International scrutiny of the Supreme Court

Published: January 29, 2012
The writer is a Lahore-based advocate of the high court and assisted Asma Jahangir in the memo case before the Supreme Court

The writer is a Lahore-based advocate of the high court and assisted Asma Jahangir in the memo case before the Supreme Court

In a press release issued on January 25, 2012, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) expressed its concern over the convening of the inquiry commission for the so-called memo affair. The ICJ, while calling for respecting the rights of former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, said there are legitimate concerns that in doing so the “SC may have overstepped its constitutional authority and that this action could undermine the ongoing Parliamentary inquiry”. Can the honourable judges of our apex court ignore the views of the ICJ?

A well-reputed international organisation whose responsibilities include ensuring respect for international human rights standards through the law, the ICJ has many internationally acclaimed jurists as its members. It is important that its views on this issue do not go unnoticed.

The global legal fraternity fully supported Pakistan’s legal community in its struggle for the restoration of judges. The ICJ was one international organisations which issued a number of statements from 2007-2009, in support of the Lawyers’ Movement and issued a particular one in 2009 upon the restoration of the chief justice. The growing international scrutiny and criticism of certain recent actions of the Supreme Court is thus disturbing; more so, because an impartial judiciary needs recognition from its peers abroad for credibility.

There has also been adverse reaction to barring Mr Haqqani from travelling abroad, even though no charges had been filed against him and he is not an accused person but only a potential witness in the probe ordered by the Supreme Court.

The political developments in Pakistan have also attracted negative international media attention. The ICJ’s observations must be seen in the light of what is being published in the international media which, interestingly, is drawing its analysis from quotes by lawyers within Pakistan. This only affirms the existence of a deeply divided bar on how the Supreme Court is conducting its affairs. For instance, in an article on January 23, titled, “Pakistan Court Widens Role, Stirring Fears for Stability,” The New York Times spoke of how the court has now “ventured deep into political peril” and faces “suspicions about the court’s impartiality”. Praising the iron-willed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who had initially championed rule of law, it says recently, “the court has taken interventionism to a new level, inserting itself as the third player in a bruising confrontation between military and civilian leaders.”

The New York Times attempted to give the arguments of the court’s supporters as well. “The court’s supporters counter that it is reinforcing democracy in the face of President Asif Ali Zardari’s corrupt and inept government,” it wrote. The paper quoted Justice Chaudhry as saying that the court’s goal was to “buttress democratic and parliamentary norms,” in an environment where deep-rooted corruption was curtailing justice.

But there is criticism from within the leading lawyers of the country. “In the long-run this is a very dangerous trend,” The New York Times quoted Muneer A Malik, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association who campaigned for Justice Chaudhry in 2007, as saying: “The judges are not elected representatives of the people and they are arrogating power to themselves as if they are the only sanctimonious institution in the country. All dictators fall prey to this psyche — that only we are clean, and capable of doing the right thing”.

Similarly, The Washington Post wrote a scathing editorial criticising the court of becoming the third force in a political power struggle. “Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry has had outsize political ambitions ever since he helped depose former president Pervez Musharraf. He has sought since 2009, to prosecute Mr Zardari for corruption, even though he enjoys immunity as president”.

One response to such international criticism could be: invoke xenophobia and claim that foreigners have no right to comment on our judicial decisions or to question the wisdom of our judges. But, as said earlier, the international legal community including the ICJ, as well as the international media, had strongly supported the movement for the restoration of judges. If their comments were welcome at that time, can they be ignored or dismissed now?

Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Shock Horror
    Jan 29, 2012 - 12:31AM

    It should be clear to all natives of the Land of the Pure that the comments made by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) are a direct consequence of a conspiracy hatched by RAW, CIA, Mossad, and MI6.


  • Uza Syed
    Jan 29, 2012 - 6:51AM

    Pakistani Spreme Court may have overstepped its constitutional authority —- what’s new about this? Can the honourable judges of our apex court ignore the views of the ICJ—–yes they can and they are and will continue doing so—-remember———they are the supremes!


  • Faraz
    Jan 29, 2012 - 11:47AM

    International commission of justice(ICJ) has lot of substance in it’s report and rightly so because present CJ consider himself as a only honest and savior of this country.this is the same thinking which prompt individuals to cross the lines provided in the constitution.the same problem is with our Generals.we have destroyed this country for short term benefits.let the process of evolution take it’s due course in this unfortunate country.Recommend

  • Pakistani Canadian
    Jan 29, 2012 - 11:48AM

    I am not sure why I should care what the ICJ has to say. I certainly didn’t care for what they had to say when our ‘honourable’ CJ thought himself a politician and went on long marches followed by idiots in black coats. His reappointment was entirely unconstitutional and illegal.

    The sad part of all this is that we always seek external validation for domestic issues. We’ve moved our highest courts just because of reports in American newspapers. The one thing I wish for Pakistan, more than anything else, is that we, as a nation, just grow up! Recommend

  • iamshakil
    Jan 29, 2012 - 11:52AM

    ICJ remarks and Op-eds in international media are a stigma on the uncalled activism of group of judges who think and decide like sisters as Asma jahanghir rightly said yesterday while addressing Shekhupura bar. I suggest Justice Choudhry should not try to become power broker while playing politics on judicial grounds.


  • Mirza
    Jan 29, 2012 - 12:19PM

    Even though the SC has always sided against the civilians and with the generals/dictators, this PCO SC has surpassed them all. As you said most people and lawyers have supported the restoration of these judges but now they are out of control to have one up on the elected govt. These unelected paid servants are acting like generals who have abused power repeatedly. Thanks for a very scientific Op Ed which deserves serious attention by the judges if they care to read!


  • Sameer
    Jan 29, 2012 - 1:20PM

    Who knows when Hussain leave Pakistan, he never comes back. So it is imperative he is not allowed to leave the country until inquiry is finished. After all, he had been accussed of treason. So it is essential we know he is involved in this treason act.
    It is true judges are not elected representative because if they are, they will most likely follow the wishes of the people rather than rule of law.So let them investigate to determine whether our elected representatives have broken the law of country since they are not above the law.
    However I am surprised at the level of support Haqqani is getting from American. I wish American support Bradley Manning and Julian Assange and I also hope ICJ also take notice of Bradley Manning case


  • Saleem
    Jan 29, 2012 - 4:03PM

    I think Asma Jahangir from the fear of loosing the case in court is now taking it to media. This lady will do anything to follow her verdict ( not necessarily correct verdict ) through. I saw the report of ICJ , its just another international pressure group made to justify some individuals. Did they have thorough hearing for the case , if not than who are they to get the hearing stopped in Pakistan courts ? I would request Asma Jahangir and her cronies to fight the case in courts and let the people see the reality. It is the right of the people to understand who is trying to write the fate of nation and how they are doing it ?


  • Zzzz
    Jan 29, 2012 - 6:07PM

    When the govt oversteps its powers, it is ok. If the military violates the constitution it is ok as well but why is t wrong to overstep its powers? If the govt is bent upon destroying the company and the people of pakistan are as usual sleeping, atleast someone has to come in defence of the country. I am not to judge whether the court’s actions are constitutional or not but i support the stick approach which the court has used to stop the govt from completely destroying the country.


  • Muhammad Farooq
    Jan 29, 2012 - 7:42PM

    In a normally functioning democratic set up the concerns of the ICJ may be relevant but in the context of Pakistan, we have to think twice before saying so. The Parliamentary inquiry would have produced no results given the fact that the opposition is weak and ineffective due to their own problems. One question; there are so many other issues where SC has taken suo moto notices – issues of far less significance; has ICJ ever expressed any concern over it? There may be wheels within wheels here who knows.


  • Tahir
    Jan 29, 2012 - 8:06PM

    One line from the ICJ and the rest of the article was from US newspapers.


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