ad info




TIME Asia
TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Entertainment
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia

TIME.com
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Asiaweek
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

 ASIAWEEK.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL


Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards

TIME Asia Asiaweek Asia Now TIME Asia story

FEBRUARY 7, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 5

Law and Disorder
General Musharraf's crackdown on Pakistan's judiciary signals a sinister turn in his regime
By HANNAH BLOCH Islamabad

Ever since Pervez Musharraf took over Pakistan's government in a coup last fall, the general has governed the country in a strange sort of limbo. He is a military ruler, but he refuses to declare martial law. He has held the constitution in abeyance, but he tells the courts they should operate as usual. Last week, things became less murky--but more gloomy--when Musharraf issued a midnight order to the country's highest-ranking judges to swear allegiance to his 100-day-old regime. Supreme Court Chief Justice Saiduzzaman Siddiqui and five colleagues refused. They were sacked. Elsewhere in the country, seven other judges refused to take the oath and similarly lost their jobs.

    ALSO IN TIME
Cover: The New New Asia
The continent watched glumly as a New Economy rose--faster than Yahoo!'s share price--from Silicon Valley. Now, with a raft of homegrown start-ups ready to make waves, it's Asia's turn

Burma: God's Little Generals
Along the Thai-Burmese border, teenaged twin brothers lead an unlikely resistance against Rangoon
In Cold Blood: A commando raid raises ugly questions

Pakistan: Rule of Man
The sacking of top judges could irreparably taint the judiciary

China: Sour Smell of Success
An unfolding smuggling scandal in Fujian exposes a vast network of corruption that could reach all the way to Beijing
Ms. Clean: The nation's top graft-buster leads the charge

Japan: Black Knight
An ex-bureaucrat rocks the system with a hostile takeover bid

Cinema: Pavilion of Women in China
Cultures clash on a movie set in Beijing

  RELATED STORIES
TIME
Subcontinental Drift: Name-Calling
Why branding Pakistan a terrorist state is a bad idea

Subcontinental Drift: Should He Go?
The message to despots everywhere if Clinton visits Pakistan

CNN
Breaking news from South Asia

The judges' resistance deals a serious blow to the military government. Most Pakistanis have given Musharraf the benefit of the doubt since he took power. But by clamping down on the judiciary, he has unleashed a barrage of criticism from jurists, human rights activists and the press. The general's "Provisional Constitution Order No. 1," issued immediately after he took power, suspended the parliament, held the constitution in abeyance and gave the military government temporary legal backing. The loyalty oath--similar to one required in 1981 during the martial law regime of military dictator Zia ul-Haq--required allegiance to the provisional order rather than to the constitution. "I was told time and again that the court will work under the constitution," former Chief Justice Siddiqui told Time. "General Musharraf gave me his full assurance he would not disturb the courts. It was not possible for me to take the oath."

Experts say irreparable harm has been done to the legal system. "The institution of the judiciary has received a setback it will probably not recover from," says Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, architect of Pakistan's 1973 constitution. "There is no one left to protect the constitution because all the judges have taken the oath to protect the new regime," laments Rashid Rizvi, a Sindh high court judge who refused to swear allegiance to the government. In all, 89 of Pakistan's 102 Superior Court judges took the oath.

The order didn't play well abroad. "General Musharraf has removed his actions from judicial review," said U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin. "This is contrary to the path of restoration of civilian rule the general pledged to follow when he took power." Musharraf, however, seemed blithe. "Whatever has happened is in the interests of the country," he told reporters after the oath-taking ceremony in Islamabad. Later, the government issued a statement dismissing concerns about the judiciary's independence. "The basic structure, functioning and authority of the judiciary are entirely unaffected by the taking of a fresh oath," it said.

But it would be impossible for the courts to be unaffected. Historically, Pakistan's judiciary has been plagued by corruption, official interference and internal divisions. It has learned the hard way to cooperate with whatever government happens to be in power: whenever the court has asserted itself, it has generally been punished. In 1997, Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was ousted after wrangling with then-Prime Minister Muhammed Nawaz Sharif. The judge wanted to try Sharif for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the judiciary--which is illegal in Pakistan. In recent weeks, new tensions have emerged between the military government and the judiciary. A December decision by a federal Shariah court, which administers Islamic law, held that Pakistan should adopt elements of a regressive Islamic banking system. This reportedly displeased the military rulers because it would hamper efforts to help Pakistan's crippled economy back on its feet. The rulers were also upset by an anti-terrorist court judge's refusal to hear the government's criminal case against ousted Prime Minister Sharif because intelligence agents were present in the courtroom. The trial was transferred to a lower-ranking judge and began last week. When news of the judges' refusal to take the oath arrived in the courtroom, Sharif and his co-defendants smiled.

Observers found the timing of Musharraf's oath order suspect, coming on the same day Sharif's trial began in Karachi and less than a week before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the first of several cases challenging the military government's authority. Musharraf, skeptics say, wants to ensure that the courts rule in his favor when the cases are heard. It's unclear now whether the cases will come up as scheduled before the new Supreme Court, under the new Chief Justice Irshad Hassan Khan, or whether they will be postponed, perhaps indefinitely. If they are heard, "We already know the outcome," says human rights lawyer Asma Jehangir. "The judiciary is subjugated to the whims of army dictates."

The controversy is helping fuel skepticism among Pakistanis about Musharraf's intentions. If the judiciary is under fire, critics wonder whether the press and human rights could be next. If further crackdowns ensue, warned an editorial last week in Pakistani daily The Nation, "the regime will be branded by its critics as a total dictatorship." Even if such dire predictions do not come true, one thing is clear: Musharraf's honeymoon is over.

With reporting by Ghulam Hasnain/Karachi

Write to TIME at mail@web.timeasia.com

This edition's table of contents
TIME Asia home


AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from TIME, Asiaweek and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search

Back to the top   © 2000 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.