ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that former President Pervez Musharraf violated the constitution by declaring emergency rule in 2007, a verdict widely viewed as a rebuke to the retired general’s military regime.
The ruling, which prompted jubilant chants by the crowd in the packed courtroom, raises the possibility that the federal government could bring treason charges against Musharraf and further volatility to this unstable nation. The decision also invalidated judicial appointments made by Musharraf under a provisional constitution during the six weeks of emergency rule.
“I think this is a decision that has established independence for the judiciary in Pakistan,” said Hamid Khan, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, who represented the group that filed a petition against the emergency order. “It will certainly be a boost for our democracy and will block the way for any future military adventurer.”
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, an opponent of Musharraf, described the verdict in a statement as “most welcome” and “a triumph of the democratic principles, a stinging negation of dictatorship.”
The verdict was delivered by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who was sacked for the second time in November 2007, along with dozens of other judges, when Musharraf declared emergency rule, suspended the constitution, shut down television stations and imprisoned opponents. At the time, Musharraf justified his actions by citing growing extremism in the country, but many saw them as an attempt to ensure his political survival, given that the Supreme Court was deliberating whether to disqualify him from proceeding with a second five-year term.