Islamabad(TNS): Calls emerged from various quarters on Wednesday for a probe into allegations made by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges against interference in judicial affairs by the country’s intelligence apparatus.

127

Calls emerged from various quarters on Wednesday for a probe into allegations made by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges against interference in judicial affairs by the country’s intelligence apparatus.

Amid the calls, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa summoned a full court meeting of the apex court’s judges, with the session lasting a little over two hours.

On Tuesday, six IHC judges — out of a total strength of eight — wrote a startling letter to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) members, regarding attempts to pressure judges through abduction and torture of their relatives as well as secret surveillance inside their homes.

The letter addressed to SJC members — CJP Isa, Supreme Court Justices Mansoor Ali Shah and Munib Akhtar and IHC CJ Aamer Farooq and Peshawar High Court CJ Mohammad Ibrahim Khan — also questioned if there existed a state policy to “intimidate” and coerce judges.

The six judges also supported the demand of former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui for a probe into the allegations of interference by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operatives.

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) said today that the allegations required “serious actions by the judiciary as an institution”.

In a press release, SCBA President Shahzad Shaukat took “serious exception to the undue interference” claimed by the judges.

“Such issues should be addressed in a befitting manners and any apprehensions/ misgivings which might be in the minds of honorable judges should be adequately addressed,” he said.

It declared “unequivocally that bar associations, particularly the SCBA, will not tolerate any incidents aimed at undermining the independence, integrity, authority and functioning of judicial institutions”.

In an open letter, SCBA Additional Secretary Sardar Shahbaz Ali Khosa urged CJP Isa to take suo motu notice of the matter under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and conduct a “thorough and transparent (live) hearing” of the case.

He also highlighted a “recent crackdown on journalists and media outlets who have reported on these alleged interferences” and urged CJP Isa to summon prominent journalists across Pakistan to detail the “extent of interference and coercion that the free press is being meted to on an everyday basis”.

The SCBA official further called for a meeting of the SJC to be convened on the issue and “not only ascertain the way forward but also fix responsibilities”.

The IHC Bar Association (IHCBA) demanded the CJP hold a “transparent inquiry” into the matter and that legal action be taken against those involved. In a press release, the association said its cabinet held an emergency meeting. The lawyers’ body “strongly condemned the interference of one institution into the matters of another institution”.

It further demanded that the “judiciary ensure independent decisions according to the law and the Constitution without fear or danger”. It also commended the six IHC judges for their “courage and bravery”.

The association said that if needed, it would prove to be a vanguard for the judiciary’s independence and “would take every step needed for the supremacy of the Constitution and the law”.

“The IHCBA would not even hesitate from holding a lawyers representative convention, countrywide lawyers convention, strike, hunger strike and running a movement if needed for the judiciary’s independence,” it asserted.

The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) demanded “immediate action against those intelligence agencies and personnel involved in such nefarious activities and [that] they be punished for undermining and subverting of the Constitution and the law”.

It further demanded “immediate action by the SJC against those judges who cooperate with such intelligence agencies, thus playing havoc with the administration of justice”.

Condemning the alleged interference in the “strongest terms”, the LHCBA said it was a “serious threat to the rule of law and independence of judiciary”.

The body said that the current CJP and his predecessor — Justice Isa and Justice Umar Ata Bandial — “failed to act timely to avert this grave situation”. It further said that the IHC chief justice had “failed to protect his fellow judges and the judges subordinate to IHC”, terming his conduct “not appreciable”.

“We expect from CJP to act towards the protection of judges of the superior courts as well as the subordinate courts […] and to create conditions and [an] environment in which judges can dispense justice without any fear or favour,” the LHCBA said.

The Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) demanded that a judicial commission comprising three SC judges be formed to “investigate and probe the allegations and take firm steps to stop such interference”.

In a resolution passed after an urgent meeting of its managing committee, the SHCBA called for “institutional mechanisms to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, including measures to protect judges from threats and external influence and strengthen accountability mechanisms within the judiciary”.

The lawyers’ body strongly condemned any alleged interference “by the executive branch or operatives of intelligence agencies”. It termed the alleged surveillance of a judge through video recordings “the worst form of intrusion of privacy”.

“While we strongly condemn such tactics, we appreciate the honourable judges for the strong stance taken by them,” the resolution said.

The Balochistan Bar Council also called on CJP Isa to take a suo motu notice of the allegations. In a press release, the council expressed its concerns over the matter and said the alleged interference in judicial matters was “condemnable and unacceptable in any circumstances”.

The bar council also demanded that the Pakistan Bar Council convene a conference of lawyer representatives from across the country to decide on a plan of action.

In a press release, the Pakistan Bar Council said that the concerns raised by the lawyers should have been sent to the CJP as SJC is not the competent authority to address this issue.

It said that the allegations of interference and intimidation are significant, calling for a thorough inquiry conducted under senior SC judges constituted by the CJP.

“It is essential to reiterate that what is needed is not a trial by media but a rigorous and comprehensive inquiry/investigation conducted within the framework of the law,” it said, adding that the PBC was ready to support and cooperate with any efforts aimed at ensuring the integrity and independence of the judiciary.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council (KPBC) also expressed “concern and reservation” over the alleged judicial interference described in the judges’ letter.

In a statement issued today, KPBC Vice-Chairman Sadiq Ali Mohmand deemed the IHC judges’ letter “a worrisome development” and added that “interference in judicial affairs by secret agencies is condemnable.”

The KP Bar Council, he said, firmly maintained that “judges must take action upon the interference of a person or institution in judicial affairs” and reiterated that they will play their role in upholding the rule of law and defending the Constitution.

PTI calls for ‘impartial inquiry’
Meanwhile, a statement posted on the X account of former prime minister Imran Khan — who is currently incarcerated — “welcomed the six brave judges […] who have highlighted the alarming state of affairs of the higher judiciary” and called for an “impartial inquiry” into the matter.

“This letter with its two annexures, brings on the record the brazen and shameful interference of the intelligence agencies in judicial matters, which is a damning indictment against the independence of the judiciary in the country,” the statement said.

“The fact that the judges have been intimidated and coerced into giving judgments based on political expediency raises a lot of questions on the fairness of the courts and their judgments over the last two years,” it added.

It said the letter also questioned the “credibility of the state narrative with results to May 9, an event instigated within the IHC when Chairman PTI Imran Khan was abducted and dragged from the court premises by paramilitary forces, who stormed the building of the IHC”.

Highlighting that a “wave of political victimisation has been unleashed” against the party, the PTI said that “courts have been unable to assert their authority or dispense justice”.

The statement emphasised that as the IHC and its lower courts were where most of the cases against Imran were sub judice, “the fact that this court is under influence and pressure raises serious doubts on these cases as well”.

Separately, PTI MNA Gohar Ali Khan called for ensuring the safety of the judges who had written the letter as well as their families. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he demanded that an inquiry be conducted by a judicial commission.