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Never against reinstatement of deposed CJ: Zardari

Source: PTI
Last updated on: March 17, 2009 15:00 IST
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Amid speculation that the Pakistan People's Party was opposed to restoring deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar M Chaudhry as he could scrap a law granting amnesty to party leaders, President Asif Ali Zardari has said he was never against the sacked judge.

'I never said that I am against Justice Iftikhar. I was only waiting for the retirement of Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar, who took oath as the Chief Justice in (former President Pervez Musharraf's) regime,' Zardari said.

"Dogar will retire on March 21 and Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will become the chief justice again in his place," the President told The News daily.

Zardari said he had made it clear when he signed an agreement on March 9, 2008 with PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif to form an alliance that "no sitting judge would be disturbed".

This was the reason "why I never disturbed Dogar", he said.
Bowing to pressure from the lawyers' movement and the PML-N, the PPP-led government yesterday announced restoration of Chaudhry and other judges sacked by then President Musharraf during the 2007 emergency. The move came even as Nawaz Sharif was heading towards Islamabad with thousands of supporters to hold a sit-in near parliament to pressure the government on the judges' issue.

Sharif and the lawyers' called off their long march and proposed sit-in following the government's announcement. The government's climb-down was perceived as a major blow to Zardari's authority over the PPP and the government. Zardari, however, said his stand on the matter "was a small thing but this small thing exposed many big people".

Referring to the resignation of Information Minister Sherry Rehman during political turmoil, the President said he was more concerned about some leaders from his party who resigned from their ministries last week rather than Sharif.

Zardari said the political crisis was over but Pakistan was still facing an economic crisis and terrorism. He also avoided criticising Sharif but said he had a difference with him only on the method of restoring judges.

The PML-N had promised to the people before last year's election that it would restore the deposed judges if it came to power. The party signed three agreements with the PPP for restoring the deposed judges but these pacts were not implemented by Zardari. This led to the PML-N breaking away from PPP-led coalition in August last year.

Analysts believe Zardari fears that Chaudhry could scrap the National Reconciliation Ordinance that was issued by Musharraf to drop graft cases against PPP leaders.

The PML-N has also alleged that Zardari used judges appointed by Musharraf to disqualify Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from electoral politics.

However, analysts also believe Chaudhry will not rake up the NRO to avoid creating another political crisis.

The News reported that Sharif had assured Prime Minister Gilani that he would not make a demand for the Supreme Court to take up the NRO issue because he did not want to topple Zardari. Prominent lawyers movement leader Aitzaz Ahsan too has said that Chaudhry will avoid taking up the NRO.

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