Pak army tries to corner Supreme Court’s tough judge. It is worried about 2023
Pakistan army is uncomfortable at the prospect of tough Supreme Court judge Qazi Faez Isa being elevated as Chief Justice in 2023Updated: Aug 03, 2020 18:48 IST
Prime Minister Imran Khan and the army’s joint effort to embarrass and oust Supreme Court judge Qazi Faez Isa is driven by the establishment’s 2023 worry when the judge, who has taken a tough line on the army, is slated to be elevated as the country’s Chief Justice. Justice Isa, who was elevated to Pakistan’s top court in 2014, riled the army brass and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf by his verdicts that have been unsparing of the establishment and Pakistan’s deep state.
A 10-judge bench of the Supreme Court on June 19 cancelled a May 2019 presidential reference to the Supreme Court Judicial Council that wanted action against Justice Isa, accusing him of concealing foreign properties of his wife and children in his declaration of assets. But the bench didn’t close the case and ordered the Federal Board of Revenue to probe the charge and send its report to the top court.
Last month, Justice Isa’s wife Sarina Isa filed her statement with the Federal Board of Revenue in compliance with the top court order.
But she isn’t giving up. Sarina Isa has also challenged this part of the top court’s order, according to a report in Dawn newspaper. It is the fourth review petition filed against the 7-3 majority verdict that ordered tax authorities to probe three offshore properties owned by her and her children. Three bar associations including Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association have filed separate petitions backing the outspoken judge known for his impeccable integrity.
Justice Isa, who has mostly let his verdicts do the talking, was equally unsparing when he challenged the presidential reference, wondering why his wife - an independent taxpayer - was treated as his dependent when she paid as much tax as Prime Minister Imran Khan or more.
Pakistan watchers say Justice Isa - son of a leading Pakistani politician and a close associate of Muhammad Ali Jinnah - got on the wrong side of Pakistan’s deep state when he ticked off the powerful armed forces, which have ruled for nearly half of Pakistan’s history and have resumed a more active role in politics in recent years.
“The involvement of ISI and of the members of the Armed Forces in politics, media and other ‘unlawful activities’ should have stopped,” the Supreme Court bench, which comprised Qazi Faez Isa along with Justice Mushir Alam said in the February verdict.
The judgment ordered the government to prosecute those spreading hate, besides telling the defence minister and the Army chief to initiate action against armed forces for violating their oath. It was a reference to Punjab Rangers director General Major General Azhar Naveed and then head of internal security section of ISI, Major General Faiz Hamid, in negotiating with the cleric to end the Faizabad protest led by a hardline Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik’s that paralysed the capital Islamabad in 2017 .
It wasn’t a first for Justice Isa.
In 2016, an inquiry commission headed by Justice Isa to investigate a terrorist attack on a hospital in Quetta that killed dozens of lawyers, had severely criticised security agencies and asked the government to act against extremist organisations.
Pakistan watchers in Delhi say the army was determined to carry out its plan to remove Justice Isa since he could challenge the authority of Pakistan Army and possibly become one of the power centers in the country when he takes over as chief justice of the Supreme Court in 2023.
It is not a coincidence that Farogh Naseem, lawyer of former President Gen Pervez Musharraf, who was inducted as law minister at the request of the army in 2018, prepared the reference against Justice Isa, putting the government on a collision course with a segment of the judiciary.
“There is a historical context to why the army wants Justice Isa out,” said a Pakistan watcher in the Indian government.
Gen Musharrafwas the last Pakistan ruler to have gone this far to browbeat the judiciary back in 2007 when he tried to pressurise then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to resign, drew up a presidential reference and then suspended him.
Gen Musharraf had to reinstate Chief Justice Chaudhary after thousands of lawyers hit the streets but imposed Emergency a few months later in November 2007 and cracked down on judges and lawyers. His government was routed in the next election.