Professor Anil Kalhan offered a nuanced appraisal of Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, credited with transforming that nation's Supreme Court, in a Dec. 9 article in The News on Sunday.
Chaudhry, who retired on Dec. 11, presided over the Supreme Court during an especially dynamic period in Pakistan’s history, Kalhan said in the interview with the weekly news magazine. Chaudhry became chief justice in 2005 and was suspended in 2007 by then President Pervez Musharraf who declared a state of emergency, suspended the nation's constitution and sparked massive protests. The groundswell of support for Chaudhry and opposition to Musharraf eventually led the president to step down in 2008. Chaudhry was reinstated in 2009.
Prior to his suspension, Chaudhry dramatically altered the court, asserting judicial independence from a military unaccustomed to having its authority held in check, Kalhan said.
But after being reinstated, Kalhan explained, Chaudhry took the concept of judicial independence further.
"What previously had been a conflict over judicial autonomy from the military has rapidly morphed into a conflict over judicial autonomy from an elected, post-Musharraf parliament," Kalhan said, adding that a court's independence requires "an evolving balance between judicial autonomy and constraint across a multiplicity of relationships and dimensions, including, for example, the relationships between the judiciary and other government actors, private interest groups, lawyers and bar associations, the media, the people at large, and, certainly for Pakistan, the military."
For Pakistan to establish an effective civilian democracy in the long run, Kalhan said, it would be well served by a judiciary that aligns itself with efforts to strengthen the governance capacity of a variety of different public and private institutions.
Kalhan is an expert on immigration, criminal law, comparative constitutional law and international human rights law.