A quest for personal glory or strength of an institution?
By Saeed Minhas
ISLAMABAD: Preceded by kangaroo, jiyala and Dogar courts, the Chaudhry court is certainly the product of a months-long lawyers’ movement that shook not only the power corridors of the country, but also washed away several stigmas – such as the ‘doctrine of necessity’ and ‘immunity for dictators’ – from the face of our judiciary, and to some extent, the media.
Lawyers throughout the country have every right to celebrate their achievement, while the higher judiciary should now be assessing the strength and reach of their new-found machoism.
Meanwhile, huffed-and-puffed masses are questioning if that was all. “Was the lawyers’ movement meant to dethrone some and re-crown others or was it meant to strengthen institutions to build a transparent and participatory form of government, to ensure cheaper and quick justice and determine the limits and parameters of laws, so that all institutions work not only in unison but under a framework for the constitutional rights and responsibilities of the citizenry?” they ask.
The appointment of judges to the higher judiciary, in addition to other confrontations, has remained a lingering issue since the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Delay in this context hindered the implementation of the chief justice’s new judicial policy announced in March 2009 to come into effect in June 2009.
Following a knockout punch to the executive and the selection of ‘my lords’ from known chambers, the masses are now hoping that backlog would vanish and ‘my lords’ would deliver justice instead of only making public speeches about justice.
Unfortunately, some leading faces of the lawyers’ movement seem to have come under fire for taking millions from industrialists and businessmen in trouble. But Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan says there is no harm in taking millions of rupees in fees for a guest appearance for clients at the Supreme Court.
All wealthy “justice-seekers” appear now to be rallying around these leading figures of the lawyers’ movement: Haris Steel Mills went from Aitzaz to Khosa to Babar Awan, while Khanani and Kalia have landed Munir A Malik’s services for Rs 50 million to bail them out of the jaws of Rehman Malik’s ministry. However, Munir A Malik claims he was only given Rs 4 million.
Similarly, Justice (r) Tariq Mehmood was hired on good terms and conditions to represent the Ministry of Industries in the Supreme Court to defend a Pakistan Steel Mills case.
All these figures have lost much of their business and are duly getting their hard-earned compensation by selling their services. Unfortunately for all those 100-odd ordinary civilians who lost their lives during the marathon rallies of the lawyers’ movement, the Islamabad district court blast and the May 12 carnage in Karachi, not a single of these leading figures or ‘my lords’ have bothered to visit their families or take suo motu notice to ensure that those unsung heroes at least get a memorial if not free education for their children or some other form of compensation, says a man who lost both his legs in the Islamabad blast, Dr Israr Shah.
Former civil judge Saeed Khurshid might be another example of this neglect, as several of the leading lawyers don’t even know that his second resignation was tendered in protest at the “self-serving attitude” of the higher judiciary. Those burnt alive in Karachi and Sahiwal have never been mentioned by any of these towering personalities, who are busy fighting for their powers or hefty fees, says Khurshid.
Apart from all these things, what lies ahead in terms of delivery of justice is the realisation amongst the legal fraternity that the higher judiciary should lay down a path the future judiciary can follow, rather than let justice hinge on personalities. They fear that otherwise, all may crumble like a house of cards once the personality-driven SC approaches December 2013 – the year the chief justice reaches his age of superannuation. “This dichotomy of self service and slogans of institution building should end now just like they did in 2000 when they termed Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal legal by saying that self-service cannot be allowed,” says Khurshid.
While the new judicial policy has so far led to a marginal decrease in SC backlog – from 19,055 cases to 18,312 – there has been a considerable increase in high courts of Lahore, from 84,708 cases to 110,110; Sindh, from 18,571 cases to 29,414; Peshawar, from 10,362 cases to 14,522; and Balochistan, from 4,160 cases to 4,893. The lower judiciary – ranked among the top 10 most corrupt departments of the country, as per Transparency International – has almost two million cases pending.
There is no mention of the Human Rights Cell in the CrPC, yet it is functioning in the Supreme Court. Why the matter cannot be sent to parliament for consideration is something several leading lawyers fail to respond to. The same cell was offered to former civil judge Saeed Khurshid when he was asked to rejoin the judiciary by the CJP, informed our moles. But Saeed refused to accept this on the pretext that his struggle was not for personal glory. He said it was rather for institution building. Whether his dream will come true is a big question for our rejuvenated judicial supremos to answer.