Updated: January 4, 2022 7:31:44 am
Ever since he delivered a landmark verdict in 2019 asking the Pakistan Army and the country’s intelligence services to stay within their mandate, Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Pakistan Supreme Court, who is in line to become the chief justice of Pakistan in September 2023, has had multiple run-ins with the all-powerful establishment.
In the latest incident, Justice Isa’s wife Sarina Isa has alleged that four men in civvies had walked into her parents’ home in Karachi on December 29 and asked her to declare her political affiliations and other personal details in a detailed questionnaire. Two of the men had claimed to be from Military Intelligence, and the other two had said they were from the Intelligence Department, sent by the Interior Ministry, she wrote in a three-page complaint to the Federal Defence and Interior secretaries, and to provincial authorities in Sindh.
The Labbaik case
In 2017, the far right Tehreek-e-Labbaik party had staged a weekslong protest at an important traffic junction that had paralysed the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
The Pakistan Supreme Court had initiated a suo motu case in the “Faizabad sit-in” matter — and in a judgment passed in February 2019, a two-judge bench led by Justice Isa had raised questions about the role of the Army and the ISI in the protest, and in brokering a deal between the protesters and the government (then led by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the PML-N) that was an effective surrender by the latter.
An ISI general was seen in video footage distributing cash to the protesters as they dispersed.
“The constitution emphatically prohibits members of the armed forces from engaging in any kind of political activity, which includes supporting a political party, faction, or individual,” the ruling said. “The government of Pakistan through the Defence Ministry and respective chiefs of the army, the navy, and the air force are directed to initiate action against the personnel under their command who are found to have violated their oath.”
The Pakistan defence ministry filed a review petition, and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf — whose election victory in 2018 was engineered in no small measure by the Army and ISI — asked the Supreme Court to overturn Justice Isa’s verdict.
Also, a presidential reference was filed in Pakistan’s Supreme Judicial Council, an oversight body of the Supreme Court, making allegations of undeclared foreign assets against five judges including Justice Isa. Had the allegation been upheld, it would have potentially led to his removal.
However, in June 2019, the Supreme Court, acting on a petition filed by Isa and by several bar associations in Pakistan, threw out the reference, calling it “invalid”, and quashed all proceedings against the judge in the Supreme Judicial Council.
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Justice Isa, whose father Qazi Muhammad Essa played a prominent role in the formation of Pakistan as an associate of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, belongs to Balochistan.
He is a cousin of Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who served as Pakistan’s high commissioner to India in the later 1990s.
In 2016, Justice Isa headed a one-member judicial commission to inquire into the massacre of 90 people — most of them lawyers — in a suicide bombing at Quetta General Hospital in August that year. The lawyers had gathered at the hospital after the body of the president of the Quetta Bar Association, who had been killed in an attack that morning, was brought there. Justice Isa’s report was an all-round indictment of the security and political establishment, and their conduct in Balochistan.
Justice Isa will have a 13-month term as chief justice, if he ascends to the position in September 2023.
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