ISLAMABAD (AFP) — President Pervez Musharraf has said he wants “harmonious ties” with Pakistan’s chief justice, whose suspension by the military ruler was overturned earlier this month in a major political blow.
Musharraf said he accepted a July 20 Supreme Court verdict that reinstated top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Chaudhry’s fightback against his March ouster turned him into an icon of opposition to the embattled president.
In his first public comments on the case, Musharraf said he had personal relations with Chaudhry dating from before the judicial crisis erupted in March.
“We had family ties and hope to maintain same harmonious ties in future,” the official Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Musharraf as telling a ceremony late Tuesday at the offices of state-run Pakistan Television.
“I accept the judgement of the judiciary and honour it,” the president said.
But in an apparent swipe at Chaudhry’s high-profile campaign to win back his job, Musharraf said that “personal egos” should not be involved in national matters and that the judiciary should not be politicised.
Chaudhry’s supporters say Musharraf tried to oust the independent-minded judge because he wanted a pliant judiciary, which he hoped would allow him to defy the constitution and stay on as president-in-uniform past the end of 2007.
General elections are also due in Pakistan by early 2008.
Analysts have said that Chaudhry’s reinstatement could open the floodgates for legal challenges against Musharraf’s dual position as army chief and president, and also against alleged electoral irregularities.
In the first such case, the Supreme Court said on Monday that it would hold preliminary hearings on a challenge to Musharraf’s military role, which was filed by the leader of Pakistan’s main alliance of hardline Islamic parties.
Musharraf’s army links have emerged as the major sticking point to a possible power-sharing deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto after the pair held secret talks last week in Abu Dhabi.
Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.
A poll released Tuesday by the US-based International Republican Institute showed that a majority of Pakistanis want Musharraf to step down and are opposed to his re-election to another term as president.
Sixty-three percent thought Musharraf should quit and 64 percent were opposed to his re-election, the group said. The institute said it interviewed 4,000 men and women from 60 Pakistani districts between June 13 and July 3.
The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank, said on Tuesday that Pakistan is in danger of failing as a state unless Musharraf’s military government restores democracy by holding free and fair elections this year.