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PHOTOS: Meeting the ousted Chief Justice of Pakistan

Faisal Naseem Chaudhry [advocate, Lahore High Court, Lahore, Pakistan]: "On April 22, a delegation of Lahore-based lawyers called on deposed Pakistan Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry at his residence in the capital Islamabad. Since many could had wished to become part of the delegation, the leaders of the Bar Association kept the visit quite secret. Luckily, the brother-in-law of the deposed Chief Justice (Mr. Awais Rana) is a colleague, another Lahore-based lawyer who managed to put my name on the approved list of visitors.

We reached the residence around 11 AM, as the meeting was to start by 11:45. We arrived early mindful of security measures, yet there was no hindrance. Chief Justice House is located at a prime location in Islamabad, opposite Sindh House. There were barriers as well as police checkposts since it was a high security area, yet the police officers were aware of our arrival and there was no trouble coming from any quarter. The renowned Mr. Athar Minallah, one of the leaders of the Lawyers' Movement, was waiting for us so that everything went smoothly, and everyone appreciated his concern and efforts.

The delegation was headed by Lahore High Court Bar President Mr. Anwar Kamal, included the leaders of the Lahore High Court Bar, Lahore District Bar, and Lahore Tax Bar. Some of the participants were ex-office holder like the well-known Mr. Muhammad Shah, the former president of the Lahore District Bar who faced the entire wrath of the Lahore police from March 09, 2007 (when Chief Justice Chaudhry was first suspended from office) to Jan 2008 i.e. until the time new elections took place replacing him with a new President.

We were a total of 20, and were invited to sit in the comfortable spacious visitor's room of the Chief Justice House. Within minutes, the Chief Justice was with us. He greeted and welcomed every guest personally and very warmly. The meeting continued for more than an hour during which all the participants expressed their views about the Lawyers' Movement, the steadfastness of the Chief Justice, as well as the 'Muree Declaration' signed by the two major political parties promising the restoration of the deposed judges. Some concerns were also voiced about the so-called 'Minus One Formula' appearing in the press according to which the judiciary shall be restored but without the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. A little discussion followed on the possibility of curtailing the tenure of Chief Justice Chaudhry through a constitutional amendment.

"Discussion" may not be a proper word for all this, however, as all the little speeches were made by the office holders of the bar and the Chief Justice kept quiet, smiling. It was natural. He is undoubtedly the most important man in today's Pakistan and his every single word means a lot to many. He was courteous, asking an assistant to serve us with soft drinks and cake yet not speaking much except making the obvious pledge to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.

After the meeting, we asked the Chief Justice to join us for a little photo session to which he graciously consented.

We moved to the rear lawn of the Chief Justice House and I was the only lucky one who managed to take a solo flight i.e. a solitary photo with His Lordship.

Again he individually thanked all of us for coming all the way from Lahore and we said goodbye where the media was waiting out on the road for Mr. Anwar Kamal to say few words.

My personal feeling was that the Chief Justice was under great pressure; it was not pressure from the Presidency nor from the Parliament. The nature of this pressure is a little hard to explain. More than his job is at stake, more than his future is at stake, more than a Constitution is at stake. Every minute was taking us to April 30 when the deadline for action is over and if Chief Justice Chaudhry is not restored to his November 02 position, there will be chaos. According that, Chief Justice Chaudhry is to retire on 11 December, 2013 and not any earlier. Apart from this unexplainable pressure, His Lordship was in great spirits. He was not a 'worried man' by any stretch of imagination.

The Chief Justice did not speak much, did not comment much. Only thanked and encouraged us to remain faithful to the supremacy of rule of law which is the cornerstone of the Lawyers' Movement. Meeting him in the spectacular Chief Justice House was a more than pleasant experience. My personal thanks to Mr. Awais Rana, although Mr. Anwar Kamal was little surprised to see me there."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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