Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari finds himself in a piquant situation after a Supreme Court order invalidating his predecessor Pervez Musharraf's declaration of an emergency two years ago, even as some 110 judges of the apex court and the high courts have been sacked due to the judgement.
These judges had taken oath during the emergency.
Zardari's awakwardness stems from the fact that the Friday verdict has also struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) Musharraf promulgated in October 2007 granting amnesty to politicians, bureaucrats and political workers accused of corruption, embezzlement, money-laundering, murder and terrorism and because of which Zardari and his late wife Benazir Bhutto could return home from exile.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had revoked the ordinance but was dismissed after Musharraf declared an emergency Nov 3, 2007. His successor, Abdul Hameed Dogar revived the NRO in February 2008.
Chaudhry, who was reinstated in March after a bruising lawyers' agitation, ruled on Friday that Dogar's appointment was unconstitutional and invalidated all his rulings.
Chaudhry has also given the government 90 days, as of July 31, to pass the NRO into law or allow it to lapse.
But, as The News noted on Saturday, "the real question is not about what happens on this front but whether the benefits taken under NRO are legal in nature; are they transactions that shall be treated as past and closed transactions even if the ordinance is allowed to lapse or will they become alive once the ordinance dies?"
Interestingly, among the others who benefited from the NRO are Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam that is a junior partner in the ruling federal coalition, former prime minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali and a host of retired army generals.
Among the judges who have been sacked are 15 of the Supreme Court, 41 of the Lahore High Court, 27 of the Sindh High Court, 10 of the Peshawar High Court, all five of the Balochistan High Court, eight of the Islamabad High Court and four of the Federal Shariat Court.
All of them had taken oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order that Musharraf had promulgated along with the emergency. Chaudhry and some 80 other judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts had refused to take a fresh oath and found themselves without a job.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that all these judges would be immediately reinstated.
However, even as the court invalidated the emergency and all of Musharraf's subsequent actions, it stopped short of censuring the former president as had been demanded in a petition on the basis of which it delivered its judgement.