There have been division benches with both male and female judges. However, forming a division bench comprised of only women judges allows the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to leap ahead of other courts in the country.
May 2 was a historic day when such a bench heard cases related to 73 petitions. This was not only warmly welcomed by lawyers and litigants who all stood up in honor of Justice Irshad Qaisar and Justice Musarrat Hilali – the moment was also described as ‘history in the making’.
Lawyers think the female bench will convey a softer image of Pakistan to other countries, proving Pakistani women do not fall short by any standards. Women from Pakistan can not only fly jets, treat patients and report stories. They can also give verdicts in court cases.
“Yes, keeping in view the law and order, it (female bench) could be something exclusive. But let me tell you one thing, us Pashtuns have always honored females,” PHC Bar Association President Ishtiaq Ibrahim told The Express Tribune.
According to Ibrahim, social norms in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) are based on strict cultural values which do restrict women. “But that does not mean we have restricted our females to their homes only.”
“There are Pashtun teachers, doctors, sportswomen, journalists, lawyers and even law officers representing the provincial government. This conveys to the world how liberal our society is,” stated Ibrahim.
He said the image portraying Pashtuns the world over goes completely against actual facts and the division bench exclusively comprising women judges proves this.
“This has never happened in the history of the country’s judiciary – there has been no other occasion of a division bench comprising two female judges exclusively, something which was witnessed last week,” said Barrister Bacha. The barrister was among the lawyers who stood up to honour the bench.
He urged women in Pakistan be provided equal opportunities. “I tell you, they (Pakistani women) are no less than men and are women of the modern world. I witnessed this when [the female division bench] was giving verdicts at the PHC,” Bacha said emphatically. “The women of K-P are not necessarily confined to the four walls of their homes; they share the burden of their men.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2013.
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