Punjab govt yields to LHC CJ’s order on ATC judges

Province to appoint five nominated judges, but to challenge judicial order in SC

Hasnaat Maik May 24, 2024


The Punjab government has finally consented to the appointment of five anti-terrorism court (ATC) judges nominated by Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, sources told The Express Tribune on Thursday.

This decision, aimed at preventing any potential confrontation, comes after initial reluctance from the government.

However, despite agreeing to appoint the nominated judges, the government intends to challenge the LHC’s judicial order concerning these appointments in the Supreme Court. Previously, the Punjab government had communicated its decision not to appoint the judges through a letter to the LHC registrar, citing the need for meaningful consultation on the nominations.In response, the chief justice issued a judicial order dismissing the government's objections and directing the appointment of the judges. Furthermore, he cautioned that if compliance wasn’t met, the chief minister would be required to appear before the bench. The matter is set for a hearing on Friday.

On March 20, the chief justice had nominated District and Sessions Judge Khalid Arshad for ATC-I, Lahore and

District and Sessions Judge Asad Hafeez for ATC-Il, Lahore. Later, the nomination of Judge Hafeez was withdrawn and Irfan Haider was named for his replacement as the ATC-Il, Lahore judge.

Muhammad Abbas was nominated for the ATC, Sargodha from where ljaz Ahmad Buttar was repatriated. Similarly, Muhammad Naeem Saleem was named for the ATC, Gujranwala from where Natasha Naseem Sipra was transferred.

Likewise, Ziaullah Khan was nominated for appointment as the ATC judge in Sahiwal, and the name of Raja Shahid Zameer was put forth for his appointment as the ATC judge in Faisalabad. Several PTI leaders in Punjab have had terrorism cases filed against them.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior lawyer opined that it was an open secret that some powerful circles were not happy with the working of the LHC chief justice, whose name had been proposed for elevation to the Supreme Court.

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“If the JCP [Judicial Commission of Pakistan] agrees on his elevation to the Supreme Court, a wrong impression may go in the public. Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan will retire next year. He has expertise in criminal laws and the Supreme Court needs a couple of judges with vast experience in criminal side.”

Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan is among six senior most judges of the LHC, who have been proposed for appointment as the Supreme Court judges. Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa has summoned a JCP meeting on June 7.

According to sources, the government would want the elevation of Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan to the Supreme Court. Besides, some lawyers also indicated a tense relationship between the chief justice and the bar.

Over the past two months, the LHC chief justice had convened two full court meetings, during which a majority of the judges acknowledged that interference of the country’s agencies in judicial functions was a widely recognised “secret”.

The judiciary in Punjab had suggested an end to the executive’s involvement in the appointment and transfer of special court judges. This step is aimed at curbing judicial manipulation.

The Supreme Court recently sought opinion of the high courts, while hearing the suo motu case of a letter penned by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges in which they accused the agencies of interfering in their judicial affairs.

The LHC, in its response to the Supreme Court, submitted that there always remained more chances of “interference” in the ATCs and anti-corruption courts, where sensitive matters were decided.

“Therefore the high courts should be empowered to directly make transfer and postings of the judges of those courts without approval or interference of the federal government. The relevant provisions of the law in this respect [should] be directed to be announced immediately,” it added.


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