As part of a three-pronged strategy, the federal government has started seeking support of bar associations against Supreme Court judge Qazi Faez Isa who is in line to become the chief justice of Pakistan ahead of the next polls.
On April 26, the Supreme Court – with a majority of 6 to 4 – allowed the review petitions filed against its June 19, 2020 order for the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to conduct an inquiry into the foreign properties of the family members of Justice Isa.
With this verdict, Justice Isa was vindicated of the allegations leveled in a June 2020 presidential reference that claimed that the apex court judge had committed misconduct by not disclosing his family members’ foreign assets in his wealth statement.
In their short order, the majority judges also quashed the FBR report that the taxman had submitted to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), the constitutional forum that can hold a superior court judge accountable. The detailed judgment is still awaited.
However, the federal government is not deterred by what some political analysts described as a big defeat of the civilian government and the security establishment and it has now evolved a multi-pronged strategy with regard to Justice Isa.
The government did not issue any official statement after the April 26 order but it moved a “curative review petition” which the Supreme Court Registrar returned by raising seven objections including one with regard to use of scandalous language.
According to sources, the government is also trying to create a divide among the lawyers on Isa case and has started to contact different bar associations especially those situated in Punjab for getting support for the executive’s view in Justice Isa case.
The Lahore Bar Association (LBA) has already passed a resolution to support the government stance in the case, noting that the LBA – the biggest bar in Asia – cannot stay away from Justice Isa case.
The LBA said the bar demands across the board accountability including accountability of judges. If needed, the bar will become a party in this case, it said. However, the resolution also demanded allocation of a special fund for lawyers in the next budget.
According to sources, the PTI government will use every tactic in order to stop Justice Isa from becoming Chief Justice of Pakistan in 2023. The government fears that Justice Isa may give relief to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, before the next general election.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) former vice chairman Amjad Shah claimed that two federal ministers are active to get support of different bar associations against Justice Isa.
He alleged that a drafted resolution is being given to the representatives of different bar associations for endorsement. Shah also shared a copy of that alleged resolution with The Express Tribune.
Shah said the government has planned to give funds to the bar associations which will endorse the resolution against the majority judgment in Justice Isa case.
The PBC former official said it is a right of the bar associations to get grants from annual funds allocated by the government in the annual budget. “However, the PBC condemns the government’s method to get lawyers' support against an upright judge [Justice Isa].”
The government had tried to gain support of lawyers two years back when it filed the reference against Justice Isa and a so-called Lawyers Action Committee was formed but the government’s efforts completely failed, he said.
Shah revealed that a meeting of the PBC’s provincial coordination committee will be held on June 5 in Peshawar. “The committee will definitely take up this issue. Lawyers will strongly resist such tactics.”
The PBC Executive Committee members – Azam Nazeer Tarar, Ahsan Bhoon, Syed Qalb-i-Hassan, Abid Saqi, Ajmad Shah and Hassan Shah etc – also visited Quetta recently.
One member of the PBC committee said all members have given full commitment to the Balochistan lawyers that they will stand with Justice Isa in every circumstance.
While the government is actively seeking lawyers' support against Justice Isa, two office-bearers of the PML-N lawyers forum have won presidential elections at the Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA) as well as the PHC Abbottabad Association.
Senior lawyers believe that the victory of PML-N’s lawyers proves that the lawyers stand with civilian supremacy. They said despite spending millions of rupees, the government cannot get effective support against Justice Isa.
“The government’s resolution”
The alleged resolution said three important questions that were asked from Justice Qazi Faez Isa by the SC bench have remained unanswered.
“The most important question was as to whether he was connected with his wife’s bank account which was used to remit the funds abroad.
“It is an elementary principle of the Qanun-e-Shahadat that if a party does not answer a question from the court, the presumption is that had he answered, the said answer would have gone against him.
“Does this mean that Justice Qazi Faez Isa is sufficiently connected with his wife’s bank account? The burden was on Justice Qazi Faez Isa to discharge which he had failed to do till date.”
It also raised objection to the SC’s decision and said one does not understand as to why the Supreme Court did not make the FBR report public. It was Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s own stand that the entire proceedings should be made public, said the three-page resolution
“If Maulvi Tamiz-ud-Din Khan case is referred to by legal experts as a judgment that brought disaster, what history will say about the judgment of the majority in the review petitions whereby the whole matter has been hushed up.
“Whether the majority judgment has not caused untold damage to the reputation of the Supreme Court of Pakistan?” the resolution said.