cases are Pakistan Steel Mills privatization, rental power plants, missing person cases, Hajj scandal involving the elder son of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and also his younger son in a 7 billion gas rip off.
Besides the Swiss Banks case, the Memogate case and several other gubernatorial cases would be the blazing land mark and eloquent testimony to the courage and abiding conviction of the chief justice for the ascendency of the justice system in Pakistan.
These mammoth cases too would go down in the judicial history of not only Pakistan but also that of the world at large as monumental. The constitution of Abbottabad Commission is yet another decision that speaks for the tenacity and steadfastness of the Chief justice for championing the paramount cause of a fearless and fair judiciary.
In a jungle of dacoits and burglars, CJ is the one glittering hope to drive out the betrayed Pakistani nation safe and unhurt, to shore up the sinking boat of good governance and to establish and restore the supremacy of law and glorify the contours of a civil society.
The lofty conduct of apex judiciary might become harbinger for a Pakistan where justice would not be manipulated in favor of rich and powerful, and where a common man would stand face to face with feudal lords in the court to seek justice as an equal citizen of Pakistan.
May be CJ's example would serve as a trailblazer for other deliverers of justice. During the heat of the second world, the then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill remarked that “if our courts are working normally, then we have nothing to worry” (I do not remember the exact words). The same exquisite comment is so relevant to Pakistan as well.