By calling ISI official, IHC judges making a point

Usually superior courts avoid summoning serving military officers

Hasnaat Malik May 25, 2024
By calling ISI official, IHC judges making a point


The clash between the judiciary and security establishment has further intensified as the Islamabad High Court has summoned a serving military officer – the sector commander of the central Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Islamabad -- in the case of the missing poet Ahmed Farhad Shah.

Usually, the superior courts avoid summoning serving military officers in any matter with some exceptions.

Former additional attorney general Tariq Mahmood Khokhar recalled that a serving military officer was summoned in the apex court bench led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa in the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) case.

“Justice Isa had directed two successive ANF director generals, both serving major generals, to appear before him in the Supreme Court.”

He continued that a Lahore High Court judge had also summoned a serving army officer in a missing person case.

“Justice Waqas Rauf Mirza had directed a judge advocate general, a serving brigadier, to appear before him in the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench.”

It is an open secret that there is a visible change in the approach of IHC judges towards the security establishment after six of them wrote a letter to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) seeking guidance regarding the “interference” of the intelligence apparatus in their functions.

Instead of giving them guidance, Chief Justice of Pakistan Isa referred the matter to the executive for an inquiry.

Read also: Nothing against agencies, only against them operating extrajudicially: IHC

When former CJP Tassaduq Hussain Jillani recused himself from leading an inquiry commission, a three-judge committee of the SC, led by Justice Isa, was compelled to take suo motu notice of the matter.

During the hearing of the case, CJP Isa justified his actions after six IHC judges penned the letter. However, he refrained from making any observation that would back the IHC judges' concerns.

In fact, on one occasion during the hearing, he even asked why the IHC had not issued a contempt notice to those interfering in judicial functions.

Although the suo motu case is still pending, the IHC judges have unanimously resolved to give an institutional response to the agencies’ interference in their judicial affairs.

This development is being witnessed in every bench of the IHC.

On the other hand, instead of cooling down the temperature, the government intensified the campaign against the IHC judges. In response, the IHC has decided to initiate contempt proceedings against those who were campaigning, especially on social media, against Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Babar Sattar – two of the judges who had penned the letter.

The IHC has issued comprehensive orders in both contempt matters.

When the government departments sought Justice Sattar's recusal from the audio leaks case, he not only rejected their applications but also penalised them with a fine. The judge even initiated contempt proceedings against the department chiefs, who had moved the applications for his recusal.

Read: IHC bars entry of intelligence officials within courtrooms

Similarly, IHC’s Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri while presiding over election tribunals raised questions on the results of three Islamabad constituencies.

The outcome of his order will have far reaching implications in other election matters which are filed in the provinces.

Likewise, different benches of the IHC are providing relief to PTI founding chairman and former premier Imran Khan -- irking the executive authorities.

Now in the case of the missing poet, Justice Kayani has raised serious questions on the conduct of the intelligence agencies while issuing a comprehensive order.

Interestingly, the matter related to enforced disappearance is also sub judice in the apex court.

CJP Isa had passed a comprehensive order in the case but later did not schedule the hearing.

The tensions between the security establishment and IHC started in May last year.

On May 10 2023, seven IHC judges wrote a letter to Chief Justice Aamer Farooq to initiate contempt proceedings against the spy agencies for interfering in their judicial functions.

Also read: IHC issues contempt notices to IB, FIA and PTA

They wrote in the letter that Justice Jahangiri was approached directly as well as through relatives and friends. He was requested for a meeting by the sector commander of ISI Islamabad. In addition, they wrote that a relative of Justice Jahangiri was pressured by the sector commander in Quetta to arrange a meeting between the judge and ISI (Internal) director general. Messages were also sent to him in an attempt to influence the outcome of the judicial proceedings pending before a bench that he was a part of.

The IHC judges wrote that similar efforts to pressure Justice Kayani through his relatives were made to Influence the outcome of the cases pending before the benches that he was a member of. “Implicit threats were made regarding Initiation of proceedings through the exercise of power by the executive in the event that Justice Kayani remained unhelpful and Inaccessible,” the letter read.

The IHC judges claimed that similar tactics to pressure Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir through his relatives were also used.

“On his visit to Quetta, he [Justice Tahir] was informed by family that [the] ISI was probing into his tax matters in an attempt to find vulnerabilities. [The] Sector Commander Islamabad and Director General (Internal) ISI also reached out in an effort to seek a certain outcome in a judicial matter pending before a bench that was a part of in which [the] judgement had already been authored.”

However, sources told The Express Tribune that the government had made attempts to ease the tensions through backchannels but the judiciary’s response was not positive.

A senior lawyer wondered as to what was there to discuss. “Should judges accept the interference? There can be no compromise. The malicious campaign [against Justices Kayani and Sattar] appears to be an attempt to compel the judges to settle the matter. This will not happen,” he added.

It has also been learnt that the government was waiting for the return of CJP Isa and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah to make efforts for the security establishment’s reconciliation with the IHC judges.

It will be interesting to see whether or not CJP Isa will play a role in the prevailing situation.


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