Bhagwan Das is head of Pakistan’s public service commission

Islamabad, Nov 26 ( Retired Supreme Court judge Bhagwan Das, a highly respected name in the Pakistani judiciary and one of the very few Hindus to hold high office in this country, Thursday assumed charge as chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC).

Officers and staff members warmly welcomed him when he arrived at his office here after calling on President Asif Ali Zardari, who congratulated him on his appointment.

Bhagwan Das had thrice been the acting chief justice of the Supreme Court, becoming the first Hindu and only the third non-Muslim to hold the post.

The first time was in 2005 and then in 2006 when incumbent Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who is still the chief justice, went on foreign tours.

He again held the office in 2007 during the judicial crisis that erupted after then president Pervez Musharraf sacked Chaudhry, who was subsequently reinstated by a court order.

Bhagwan Das had refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order Musharraf promulgated along with the emergency Nov 3, 2007 and was among the 60-odd Supreme Court and high court judges who were sacked.

He retired in December 2007 and was reinstated in retired status in July.

Born on Dec 20, 1942 in Naseerabad in Sindh’s Larkana district, he studied law and also received a Masters degree in Islamic studies.

Beginning practice in 1965, he joined the Pakistani judicial system in 1967, became a sessions judge and a judge of the Sindh High Court in 1994.

Musharraf elevated him to the Supreme Court in 2000.

On Sep 28, 2007, the court presided over by Bhagwan Das threw out in a 6-3 verdict a bunch of petitions contending that Musharraf could not hold the twin offices of president and army chief.

Bhagwan Das was one of the three dissenting judges, holding that Musharraf could not hold the army chief’s post he wanted to continue as president.