The judicial crisis in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) ended on Saturday following the appointment of new chief judge for the region’s apex court.
According to a notification issued from the Prime Minister Secretariat, Justice Rana Mohammad Arshad Khan, a former judge of the Lahore High Court, has been appointed as the chief judge of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court (SAC). “Justice Khan will take oath of his office on Feb 8, 2012,” it said.
The position of chief judge fell vacant after Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi’s contract expired last month. The decision to grant an extension to Abbasi was revoked by the G-B government after it developed differences with him over an extension issue.
Last December, the former chief judge of the SAC, Justice Abbasi, had moved a reference against a fellow judge who allegedly threatened the governor. According to the reference moved by Justice Abbasi, he was telephoned by G-B Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah on December 19, who said that Justice Jafar Shah had threatened his life and his property.
The governor initially sent a letter to the federal government for the extension of Nawaz Abbasi but later on the intervention of the G-B chief minister, the decision was revoked and Justice Rana was appointed instead.
Legal experts say that the method of appointment of judges for Gilgit-Baltistan’s apex court is not only against the established norms of an independent judiciary but also a burden on the meagre resources of the region.
According to article 60 (8) of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009, the chief judge and judges are appointed for a period of three years by the prime minister of Pakistan, who is also the chairman of the G-B Council.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.