Saeed Shah

It was a singular moment of courage that turned Chaudhary into a hero for ordinary Pakistanis. In March 2007 he was summoned by then General Musharraf, into a room full of generals, and ordered to quit as chief justice of the supreme court. Chaudhary said no: the first time a senior judge had stood up to the men in khaki uniform in Pakistan.

The police then stopped Chaudhary from entering court, creating a televised drama in which security personnel pushed the chief justice around and grabbed him by his hair. An army of peaceful lawyers took to the streets in Chaudhary’s defence.

Chaudhary had delivered a series of judgments that embarrassed and undermined Musharraf’s regime and, with elections due that year, they did not want to take any chances by having an independent-minded chief justice. Ultimately Musharraf had to stage a second “coup” in November 2007 just to remove the judiciary. But, by then, fatal damage had been inflicted on the military government by the open resistance shown by the lawyers.

Chaudhary, a lawyer and judge from Baluchistan who had worked his way up the system, endured house arrest for the last phase of the Musharraf government. He has been kept in a state of suspended animation for two years, after the democratically elected government that succeeded Musharraf refused to reinstate him. All the time, he insisted he was still the lawful chief justice of Pakistan. His determination has been rewarded. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009