In what appears to be a widening judicial crisis, the President of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, called Azad Kashmir (AJK) by Pakistan, Raja Zulqarnain, this week restored the ‘dysfunctional’ Chief Justice of the AJK Supreme Court Justice Riaz Akhtar Chaudhry to his position and withdrew the reference filed against him. The action was dubbed “unconstitutional” by the AJK prime minister.
The president declared the orders concerning the judiciary issued by the acting AJK president as null and void.
Officials said that the AJK president cut short his visit to the United Kingdom on hearing news of Chaudhry’s suspension and flew back to Islamabad on Sunday morning.
He held a detailed meeting with Chaudhry at Kashmir House during which his legal adviser was also present. The AJK president also restored Azad Kashmir Supreme Court’s ad-hoc judge Sardar Azam.
On the other hand, AJK prime minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan has said that the president can neither restore the chief justice nor withdraw reference against him without his advice, a condition enshrined in the constitution.
Speaking at a hurriedly called press conference, Khan said he had not yet received any written notification concerning the restoration of the chief justice.
He said if he received such a notification, he will act according to law and the constitution.
He was of the view that the matter lay before the Supreme Judicial Council and it was its prerogative to decide. He said the CJ had been ousted on the recommendation of the SJC and he can only be restored on the recommendation of either the prime minister or the council.
Speaker of Legislative Assembly Ghulam Qadir said that the President had violated Article 7 of the 1974 Constitution.