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Six Pakistan high court judges allege intelligence agencies’ interference in judicial matters

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Six Pakistan high court judges allege intelligence agencies’ interference in judicial matters

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A view of the Islamabad High Court. File
| Photo Credit: AFP

In an unprecedented move, six judges of the Islamabad High Court sought intervention by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against the alleged interference in the working of the judiciary by Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies.

A letter signed by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges demanded the SJC initiate a judicial convention against such interference in judicial affairs.

The six judges who signed the letter, dated on March 25, include Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir, and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz.

The letter also advocated adopting a stance to ensure the judiciary’s independence through the convention. The SJC is the highest body authorised to take action against judges of high and supreme courts.

“We are writing to seek guidance from the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) with regard to the duty of a judge to report and respond to actions on part of members of the executive, including operatives of intelligence agencies, that seek to interfere with discharge of his/ her official functions and qualify as intimidation, as well as the duty to report any such actions that come to his/her attention in relation to colleagues and/or members of the courts that the High Court supervises,” the letter stated.

It goes on to highlight the interference of the executive and agencies in judicial matters, including the kidnapping and torture of the brother-in-law of a high court judge to put pressure on the judge regarding a case.

“We will also note that the code of conduct for judges prescribed by SJC provides no guidance on how judges must react to and or report incidents that are tantamount to intimidation and interfere with judicial independence,” it said.

The judges further said they “believe it is imperative to inquire into and determine whether there exists a continuing policy on the part of the executive branch of the State, implemented by intelligence operatives who report to the executive branch, to intimidate judges, under threat of coercion or blackmail, to engineer judicial outcomes in politically consequential matters.”

The development came days after the top court declared the removal of former IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui illegal, directing that he may now be considered a retired judge.

The verdict noted that the SJC proceeded against Justice Siddiqui on the “assumption that the truth or falseness of the allegations levelled” by the former judge was “irrelevant”.

Mr. Siddiqui was sacked on October 11, 2018, by the SJC based on a speech he had delivered weeks ago at the Rawalpindi Bar Association in which he accused the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — the powerful intelligence agency of the country — of influencing the court proceedings and forming Benches of choice.

In their letter, the IHC judges supported Justice Siddiqui’s request to investigate the allegations made by him.

The letter is believed to be unprecedented as it officially highlights the alleged involvement of executive and intelligence agencies in the matters of the judiciary and seeks the support of the SJC, the highest body, to take action against judges and provide guidance on such matters.

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