PM meets CJ today amid letter controversy

In Local
March 28, 2024



ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will have a rare meeting with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJ) Qazi Faez Isa today (Thursday) apparently to discuss the startling revelations made by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges about interference of intelligence agencies in judicial matters.

“The PM along with Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar and Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan will meet with the CJ Qazi Faez Isa and Senior Puisne Judge Syed Mansoor Ali Shah tomorrow (Thursday) at 2 pm. Meeting will take place at the SC premises,” a senior government official told The Express Tribune.

On Wednesday, the SC held a full-court meeting to discuss the contents of the IHC judges’ letter written to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Tuesday.

Six of the eight IHC judges accused intelligence agencies of using coercive tactics to influence court proceedings.

The judges penned this open letter days after a Supreme Court bench led by Justice Isa set aside an SJC notification that resulted in dismissal of IHC former senior puisne judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

Justice Siddiqui in his speech at Rawalpindi bar in July 2018 had also accused an intelligence agency of manipulating IHC proceedings.

A senior lawyer expressed surprise over the CJ meeting with the PM instead of giving an institutional response to the letter.

He also questioned if the senior most judges of the court were holding meetings with the PM after taking into confidence all SC judges.

“CJ Isa should have sought endorsement from all judges before the meeting; otherwise it will not send a good optic for the judiciary as an institution,” he said.

Interestingly, the AGP and the law minister also met with Justice Isa before Wednesday’s full-court meeting.

It is learnt that both the officials expressed concern about the timing of the letter, noting that the incidents mentioned in the letter took place last year.

There are reports that the PM will request CJ Isa for conducting an inquiry into the allegations levelled by the six IHC judges as well as former judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

Some legal experts believe that Instead of holding a meeting, the PM should have requested the top judge to form an inquiry commission.

They said there is no need for such meetings right now when the country’s largest political party, the PTI, is claiming that they have been a victim of the manipulation of judicial proceedings in the recent past.

Meeting with the head of the executive branch will not send a good message to other superior courts judges who are complaining about interference in their affairs.

A senior lawyer said some superior court judges may strongly react to this meeting

There has been an exemplary relationship between the judiciary and the executive during the term of CJ Isa. The executive authorities are not facing any trouble in any matter.

Abdul Moiz Jafferii advocate said six sitting judges have written to their seniors asking how to complain about what they cannot prove; when it relates to the establishment’s meddling in judicial affairs.

They have then provided details of the incidents that have occurred with each of them, and how they have been failed by their own chief justice, Aamer Farooq.

They have detailed how they brought these to the attention of the former CJ and Justice Isa when he was the senior puisne judge.
Jafferii said this is a desperate measure. It cannot be answered with a commission or a letter.

“Anything less than a suo moto on this issue with the full-court hearing the matter will smell like a cover-up,” he said.

He said the CJ has always remarked how people must bring proof and be specific; otherwise they should not make allegations of such nature.

“He now has as much specificity as is necessary. And six superior court judges [are] willing to submit themselves to an inquiry to back their claims. The claims are simple.

“[They claim] that there is a pervasive and all-encompassing attempt by the intelligence agencies to coerce judges; that such attempts have at times come about to offer support to the side taken by the IHC chief justice and that such attempts have been complained of to both the past and the present CJs.

“I don’t see how this can be brushed under the carpet,” he added.

Barrister Asad Rahim Khan said this letter has the potential to be a landmark event in our recent history as, according to him, at no point since its restoration has the judiciary been this marginalised.

“The courage of the IHC judges has lent the judiciary an opportunity to reclaim some space back from the deep state, and bring back some credibility to the justice system,” he added.

Former additional attorney general Tariq Mahmood Khokhar said it is futile to have any recourse to the SJC or the executive.

“They lack competence and therefore are not the appropriate forums. Also, the state is perceived to be the problem in the first place and remains as such.

“Many would see it as another cynical whitewashing performance. It cannot possibly redress judges’ grievances. The solution lies within the superior courts and under the existing law,” he said.

The role of superior bars will be significant in prevailing situations. Islamabad High Court Bar Association is planning to hold a convention for the support of six IHC judges.

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