In a surprise move, Pakistan government on Thursday gave up its insistence on the trial of suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar M Chaudhry by a judicial panel and told the Supreme Court it has no objection if the full bench, currently hearing the judge's petition challenging the Presidential reference, hears the charges.
Court proceedings were thrown into turmoil as state counsel Mallik Qayyum told the 13-judge bench that he has been instructed by President Pervez Musharraf to inform it that the government was ready to withdraw its objections to the judge's petition challenging the Presidential reference against him.
During the six-week-long proceedings, Government lawyers had been passionately arguing that the apex court can not hear petition challenging a Presidential reference due to constitutional immunity enjoyed by Musharraf. They also doggedly defended the legality of the five-judge Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to conduct trial against Chaudhry.
Qayyum told the court on Thursday that the government is ready to drop its objections on both the counts. He said the government was even open to the reconstitution of the SJC as Chaudhry had raised objections to some of the panel's judges.
A surprised bench raised several questions about the government's stand and asked the lawyer why the move was not made before. They also said the court will now have to revisit the judge's suspension on March 9.
Chaudhry was suspended by Musharraf on charges of abuse authority, sparking country wide protests by lawyers that were joined by opposition parties, resulting in the worst political crises for the General since he took power in 1999.