07/17/2007, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Charge of misconduct against Iftikhar Chaudhry withdrawn

The government withdraws one charge against former chief justice who was removed from office by President Musharraf in March. Defence lawyers call for all charges to be withdrawn but court proceedings still continue.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The government yesterday withdrew an accusation of misconduct against former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was suspended on March 9. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had personally made the decision to remove the judge, causing uproar across the country and touching off demonstrations.

The government has not officially disclosed the accusations against Chaudhry, but newspapers have reported the main one appeared to be that he used his influence to help his son get a government job.

Demonstrations on March 12, followed by a day of action on March 13, were led by lawyers associations and opposition lawmakers. They were met with police repression.

On March 16 a private TV station was stormed by law enforcement officers and devastated—it was broadcasting protest activities whilst the president was presenting the case against Chaudhry.

During his arguments before the 13-member Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Khalilur Rahman Ramday, government’s attorney pleaded that paragraph 34 of the presidential reference be deleted. For his part, Chaudhry’s lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, urged the government to withdraw the entire case.

Sharifuddin Pirzada, who represents the president, told the Supreme Court that the government wanted an accusation against Chaudhry—that there were times when the judge gave differing written and verbal orders—be withdrawn. In the sections being withdrawn, the government had accused Chaudhry of issuing written verdicts in at least two cases that were at odds with decisions announced earlier in the court. It also insinuated that money may have influenced the cases, without offering details.

The government filed a separate statement in the Supreme Court last month accusing Chaudhry of fiddling expenses, harassing judges, showing bias in appointments and intimidating police and civil servants.

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