Pak govt makes U-turn over judge appointment
Pakistan's government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn yesterday, withdrawing the appointments of top judges that sparked a showdown with the Supreme Court and a fresh crisis in the country.
The row flared when President Asif Ali Zardari appointed two senior judges last week. The Supreme Court swiftly suspended the nominations, on the grounds that the head of state had apparently violated the constitution.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced the U-turn following talks between and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Gilani said that Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, whom the president last Saturday appointed to the Supreme Court, would stay in position as head of the high court in Pakistan's second city of Lahore.
Instead three alternative judges, Saqib Nisar, Asif Saeed Khosa and Khalil ur Rehman Ramday had been appointed to the Supreme Court, he said.
"The decisions that we took today are part of a consultation process, which requires meaningful and result-oriented discussion for the appointments as part of the constitutional requirement," Gilani told reporters.
"Tensions have now eased out," he said, adding the government will fill all vacant judge posts in the superior judiciary today.
Strained ties with the influential judiciary weaken the Western-backed government at a time of mounting US pressure on the country to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants along its border with Afghanistan.
On Monday, hundreds of lawyers rallied across Pakistan, denouncing Zardari and went on strike in the capital Islamabad and the major cities of Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta.
"The government had made a mistake by appointing judges without consulting the chief justice, which it corrected today", former deputy attorney general Raja Abdur Rehman told AFP.
Analysts said Zardari's eligibility as president could be challenged if he was found in violation of the constitution, and had suggested that a U-turn on the appointments was his only way out of the crisis.