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The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad
"The latest judicial crisis couldn't have come on a worse day"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 15:00 GMT
Pakistan chief justice defiant

Swearing in of new chief justice The new chief justice is sworn in: General Musharraf watches (on left)


The sacked chief justice of Pakistan, Said-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, has defended his decision not to sign a new oath of allegiance to the country's military rulers.

Pakistan in crisis
He said what the judges had been asked to do was not in accordance with Pakistan's constitution.

"I am on record that I will work under the constitution, not under the provisional constitution," he said.

Mr Siddiqui and five senior judges were replaced after refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to a provisional constitution which bars the higher courts from ruling against military leader General Musharraf and his officials.

A new chief justice, Irshad Hassan Khan, has now been appointed to the Supreme Court.

Condemnation

Mr Siddiqui said his decision was a matter of individual choice, which was taken regardless of the fact that 85 out of 100 judges had taken the new oath.


"I salute those judges who have refused to take the oath"
Human rights lawyer Asma Jehangir


Justice Siddiqui had been due to hear a case next week contesting the legitimacy of the military take over last year.

Lawyers and human rights activists have condemned the move.

The deputy head of the Pakistan Bar Council, Sheikh Naeem Goreja, said the move had "degraded" the judiciary.

Human rights lawyer and UN rapporteur Asma Jehangir said it raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.

"I salute those judges who have refused to take the oath," she said.

The dismissals of the judges came as the much delayed trial of the ousted Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, finally got under way.


Whatever has happened is in the interests of the country
General Pervez Musharraf


The new judges were sworn in to their positions by Pakistan's President Rafiq Tarar, in the presence of the country's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.

"Whatever has happened is in the interests of the country," General Musharraf said after the ceremony.

Allegiance

Soon after taking over in a military coup, General Musharraf suspended the constitution and put in place a provisional constitutional order.

General Musharraf: Echoes of Zia ul-Haq


The order suspended parliament and provided emergency constitutional backing to the new military rulers.

In a move to consolidate their hold over the judiciary, all judges were directed to swear a fresh oath.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says the move by the judges comes as a major embarrassment to the military administration.

General Musharraf's action against the judges echoes a similar step by Pakistan's last military ruler, General Zia ul-Haq, who put in place judges loyal to his regime.

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See also:
26 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Pakistan invites legal observers
26 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Prosecution opens Sharif trial
26 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's troubled judiciary
22 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Military takeover challenged in court
13 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan's army and its history of politics
14 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Pakistan 'committed to democracy'
13 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory
30 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Justice under scrutiny

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