Pakistan’s reinstated top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Tuesday called on lawyers to wipe out corruption in the judiciary on his first day in court for 16 months.
Chaudhry, greeted with a standing ovation, was restored by the government on Sunday in a dramatic U-turn that has boosted hopes of an end to a debilitating crisis in the nuclear-armed nation.
Millions of Pakistanis hope his return, after former military ruler Pervez Musharraf sacked him in 2007, will cleanse the judiciary, but experts warn that he faces huge challenges to bring about legislative and institutional reform.
“It is a matter of great satisfaction and a day of thanksgiving to Allah the almighty that after a long period the original court has been restored,” Chaudhry told a courtroom packed with lawyers who rose to applaud his arrival.
“There is rampant corruption in this institution (judiciary). This cannot be eradicated without the help of lawyers. You people should come forward to point out such cases,” he said. “I will request all of you, being officers of this court, to put your house in order first,” Chaudhry said.
His vehicle was showered with rose petals after swinging into the supreme court compound under heavy police escort as lawyers waved Pakistani flags and welcome banners, and activists released coloured balloons.
Chaudhry and 60 other top judges were sacked by Musharraf, who feared the Supreme Court would disqualify him from contesting a presidential election while remaining head of the military.
President Asif Ali Zardari, in a message on Pakistan's national day on Monday, urged feuding factions to put aside their differences. “I urge everyone to work in the spirit of tolerance, mutual accommodation, and respect for dissent and invite every one to participate in the national effort for national reconciliation and healing the wounds,” he said.