Pakistan’s apex judiciary was never as gravely threatened as now from the non-state actors camouflaged as black coats. In the post-Justice Saqib Nisar era of suo motoism that ended with his retirement in January last, Pakistan’s superior judiciary was shrouded in cloak-and-dagger justice introduced by him to make judiciary dance to the tunes played by the be-medalled band master. However, there were few judges that could be counted on finger tips who resisted extra-constitutional pressures inflicted on them through the CJP. Such upright judges exposed the blatant interference in Pakistan’s politics by the intelligence agencies and as such did not succumb to arm twisting.
Thanks to late revered Air Marshal Asghar Khan who dared to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court to expose the involvement of the top generals and Pakistan’s exclusive intelligence apparatus that spent money as if it was going out of fashion to stem the land slide electoral victories of PPP leader Benazir Bhutto to have a government pliant to Establishment’s diktats. Notwithstanding his faults and failings, Justice ® Iftikhar Choudhry must be given credit for deciding Asghar Khan’s case and seeking punishment for those involved in anti-democratic conspiracies. It is another thing that the judgement has not been complied with so far and Pakistan’s most corrupt investigative institution FIA has been trying its best to close the case.
Thank God, CJP Asif Saeed Khosa knowing much too well, forces seeking closer decision to cover up their long catalogue of anti-democratic crimes and conspiracies—has stood his ground by refusing to close the case. It would, indeed, be a historic day when culprits found guilty of committing act of treason for violating the Constitution are accorded Cromwellian punishment to put the historic record straight. In the post CJP Saqib Nisar’s tenure upright judges like Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Shaukat Siddiqui really staked everything theirs to uphold supreme of judiciary, rule of law and sovereignty of the Parliament as source of all power.
Indeed, out of these judges Justice Qazi Faez Isa has emerged as the major defiant force as a thorn for the powers that be exposing himself to the wrath of the Establishment that has let lose its non-state actors in the legal community to demand sacking of Justice Isa for exposing the illicit, anti-democratic and extra-constitutional machinations of the intelligence apparatus.
The tragedy of the Pakistani Establishment is that it is outrageously selfish. Its policy of wheeling-dealing is multi-faceted, what a normal human being considers as national interest, is secondary for it. It monopolises patriotism and it has new interpretation of it as per its needs. In matters of governance, in political engineering and cloning to produce politicians of khaki breed or puppet for its chains has brought Pakistan to such a tragic pass that we don’t know where we are headed to while being in a state of abysmal flux and perpetual uncertainty.
Besides the Establishment opposed democracy and Parliamentary system that was chosen by the founding fathers meant for establishing a secular and egalitarian society guaranteeing equality to all its citizens irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender with no involvement of religion in the business of the state shutting doors permanently on those retrogressive elements who had opposed Quaid-e-Azam and Muslim League in their struggle for Pakistan. Regretfully the West Pakistani Power troika comprising of the military, civil and judicial bureaucracy took upon themselves with religious zeal, to subvert strengthening of sound secular and democratic edifice to raise the populist scheme of Pakistan’s management based on the definition ‘we, the people,’ for a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Unfortunately a country founded by one of the greatest legal brains and through vote sure to be a democracy was waylaid by extra- constitutional forces and most regretfully our superior judiciary did not uphold the supremacy of law and sovereignty. Had there been an East Pakistani/Bengali Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and not Justice Muhammad Munir, there would not have been any doctrine of necessity or condoning of the actions of paralytic Governor General Sheikh Ghulam Muhammad from Punjab.
Indeed, there was no turning back from here, none of Justice Munir’s successors- except very few like Justice M.R . Kayani- stood up to defend the constitution nor did they have the courage to oppose dictatorship. During General Zia and General Musharraf’s two decade long illegal tenures, superior judiciary was used as a handmaid by the dictators to uphold their dirty machinations. Supreme Court judges became easily pliable with the exception of very few like late Justice Samdhani who dared not to carry out the diktat of General ZIA and gave Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto bail on merit in Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan murder case. It was Acting Chief Justice of Lahore High Court Maulvi Mushtaq who played most foul with Bhutto sahib, carried out Zia’s desire by sentencing him to death.
In this period of judicial darkness, there were others too who would be remembered in letters of gold for their defiance of General Zia. They were Chief Justice Yaqoob who gave a judgement on merit in Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s constitutional petition against coup, Justice Safdar Shah, Justice, Justice Dorab Patel and Justice Muhammad Haleem- all three from smaller provinces who acquitted Bhutto sahib while four judges from Punjab including Chief Justice Anwarul Haq upheld the death sentence. Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clerk and several other top international jurists’ dismissed Bhutto Sahib’s conviction as ‘judicial murder’— an albatross that continues to shame our highest judiciary as tainted. Then of course we cannot forget Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim who was among the few who refused to take oath on dictator’s provisional constitutional order.
Throughout we have seen how judiciary was forced to play second fiddle by the Establishment. More so now it has become more glaring. It did surpass all its previous records of stooping low in former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar’s tenure that left such an indelible imprint scarring further the image of Pakistan’s higher judiciary. While that being that, this digression became necessary to expose the dirty role of the black sheep in black coats in the Punjab Bar who are now acting as puppets on the chains of master puppeteers to malign perhaps last of upright, bold, courageous and honest superior judge of Pakistan Mr Justice Qazi Faez Isa and demand his sack.
Thank God, much like Bhutto Sahib’s case when three judges from smaller provinces stood up to expose General Zia’s conspiracy to eliminate Pakistan’s most popular leader as opposed to four from Punjab including Chief Justice Anwarul Haq who became part of conspiracy by upholding his conviction under pressure from Zia, the Sindh Bar Council, Sindh High Court Bar Association, Karachi Bar Association, Malir Bar Association and Balochistan Bar have strongly condemned the anti-Justice Faez Isa resolution [dated 20.4.2019] passed by the Executive Committee of the Punjab Bar Council. “We must express our severe disappointment with the six members of the PbBC who were elected to be the voice of the legal fraternity but have chosen, instead, to become puppets of the puppet master.” The condemnation further says: “Indeed, the resolution passed by the PbBC Executive Committee actually strengthens the perception that there are unknown forces seeking to influence and pressurise the judiciary and it strengthens the resolve and commitment of all genuine representatives of the legal fraternity to counter and resist all such moves.”
The PbBC’s executive committee’s adoption of the resolution demanding the removal of Justice Isa for his judgement in the Faizabad sit-in case in which he exposed the sinister role of country’s top intelligence agency in destabilising democracy. The Sindh Bar Association criticised the resolution, saying “it is unfortunate that the PbBC Executive Committee has tried to sabotage the unity of the legal fraternity across Pakistan”. “Most unfortunate of all, however, is the PbBC Executive Committee’s accusation that Justice Qazi Faiz Isa has strengthened the narrative of RAW and India by criticising the role of intelligence agencies in the Faizabad dharna judgment and its demand that he be removed as judge of the Supreme Court.” This Raw accusation is part of standard procedure used by the spooks to eliminate any one who threatens its extra-constitutional jurisdiction.
Indeed, there cannot be two views as expressed in the Sindh Bar resolution that, “Justice Qazi Faiz Isa enjoys an unblemished reputation for competence, integrity and independence and his only flaw seems to be his readiness to speak the truth and unwillingness to take instructions in the performance of his official functions, whether it be the Quetta Carnage Commission Report or the Faizabad dharna judgment.” Having known Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s antecedents, I share the popular view that he is an exception among the judges.
Son of Barrister Qazi Mohammad Isa, one of the founding fathers of Pakistan, youngest and highly valued member of the Working Committee of All-India Muslim League appointed on merit by the Quaid, his role was decisive to get Balochistan join the federation at the time of partition. Despite being of bluest patriotic blood, Barrister Qazi Faez Isa never used his historic clout to climb the leader of fame, pelf and power and be something without deserving. Unlike Justice (retd) Saqib Nisar, he always treated discretion as better part of valour and wisdom by refraining himself from ‘making headline-grabbing observations and his judgments read as if every word in them had been measured twice.’ It would be yet another lethal blow to Pakistan’s judiciary if the Punjab-based conspiracy against Justice Isa is allowed to succeed.
The views expressed in this piece are of the author and does not reflect the views of Surkhiyan.