By Zia Ur Rehman
December 30, 2015
Sitting at a canteen at the City Courts on Tuesday, many lawyers were discussing the political party formed by a former top judge of the country.
Some of them welcomed ex-chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s move. They say that it is high time that the political vacuum be filled. Others see bleak prospects for his political party.
On December 25, Chaudhry formally launched the “Pakistan Justice Democratic Critic Party (PJDCP)” at a gathering in Islamabad.
He said the party would work on a 25-point agenda and its manifesto would be based on the provision of justice to the common man.
Chaudhry rose to fame in 2007 when then president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharaf had asked him to resign, but was deposed by the military ruler when the judge refused.
This paved way for a nationwide public movement against Musharraf and two years later, Chaudhry was reinstated.
Karachi’s lawyers, who played a key role in the “2007 lawyers’ movement” for the reinstatement of the then chief justice, have mixed views over the formation of the PJDCP.
Qadir Khan Advocate, a lawyer who was the Karachi Bar Association’s vice president when the lawyers’ movement started, said the 2007 campaign not only eventually restored the deposed judiciary but also founded a genuine political movement that compelled Musharraf to step down.
Lawyers say that during the movement, lawyers, civil society activists and political parties supported the cause, not Chaudhry as an individual but the former judge was still popular among the masses for defying the unconstitutional orders of a military dictator.
However, Khan said it was too early to comment on the future of Chaudhry’s political party.
“It is a fact that there is a political vacuum created by the country’s two main parties – the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz – and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has also failed to fill the gap,” he added.
“The PJDCP can fill the vacuum but it will depend on Chaudhry’s team and the party’s organisational structure.”
Political analysts believe that Chaudhry can exploit the discontent between the PTI leadership and the public.
Sartaj Khan, a Karachi-based political analyst who actively participated in the lawyers’ movement, said Chaudhry had chosen the right time to launch his political party.
“First, the government has completed its mid-term tenure and Chaudhry can now organise his party for the upcoming general polls,” he added.
“Secondly, the masses are frustrated with the PTI because of its inability to reach out to them, unsatisfactory performance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and lack of organisational structure. Chaudhry waited for the PTI’s crisis to emerge.”
PTI’s Hamid Khan and Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed, who had emerged from the lawyers’ movement, have been expressing their differences with party leaders with feudal and industrial backgrounds including Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Khan Tareen.
A section of political analysts, however, does not see any future for Chaudhry in the country’s political arena.
Manzoor Isran, a political analyst who teaches at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology in Karachi, said the country’s politics had now changed and become more competitive after the emergence of new trends and the former chief justice’s political party was unlikely to find room in it.
“In the past, many former civilian and military officials including Musharraf, Asghar Khan and scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan tried their luck in politics but did not achieve any success,” Isran told The News.
He added that after his reinstatement, Chaudhry had lost his credibility by using the media and court cases in a way that showed his political ambitions.
“Besides, the forefront leaders of the lawyers’ movement had gradually distanced themselves from Chaudhry after his reinstatement.”