Pakistan court's activism raises concerns

Jan. 23, 2012 at 7:54 AM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The activism of Pakistan's Supreme Court justices in recent events has raised concerns, observers say.

The court's justices have been hailed in the past for their fight against the country's military rulers but their current judicial activism in the legal fight against the elected civilian government is problematic in the view of some critics.

They say the court may be overstepping its role, The New York Times reported.

The report says since 2009 the justices led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry have set down rulings that have drawn them into areas traditionally dominated by the government.

The Times said the court lately has also intervened in the standoff between the military and civilian leaders at a time the country needs stability to deal with a number of threats.

The justices say their new mandate comes from the masses going back to 2007 during the military rule of Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

The Supreme Court recently ordered Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani to testify about a corruption case against the president under a contempt notice. If convicted of contempt, the prime minister could be forced out of office. The court is also looking into a memo scandal in which it is alleged the civilian government sought U.S. help to head off a likely military coup.

Warning the trend could be dangerous in the long run, Muneer Malik, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association who had campaigned for Chaudhry, said: "The judges are not elected representatives of the people and they are arrogating power to themselves as if they are the only sanctimonious institution in the country."

Supporters say the court, faced with a corrupt and inept civilian government, is only strengthening democracy.

Chaudhry recently told a meeting of lawyers it is deep-rooted corruption that is curtailing justice in Pakistan.

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