It was over six and a half years ago on November 03, 2007, when a power drunk General Pervez Musharraf became the first military ruler to proclaim 2nd martial law under his rule. Acting as Army Chief he issued a proclamation of emergency and then lifted it acting as the President of Pakistan. Over 61 judges including the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry were given marching orders to enable him to contest elections in an army uniform. Ironically, the affected judges were themselves to be blamed for imposing this farce of two in one (President Musharraf and General Musharraf) on the nation as they provisionally allowed him to contest for his presidential re-election in uniform. The subsequent historic lawyers’ movement culminating in the restoration of judges and Chief Justice Chaudhry is part of our “golden history” now.

Today, the trial and indictment of Musharraf has added a new feather into our political and judicial caps as a nation. But with all these achievements and victories the judiciary is now faced with a battle within. Long after Musharraf is gone and his nemesis Justice Chaudhry too, the lawyers now seem to be confused about who their real heroes and villains are. It all started after restoration was delayed by Musharraf’s successor, President Asif Ali Zardari. The ruling party lawyers disengaged from the lawyers movement declaring the event closed. However, Justice Chaudhry swung into action to rise to popular expectations of cleansing the government of corruption. It was here that the lawyers’ community got divided into those who capitalised on the lawyers’ movement and witnessed their leaders defending those summoned by the restored Chief Justice.

Today, the world famous Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, which led the historic and successful lawyers’ movement has subsequently eaten its own words. The newly elected body refused to give a farewell dinner to the one it once described as a legend: former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Pro-Musharraf lawyers have staged a successful electoral coup within the bar association. The new lawyers’ leaders privately regret their role in the lawyers’ movement and are publicly asking for the reversal of many of the judgments of their once spiritual leader (CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry). The reason is quite obvious. There is an army of lawyers and judges who filled up the vacancies created by Musharraf’s November 03 proclamation that removed over 60 superior courts’ judges including the Chief Justice. After the historic restoration of the judges, the Musharraf appointed judges were disgraced out of office through contempt of court proceedings and declaration of disloyalty to the constitution alongside an act of high treason attributed only to Musharraf.

The lawyers’ love and reverence for Chief Justice Chaudhry has apparently turned into hatred and anger especially amongst those who came to be known as PCO judges (a term used to describe judges removed from office for taking the oath of allegiance to Musharraf). The farewell full court reference held for the outgoing Justice Khilji Arif Hussain was a manifestation of a changed situation for those who thought that the rule of law had been established through restoration of the judges. Elected representatives from the highest lawyers’ body, the Pakistan Bar Council, and the Supreme Court Bar Association stood at the rostrum in front of 16 Supreme Court judges and bluntly attacked the judicial legacy of former Chief Justice Chaudhry while bidding farewell to Justice Khilji who was considered the right hand man of the retired Chief Judge.

Justice (now retired) Khilji was luckier, and was thrown a farewell dinner by the lawyers’ bodies; a feat never accomplished by his mentor Justice Chaudhry. And yet, some lawyers complain that Justice Chaudhry refused to shake hands with them at an earlier dinner. While a legend like Justice Chaudhry is not expected to show such small heartedness, the refusal to grant him the courtesy of a farewell dinner was a petty exercise. Such is the level of grace and respect towards tradition shown by those from amongst whom our future judges are to be selected.

Even after Justice Chaudhry has been gone for months, the anger and frustration from some political parties’ lawyers and disgruntled PCO judges has prompted them to start defending Musharraf. As is rightly said, “The enemy of your enemy is your friend.” Thanks to bar politics and the military’s influence, lawyers of human rights fame like Asma Jehangir and even Advocate Abdul Hafeez Pirzada who was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s law minister, are today opposing Musharraf’s trial. Their argument is simple and sinister; they argue that Justice Chaudhry, by validating Musharraf’s military coup in October 1999, had committed high treason and hence deserve to be tried alongside him. They all know that once the trial begins the abettors will also be dragged in ultimately and yet they describe the trial as discriminatory.

With Musharraf gone, our political and judicial system is still suffering from the shocks of his misdeeds. Musharraf has left behind a legacy of reckless judges and ruthless lawyers who are unstoppable and unaccountable even by their own self regulatory mechanisms. The former dictator is a unique person, in that he has a ghost even as he lives. Musharraf may be a prisoner in practice but his ghost seems to be roaming around freely in the corridors of government, parliament, judiciary, the army and the media. It is a ghost with a gun to our heads, telling us what to do. It is speaking through the bodies of soldiers, politicians, defense analysts, media anchors and even lawyers. The question is, Can we bust this ghost to retrieve our body politic?

 The writer is a senior supreme court reporter and anchor for Waqt News.

Email:matiullahjan@gmail.com