ISLAMABAD - Former top judge Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry knocked out an elected prime minister when in full bloom but failed to deliver a punch when he entered the ring as a politician – much like erstwhile strongmen Pervez Musharraf, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and Mirza Aslam Beg.

The former chief justice had on April 26, 2012 sent then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani home for refusing to direct a letter to Swiss authorities over Asif Ali Zardari’s hidden assets in Swiss banks. Gilani had insisted Zardari enjoyed immunity as the President at that time.

Chaudhry retired in December 2013. His legacy was described as having repurposed a once supine judiciary as a fiercely independent force but he was criticised for judicial overreach and allegations of misuse of office.

In December last year he launched a political party named Pakistan Justice Democratic Critic Party vowing to welcome only non-corrupt people and bringing a change to the life of the common man. Hardly any non-corrupt or alleged corrupt joined him.

Political pundits believe he should have consulted Musharraf, nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan or former powerful army chief Mirza Aslam Beg before entering the ring to challenge the established parties.

Mirza was the first to test the pulse of the nation – introducing the Awami Qiyadat Party - and it turned out to be a disaster. Musharraf formed the All Pakistan Muslim League and is still looking for allies to win a seat or two in the parliament. The nation’s hero Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan came up with Tehrik-e-Tahaffuz-e-Pakistan but no miracle occurred.

Some close aides had pushed Chaudhry into politics predicting a different future than the former powerful men but the public seems to have announced its verdict even before the party contested an election.

Chaudhry began practice as an advocate of the Sindh High Court in 1976, before shifting to his native Quetta and later serving as Advocate General of Balochistan.

He was elected as President Balochistan Bar Association, Quetta in the year of 1986 and was elected twice as Member Bar Council.

He was appointed Advocate General Balochistan in the year 1989. He also discharged duties as Banking Judge Special Court for Speedy Trials, Judge Customs Appellate Court as well as Company Judge.

In 1990, he was appointed as an additional judge at the Balochistan High Court. Later in 1999 he was nominated as Chief justice of Balochistan High Court by President Rafiq Tarar.

The same year, he controversially took oath under General Pervez Musharraf, validating the Legal Framework Order and ascended to the Supreme Court in 2002. On June 30, 2005, Musharraf appointed Chaudhry as the Chief Justice but on March 9, 2007 asked him to resign, which the former Chief Justice refused and was suspended from office.

The resultant civil disorder led to the Lawyers' Movement, which succeeded in the restoration of Chaudhry as Chief Justice on July 20, 2007.

However, Musharraf declared emergency in November, arresting Chaudhry as well as suspending 60 other judges from the judiciary. Following the lifting of emergency in December and general elections in 2008, the government was routed, and Musharraf resigned under threat of impeachment.

Asif Ali Zardari succeeded Musharraf as the President, but also postponed Chaudhry’s restoration. This led to the Lawyers’ Movement culminating in the Long March led by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the restoration of the Chaudhry-led judiciary on March 22, 2009.

The movement for Chaudhry’s restoration garnered world attention, while his term as Chief Justice witnessed unprecedented judicial activism, including the suo motu notice of controversial privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills, leading the case of missing persons in Balochistan, arguing and issuing orders against the New Murree project regarding as environmental catastrophe and ruling the National Reconciliation Ordinance as unconstitutional.

The former CJ’s ‘dream team’ - Aitzaz Ahsan, Hamid Khan, Munir A Malik, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Tariq Mehmood – is nowhere to be seen on his side.

In fact Aitzaz Ahsan said he made a mistake by supporting the Chief Justice. The others too have more or less the same views. Aitzaz Ahsan said Chaudhry played his innings like Shahid Afridi, not like Sachin Tendulkar. “Iftikhar Chaudhry did politics and he wanted to be a politician,” he added.

He maintained that the CJP committed a fatal mistake in the end and he did not leave on a high.

Former Supreme Court Bar Association President Ali Ahmad Kurd said the common man campaigned for two years to restore judiciary, but Chaudhry did not look back upon them after his reinstatement. He said history will not remember Chaudhry as a successful judge.

Hidayatullah Afridi quit the Pakistan People’s Party leader recently to join the PJDCP. He believed the former CJ had a clean past and would contribute positively in politics.

Afridi said he and his family had been associated with the PPP for 40 years, but was not given due respect that forced him to join the new party. Government officials said efforts were being made to reclaim the bulletproof car provided to the former Chief Justice.

The law ministry was asked to seek the Supreme Court’s help in getting back the car as the former top judge had turned a politician. Officials said Chaudhry’s use of the vehicle and petrol had incited the politicians as well as the people to criticise the government.

Dr Khurram Iqbal, a senior analyst, said former CJ’s party did not have a future. He said it was bound to become a one-man entity like those led by Musharraf and Beg.

He added Chaudhry should return the bullet-proof car to the government to avoid any more controversy.

Iqbal said the former top judge had a controversial past but his party received even a ‘below expectation’ response.

“When his close associates ignored him, he can’t bank on defections from other parties. The party seems a non-starter unless there is a miracle,” he added.