An unprecedented confrontation between the executive and judicial branches : a chronology of key events

12/01/2009
Press release

The judicial branch of Pakistan was for a long time complice towards military power, particularly under the pretext of "State Necessity." However, under the decisive impetus of the president of the Supreme Court, Chief of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry, the Court has, since 2005, taken many decisions in sensitive areas to protect fundamental rights. This worried the executive branch, who have seen the decisions as worrying and disturbing for its political and economic interests.

- 2007 – March

On March 9, President Musharraf suspends the Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudry

President Musharraf demands, under the pretext of alleged corruption, for Chief Justice Chaudry to submit his resignation. After the latter refused, he is suspended the same day by presidential order for "misuse" of his office and is illegally detained in residence.

- 2007 - May

Several killed in Karachi during rival demonstrations over dismissal of Chief Justice Chaudry. Subsequent strikes paralyse much of the country.

The suspension of Chief Justice Chaudry triggers a wave of anger in the country and leads to an unexpected movement of popular protest. To discourage this popular movement, the military do not hesitate to use violent methods, particularly against lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists, political opponents, and anyone else who dares to express their support for the Chief Justice.

- 2007 - July

Security forces storm the Red Mosque complex in Islamabad following a week-long siege

An assault takes place on July 10, 2007, by military forces, on the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid), which results in dozens of deaths. The Supreme Court takes over the case, scheduled to be heard from August to October, to order compensation (dyat) from the government for the families of the victims and the location of missing students. This judicial process is suspended since November 3, 2007.

Supreme Court reinstates Chief Justice Chaudry

Judges of the Supreme Court cancel the suspension Chief of Justice Chaudry at his request in a historic decision on July 20, 2007. President Musharraf complies with the court ruling.

- 2007 – October

Musharraf wins most votes in presidential election. The Supreme Court says no winner can be formally announced until it rules if the general was eligible to stand for election while still army chief

On October 6, 2007, Pervez Musharraf is re-elected with a majority 56% of the members of the electoral college. However the validation of the new presidential term is disputed, and is still pending before the Supreme Court.

Ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto returns from exile. Dozens of people die in a suicide bomb targeting her homecoming parade in Karachi.

- 2007 – November

General Musharraf declares emergency rule while still awaiting Supreme Court ruling on whether he was eligible to run for re-election. Chief Justice Chaudry is dismissed. Ms Bhutto is briefly placed under house arrest

On November 3, General Musharraf suspends the Constitution and establishes a state of emergency. The impending verdict of the Supreme Court on the legality of his election (an issue which remains unresolved) has without a doubt sounded the death knell of the attempted conquest by the judiciary of a new independence.

The President of the Supreme Court, Chaudry, is immediately suspended and placed under house arrest by the army. Resistant judges are also immediately relieved of their duties, in complete violation of their statute. Ten judges of the Supreme Court are arrested by the army and intelligence services and placed under house arrest, some with members of their families. Thirty-seven judges are forced to retire for refusing to take an oath. An ad hoc justice branch is implemented in the following days.

General Musharraf promulgates the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO)

Meanwhile General Musharraf promulgates the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), which suspends the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of freedom of movement, assembly, association, trade, business or profession and speech as well as property rights. The PCO, just as unconstitutional as the declaration of a state of emergency to which it refers, allows the president to amend the Constitution by ordinance.

Musharraf resigns from army post and is sworn in for second term as president

General Musharraf resigns from his position as chief of the armed forces and appoints General Kayani to replace him on November 28, and gives an oath as the next civilian president the following day.

- 2007 – December

State of emergency lifted

Lifting of the state of emergency by P. Musharraf on December 15.

Bhutto assassinated

On December 27, Benazir Bhutto is assassinated at election campaign rally in Rawalpindi.

- 2008 – February


Parliamentary elections. The two main opposition parties gain a clear majority. They later agree to form a coalition government

Elections take place on February 18, 2008, the defeat of the party supporting President Pervez Musharraf, the Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), is indisputable. The two main opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by the husband of Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, as well as the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, triumph.

- 2008 - March

Protests for the release of Chief Justice Chaudry

On March 9, 2008, the anniversary for the lawyers’ movement, marks the occasion in Pakistan for a major demonstration demanding the release of the Chief Justice and denouncing the persistence of those in power not to reinstate the dismissed judges.

Parliament elects Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister / The house arrest of Chief of Justice Chaudry is lifted.

The house arrest of the President of the Supreme Court was not lifted until March 24, 2008, with the arrival at the head of the coalition government of the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani. Gilani releases all judges still under house arrest.

- 2008 - June

«Long march»

Four hundred thousand opponents to the P. Musharraf regime, led by lawyers and supported by the people throughout their peaceful march, travel hundreds of kilometres to reach the capital, Islamabad, from June 13 to 16, 2008. The marchers demand the return of the dismissed judges, the departure of Pervez Musharraf, and protest against the government’s inability to bring this crisis to a satisfactory outcome.

- 2008 - August

The two main governing parties agree to launch impeachment proceedings against President Musharraf

Mr Musharraf resigns. Senate Speaker Muhammad Sumroo becomes acting president.

PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari - Benazir Bhutto’s widower - says he will be the party’s candidate in the presidential election set for 6 September.

- 2008 - September

Asif Ali Zardari is elected by legislators as Pakistan’s new president

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