Pakistani lawyers are split on the remarks made by Justice Qazi Faez Isa in the Faizabad sit-in case. The Supreme Court judge’s name has started trending on Twitter with some expressing support for him, while others being critical.
A two-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Isa and Justice Mushir Alam, disposed of the case on February 6 and ordered action against army officers who engaged in political activity during the 2017 sit-in, media houses who aired material inciting hatred and violence and said the military cannot censor the press.
The executive committee of the Punjab Bar Council passed a resolution against the verdict on April 20. “The towering principles of the law” were “mutilated” in the judgment, said the resolution.
Justice Isa “has ridiculed the armed forces” and alluded to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies as “rouge agencies”. The council has accused him of strengthening the narrative of “RAW, India and our enemies.”
The armed forces and intelligence agencies are fighting for the survival of the country, said the resolution. “Instead of appreciating our armed forces and intelligence agencies, Justice Isa has ridiculed them,” the resolution states.
The executive committee gave the example of Justice Shaukat Siddiqui who was sacked on October 11, 2018 as a judge of the Islamabad High Court for “targeting members of the judiciary and personnel from the armed forces without… any concrete evidence.”
The council members have asked for the removal of Justice Isa too under Article 209(5) of Constitution. The article allows the top court to take action against any judge who has been found to be “incapable of performing the duties of his office or has been guilty of misconduct”.
Justice Isa took oath as a judge of the Supreme Court on September 5, 2014.
Lawyers in Sindh, on the other hand, strongly condemned the Punjab bar’s resolution. “They have tried to sabotage the unity of the legal fraternity across Pakistan,” said members of the bar councils in Sindh in another resolution. They termed it to be “most unfortunate”.
Justice Isa has an “unblemished reputation for competence, integrity, and independence,” they said, noting that the judge’s “only flaw seems to be his readiness to speak the truth and unwillingness to take instructions in the performance of his official functions.”
Sindh’s lawyers accused the Punjab Bar Council members of being nothing more than “puppets of the puppet master.” The resolution passed by the Punjab Bar Council “strengthens the perception that there are unknown forces seeking to influence and pressurise the judiciary”, they claimed.
The resolution has been passed and signed by members of the Sindh Bar Council, Karachi Bar Association, Sindh High Court Bar Association and Malir Bar Association.
What is the Faizabad dharna case?
The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan staged a protest from November 5, 2017, to November 26 at the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad, paralyzing the capital.
The protest began after a change was made to the Election Bill, 2017, changing the affirmation of the finality of the prophethood of Hazarat Muhammad (peace be upon him) for Muslim parliamentarians who take oath from “I solemnly swear” to “I believe”.
The protest ended after the government gave in to their demands and reversed the change. The law minister at the time, Zahid Hamid, also resigned.
The court had taken suo motu notice of the protest and announced its verdict in the case on February 6. It expressed its disappointment with the way the government handled the case and the public perception that the ISI was involved in it.
“By ignoring an issue, it does not go away. The perception that the ISI may be involved in or interferes with matters with which an intelligence agency should not be concerned with, including politics, therefore was not put to rest,” it said. ‘Intelligence agencies’ here refers to the ISI, Intelligence Bureau and Military Intelligence.
The court said it would not “allow the honour and esteem due to those who lay down their lives for others to be undermined by the illegal actions of a few” and that “intelligence agencies should not ignore those who promote violence and hate”.
Therefore, it ruled that all intelligence agencies and the ISPR must not exceed their respective mandates. “They cannot curtail the freedom of speech and expression and do not have the authority to interfere with broadcasts and publications, in the management of broadcasters/publishers and in the distribution of newspaper,” it ruled.
Referring to the ISI’s statement that it could not provide information on the activities of the TLP, the court said, “Intelligence agencies should monitor activities of all those who threaten the territorial integrity of the country and all those who undermine the security of the people and the state by resorting to or inciting violence.”
At least six review petitions have been filed in the court challenging the verdict. The petitions have yet to be taken up by the court.