REPORTS appearing in Saturday's newspapers effectively scotched the rumour that the Prime Minister had managed to strike a deal with the Chief Justice in lieu of tamely surrendering to his wishes in the case of the appointment of superior court judges. The thoughts immediately went to the NRO verdict whose relevance to the re-opening of cases against Mr Zardari, the PM and other PPP leaders were openly questioning. For all the contempt-of-court implications of the rumour and for all its inconsistency with the undisputed resolve of the present judiciary to remain fiercely independent, it had refused to die down, till Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's observations had ruled out any such compromise. Mr Gilani also unambiguously declared on Friday that he only consulted the CJ on the issue of judges' appointment and there was no question of a deal. The CJ's remarks came on two occasions: in addressing the newly inducted Lahore High Court judges at Lahore, where a fairly large number of senior lawyers were present, and during the course of hearing a case. While hearing a case, the CJ admonished NAB Chairman Naveed Ahsan for not implementing the landmark judgment declaring the NRO null and void and put him on notice to make definite moves within 48 hours or face a freeze of his salary. Brushing aside the Chairman's reservations, the CJ pulled him up for not even writing "a letter to the Swiss government regarding the withdrawn cases", questioning him why some people were exempted from trial when all cases were re-opened. The Chairman promised to dutifully obey the court orders. Latest reports also indicate that NAB Additional Prosecutor General Abdul Baseer Quraishi, against whom the court had passed strictures, has been relieved of his job. These developments provide some relief to all those who had been worried about an unpleasant confrontation, going out of hand, between the government and the judiciary. Chief Justice Chaudhry's words spoken before the new judges reflected a mixture of confidence in defying any pressure, referring to Justice Saqib Nisar's refusal to obey illegal orders that could have made him LHC's Chief Justice; encouragement to take bold and unbiased decisions and feel responsible to no one but God; and a telling reminder, "Today the people pin high hopes on the judiciary and the courts will have to live up to that by their conduct." The people's hopes, he rightly identified, consisted in seeing not only independent judicial decisions but also speedier justice. In this iniquitous social and political milieu, all eyes are set on the judiciary to take the country out of the morass of endless crises. With the strength of the higher judiciary largely replenished, the expectation is that the huge backlog of cases would begin to shrink at a fast pace.