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More Pak judges quit, Musharraf admits making mistakes
K J M Varma in Islamabad
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March 19, 2007 17:44 IST
Last Updated: March 19, 2007 22:04 IST

The crisis in Pakistan judiciary snowballed on Monday with a Lahore High Court judge and six judges of the lower judiciary quitting their posts as President Pervez Musharraf admitted committing mistakes on the issue but ruled out emergency or deployment of army to tackle the situation.

"The general elections will be held on time and neither will emergency be clamped nor will the Army be called," he said, in an apparent move to deal with the situation arising out of the lawyers' protest over suspension of Chief Justice Iftikar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Contrary to reports that he was trying to distance himself from the decision to suspend Chief Justice that has caused a nationwide judicial crisis, Musharraf said he was duty-bound to take action on a reference sent by the prime minister.

Making up with Geo TV whose offices were raided last week, he told the channel on a special programme that general elections will be held on time.

Justice Jawad S Kwaja, a judge of the Lahore High Court, wrote a letter to Musharraf saying he cannot perform his duties as a judge in an environment where a crackdown was unleashed on the judiciary.

He expected Musharraf to intervene and defuse the crisis but decided to quit after the March 17 baton-charge on lawyers in Lahore.

Six civil judges and magistrates submitted their resignation in Sindh province to protest the government action against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, officials of the Sindh Bar Council said.

One of the civil judges is Ramesh Chandra, who presides in Pannu Aqil in interior Sindh and is the son-in-law of Justice Bhagwandas.

Appearing on the channel's programme Kamran Khan Ke Saath, the President admitted that his government had made 'some mistakes' in the filing of the presidential reference containing allegations against the Chief Justice, who has since been suspended.

"There are legal responsibilities, which I have to fulfil. If the reference was being sent by prime minister, I am duty bound to analyse and take action on it," he said.

But he also appeared to strongly defend his decision, saying, "I am the President of Pakistan and he is the Chief Justice. This is nothing to do with friendship. We cannot be anchored in personal relations. This is far above the personal relations."

During the programme, which resumed on Monday, he said the attack on the television channel was 'stunning' and part of a 'conspiracy.'

The police inspector, who had led the attack, was strangely missing, he said.

The government has suspended 14 policemen, including the inspector for the attack.

He said Justice Rana Bhagwandas, the only Hindu judge in echelons of Pakistan's Supreme Court had gone on leave granted by Justice Chaudhry himself, and he would be made Acting Chief Justice (ACJ) on his return.

Musharraf said he had good relations with Chaudhry as the Chief Justice and his wife had been visiting him. During his earlier meetings, the judge had brought to Musharraf's notice allegations being floated in the media against him and sought the President's assistance to deal with them.

"I agreed to look into them three months ago. But the allegations kept coming. As the allegations surfaced law ministry and the prime minister's office prepared references," he said.

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