On November 3, 2007, the then Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, sacked several members of the higher judiciary — including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry — and appointed new judges. The move led to nation-wide protests by lawyers and unrest.
On Friday, in what is being described as a landmark decision, the country’s supreme court declared those steps “illegal and unconstitutional”.
However, it said the oath of office taken by President Asif Ali Zardari wouldn’t be affected. All other judicial appointments, including that of Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar as chief
justice, though were illegal.
The order declared as unconstitutional all steps taken by Musharraf between November 3 and December 15, 2007 — including increasing the number of superior judges through a finance Bill. It said the number of supreme court judges would continue to be 16.
A 14-judge bench headed by Chaudhry kept all waiting before finally delivering its verdict at 8 pm. Within minutes, the county erupted in celebration.
Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan, who was part of the lawyer movement, said the decision would “put an end to future adventurism and unconstitutionalism” in Pakistan.
Former judge Shaiq Usmani said the move, though “welcome”, would create “uncertainties”. For one, it would result in the sacking of over 60 judges.
Political analysts said it would strain ties between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), its ally the MQM and Nawaz Sharif's PML-N. There are fears PML-N will move to have struck down decisions made by Musharraf that allowed the PPP to come to power in 2008.