Manipulation, Turmoil in Supreme Court Reflects Establishment Control of Pak Judiciary

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Seventy-seven years after independence, Pakistan’s civilian institutions are still not strong enough to withstand the omnipotent military establishment. The abrupt resignation of two Supreme Court judges, one of whom was next in line to be chief justice is an ominous sign.

On January 11, 2024, Justice Ijazul Ahsan resigned stating he no longer wished to continue as a judge of the Supreme Court. Justice Ahsan was slated to take over as Chief Justice in October 2024 upon the retirement of Chief Justice Faez Isa. Ahsan’s resignation followed the abrupt departure of another Supreme Court judge, Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi. Justice Naqvi was facing serious charges of misconduct and possible corruption at the time he chose to resign.

In a long thread on twitter, Reema Omer, Legal Advisor (South Asia), International Commission of Jurists wrote about Justice Ahsan’s resignation providing a snapshot into his contribution to Pakistan’s constitutional and public interest jurisprudence that included cases targeting Nawaz Sharif and supporting Imran Khan. It appears that even before returning to power, Nawaz Sharif is seeking to extract his pound of flesh — Nawaz has a history of trying to curtail the power of the top judiciary.

In a warning an editorial in Dawn noted, “The turmoil within the court has the potential of making it a very controversial place. Many a chief justice has, in the past, played politics and/ or run the judiciary as an autocrat: making benches of their choice and sidelining judges who disagreed. If the incumbent wants to stand apart from such antecedents, the Supreme Court should have an environment where different judges with different views feel equally welcome. A court which sidelines or silences dissent cannot be expected to do justice.”

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Author: Nasim Hussain