Ifthikar Chaudhry started practice as an advocate in 1976; and was appointed as a judge in the Balochistan High Court in 1990. The fact that a Punjabi from Jalandhar became a judge of Balochistan High Court goes to show the discriminatory treatment meted out to the people of Balochistan. This is something which will not and cannot happen in any other province of Pakistan.
General Musharraf Takes Over
When General Musharraf took over in October 1999, many of the Balochistan High Court Judges refused to take oath under the new military regime. Ifthikar Chaudhry agreed and was nominated as Chief justice of Balochistan High Court by President Rafiq Tarar.
After the proclamation of PCO, on January 26, 2000 an order Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2000 was issued that required that judiciary take oath of office under PCO. Four judges, including Chief Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, refused to take an oath under the PCO, and therefore no longer remained part of the PCO Supreme Court.
Appointed to the Supreme Court
To fill the positions in the PCO Supreme Court Musharraf appointed other judges, including Chaudhry, to the PCO Supreme Court on February 4, 2000.
Musharraf’s extra-constitutional acts were legitimized by this PCO Supreme Court, and the Parliament elected under Musharraf legitimized everything including the PCO Supreme Court by the Legal Framework Order, 2002.
On June 30, 2005, President Musharraf appointed Chaudhry as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He became a Chief Justice at a young age and resultantly he remained the Chief Justice was a long time (till December 2013).
Style of Functioning
Iftikhar Chaudhary was more of a politician and less of a judge. His stint in Court room 1 ended on the same note as he played it for the most part; controversial and political.
He all along stood for favorites and loyalists, and there was never much subtlety to it. The media only woke up to it, when it was on the receiving end. Similar to when PTI’s Imran Khan realised sometime back that uncritical deference to all the opinions and decisions of the Court will take you only so far.
The Chaudhary court was a political establishment. Not necessarily in the partisan political party sense (although there was quite a bit of that as well) but in the larger sense of engagement and competing for power.
What Iftikhar Chaudhary managed to do with incredible success was to sell the ‘siege/war’ mentality to the media, to the public, to the ‘intellectuals’ and perhaps, most significantly, to the Court itself. The idea that the Judiciary was under attack, that conspiracies and intrigues plague its way and hence everybody needs to stick with it, and the Court itself needed to stick together. This explains the lack of dissent. All differences are to be ironed out privately, concessions negotiated within the Court, the final product, however, was when everybody signed the dotted line, like a Cabinet, like Central Executive Committees.
He transformed the office of Chief Justice into something that was, perhaps, never intended. The Chief Justice is like any other judge with some administrative powers. The Chief Justice has one vote like any other judge when he sits on a bench. However, Chaudhary became a leader of the Court, the symbol, the face, the patron-in-chief of the Court. To the extent, that he and the Supreme Court became one. Any criticism of him became an attack on the Judiciary itself.
Hence, when the allegations on the good doctor, Arsalan Iftikhar, surfaced, the entire mainstream media and most of the opposition were quick to the defence — it was the evil government versus the honorable institution of the Court, a Court that was their most trusted ally.
The internal dimension of all this was that the Court was in the shadow of Justice Chaudhary, and anyone who disagreed with him, had probably crossed over to the dark side. This was the first Supreme Court in full public and media view. Not many dared to disagree, perhaps, from the fear that it might come across as betrayal, although Justice Chaudhary did not leave things to chance. One discretion that the Chief Justice has is in forming benches, basically deciding which judge would hear what cases. To an outsider, there was a distinct pattern.
There were a few judges who would hear an inordinate number of ‘high profile’ cases over and over again. And then there were those who would hear the less glitzy, routine stuff. Again, to a hypothetical sceptic, it might have seemed that there was an ‘inner’ cadre and ‘outer’ cadre in the court, forbidding thoughts.
Dr Faqir Husain
Dr Faqir Husain, the pleasant gentleman who it seems had the honor of working as the longest serving Registrar in the history of humankind, the cynic might say was also the Public Relations Officer (PRO) or perhaps, Secretary Information.
From making press conferences on Court orders to appearances in chat shows, Dr Faqir was the man to defend the Court, outside of the Court. He was ably assisted by powerful friends in the media, who hardly needed any prompting to come to the rescue. The alliance was pragmatic and based on the simple principle of ‘enemy of an enemy’, etc.
A Leader without a Party
The former Chief Justice was basically a mediocre judge but always a politician. Upon retirement, he is a leader without a party.
He is now trying to form a party on the pattern of former Chief of Army Staff, Aslam Beg, who also formed a think tank after retirement. It will meet the same fate as Beg’s organization, Friends.
He is also constantly trying to keep in touch with the legal community and playing politics. The latest example in this respect is the contempt petition filed in the Supreme Court on July 17, 2014, against PTI’s chief Imran Khant by two lawyers for ridiculing in his media outburst the apex court, particularly Iftikhar Chaudhry.
Contempt Petition Against Imran Khan
The petitioners — Islamabad Bar Association’s President Naseer Ahmad Kayani and General Secretary Chaudhry M. Naeem Ali Gujar (cousin of Ashraf Gujjar who was PML-n’s candidate from Islamabad)— have requested the court to initiate contempt proceedings against Imran Khan under Article 204 of the Constitution for “abusing, scandalising, ridiculing and bringing disrespect and hatred to the Supreme Court and the former chief justice.
The petitioners have cited several press statements made by Imran Khan in which he had severely the Ifthikar Chaudhry for his role in rigging the 2013 general elections. The statements amount to ridiculing him, they added.
Maligning the former chief justice and other judges of the Supreme Court, the petition alleges, amounts to obstructing the process of the court.
PTI chief is accused of bringing disrespect and hatred to apex court. It is unclear as to how saying something against the functioning of the former chief justice maligns the current court.
The Petition says that judges of the Supreme Court under the prudent leadership of Iftikhar Chaudhry struggled hard with the help of lawyers, the media and the civil society for the independence of judiciary.
The onslaught by the PTI chief to dispute the role of the former chief justice amounts to ridiculing and maligning the entire judiciary.
The petition recalls that Imran Khan was summoned in a contempt case by a Supreme Court bench headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry for his jibe against the judiciary which he had termed as ‘shameful’. But when Imran Khan was confronted with the proposition, he maintained that his remarks were not about the Supreme Court but against the conduct of the district returning officers and returning officers. “It reveals how he distorts facts,” it says.
Therefore, the petition warns, if Imran Khan is allowed to proceed unchecked, respect, honour and even life of the former chief justice and other judges of the Supreme Court will not be safe, the petition warns.
Arsalan Iftikhar Minted Money
In the meantime, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has failed to initiate any legal action under Section 114 (4) of the Income Tax Ordinance against Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, son of Iftikhar Chaudhry, for reneging on taxes and penalties totaling Rs 51.3 million.
The FBR, NAB and FIA are reluctant to take action against Arsalan reportedly due to the backing he receives from those within the government, despite records of corruption or nepotism.
Extracts of a report by a commission led by Shoaib Suddle and submitted to the Supreme Court in 2012 stated that Arsalan owns two companies – FAE (Pvt) Ltd and F&A Enterprises – and did not file tax returns in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Legal action under Section 114 (4) was proposed against Arsalan.
The authorities did not take any action against Arsalan, who was absent from duty from March 9, 2007, even as disciplinary action was taken and a case forwarded to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
In 2011, Arsalan applied for and received a passport, which shows his birth date as 1979. According to the rules, the following can receive free passports: “Wafaqi mohtasib, judges of the Supreme Court, high courts, Federal Shariat Court, chief election commissioner, auditor general of Pakistan, FST chairman, election commission members, their spouses and their dependent unmarried children up to 28 years of age”. Therefore, Arsalan was not eligible to receive a gratis passport.
On December 6, 2012, Arsalan admitted to the Shoaib Suddle Commission that he had accepted ‘favours’ from real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, but did not say why.
Arsalan said he visited Monte Carlo from London in July 2010, accompanied by Ahmed Khalil, a friend of Riaz’s son-in-law Salman Ahmed Khan, and Khalil’s wife Sara Hanif. Riaz claimed that he had spent Rs342 million on Arsalan, but only provided evidence of Rs5.58 million to the commission.
According to Riaz, Rs8.86 million was spent on the trip to Monte Carlo. The commission’s report stated that Rs 1.86 million had been made through cheque, credit card and electronic transfer by Riaz’s son-in-law. No evidence was received about the remaining Rs 6.98 million.
Arsalan provided income tax returns of two firms – F&A Enterprises and FAE. He declared income of Rs 2.8 million as a salaried person only for 2010 and 2011.
“Prima facie, investigation into the bank accounts shows deposits of Rs58.9m which means that deposits of Rs 56.1 million were disproportionate to his declared income,” the report said.
Riaz alleged that the assets included expenditure of more than Rs 337 million that Arsalan had extorted through Salman during 2010 and 2011.
Arsalan Iftikhar said the claim was false and misconceived. He said he had entered into telecommunication contracts worth Rs 900 million and profit was yet to be determined on these contracts. He also claimed to have paid Rs 2.1 million in tax for 2010 and Rs 3.5 million for 2011 on account of his business.