Pakistan judge wanted parliament dissolved: spy chief

ISLAMABAD Thu Jun 7, 2007 6:46am EDT

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's chief justice wanted President Pervez Musharraf to dissolve the national assembly and let him oversee the election months before he was suspended from office, the head of military intelligence said on Thursday.

The crisis over Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's suspension three months ago has resulted in the most serious challenge to General Musharraf's authority since he took power in a military coup eight years ago.

Chaudhry's suspension has sparked a countrywide campaign by lawyers and opposition parties for restoration of full democracy.

The timing is bad for Musharraf, as he has controversial plans to be re-elected by the sitting national and provincial assemblies later this year.

But according to Major-General Mian Nadeem Ijaz Ahmad, Director-General of Military Intelligence, Chaudhry had told him that Musharraf should call early elections.

"He was of the view that president should dissolve the assemblies, as they were becoming a nuisance and hold elections under the CJP (Chief Justice of Pakistan)," Ahmad said in an affidavit submitted with the Supreme Court.

"He wanted me to assure all concerned that he (CJP) will make things very smooth."

The spy chief said Chaudhry had sought a close relationship with the security agencies.

Political analysts, however, said Chaudhry had alienated the agencies by holding them to account for the disappearance of detainees after they were taken into custody.

Analysts believe Musharraf's main motive for ousting Chaudhry, however, stemmed from doubts that he would be supportive in the event of constitutional challenges to his re-election plans.

Under the constitution, Musharraf is supposed to give up his post as army chief by the end of this year.

The Supreme Court is seeking to decide whether a panel inquiry into the charges against Chaudhry should continue, or the case should be transferred to the court.

Chaudhry, who has emerged as a symbol of resistance to Musharraf, said the president and intelligence chiefs, including Ahmad, had insisted that he resign during a meeting on March 9, when he suspended.

Ahmad denied that Chaudhry was kept at Musharraf's army residence that day against his will. Ijaz Ahmed Shah, head of civilian Intelligence Bureau, in his affidavit said: "No one made any threat".

Although there have been leaks of the misconduct allegations against the chief justice, the government revealed on Thursday some of charges in a deposition by Musharraf's Chief of Staff, retired Lieutenant-General Hamid Javaid.

According to Javaid, these included fiddling expenses, harassing fellow judges and being biased in their appointments, and intimidating police and civil servants.

The government also alleged that cars purchased with government money were used by Chaudhry's family and that he obtained a plot of land in Karachi eight years ago that he was not entitled to.

Javaid's account portrayed Chaudhry as a publicity hungry judge, who insisted on full protocol and liked expensive cars.

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