Justice Isa — One Man Army Against Undemocratic Forces

Justice Isa — One Man Army Against Undemocratic Forces
Justice Qazi Faez Isa once again issued scathing remarks during the hearing of his case on Wednesday morning. Addressing his fellow judges, the Supreme Court judge said that he was being persecuted by state institutions and they could all be in his place someday because the establishment (which he did not directly name) keeps 'files' on all SC judges.

Here are some critical points from his remarks made before the apex court today, which reflect the sorry state of affairs in the country.

'Fifth generation war against judiciary'
Justice Isa made a reference to the 'fifth generation warfare' narrative that is peddled by the state against dissenting voices and said that this 'war' was being fought against the judiciary and not the country's enemies. His mention of the 'fifth generation war' argument is significant because this is the first time a state official has spoken about the authorities' habit of crushing any and all forms of dissent in the name of 'national security'.

By casting doubts on the liberal use of this term by the powers-that-be, Justice Isa yet again proved himself to be an advocate of freedom of speech which is currently being suppressed in Pakistan.

Social media campaign against him
Justice Isa accused the government of running a social media 'brigade' against him wherein faceless trolls resort to his character assassination and run organised propaganda campaigns to tarnish his image. "There are three fake Twitter accounts in my name which I have repeatedly reported to the authorities, yet no action was taken," he told the court.
Justice Isa further told the bench that an individual named Abdul Qayum Dogar who was a complainant against him confessed in a Youtube video that he was agent of a sensitive institution.
It is worth mentioning that several quarters including women journalists of the country have complained of the same hateful online campaigns amplified by government officials. Instead of responding to these complaints, government officials had justified this behaviour, suggesting that journalists who are targeted deserve this treatment because they engage in 'fake news'.

'Pakistan being taken to gutter'
The judge also clarified his earlier remarks about Pakistan turning into a gutter, which he said were misreported. He said that his statement was in reference to such propaganda campaigns and he had remarked that Pakistan was being thrown into a gutter [by those behind this campaign], but it was falsely reported that he had called Pakistan a 'gutter'.

'Murder threats not taken seriously'
A cleric Agha iftikharuddin had threatened to kill Justice Isa in a video released last year after which a case was registered against him. Justice Isa alleged that the man was working at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan's Accountability Adviser Shahzad Akbar, but no investigation was done to take the serious matter to its logical conclusion and punish those involved.

"Police said that they would need the Interior Minister's permission before going ahead with the investigation, but later forwarded the matter to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)," he said. The judge added that his wife then requested the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) to investigate the threats to his life, but the demand fell on deaf ears.

Media censorship
Justice Qazi Faez Isa has raised the issue of media censorship several times. During an earlier hearing, he had asked media persons in the court to raise their hands if they were 'free', and no hands were raised.

In today's hearing, Justice Isa reiterated that media in Pakistan was being censored and the proceedings of his case are deliberately distorted. He said that what happens during the hearings is not accurately reported in the media due to the pressure that journalists face. He also said that he had not made the news of the presidential reference against him public, but the government 'leaked' the news, adding that the president gave three interviews in which he mentioned the reference against him. Justice Isa suggested that the government had planned a media trial against him which was made easy due to the state of censorship prevalent in the country.

Last month, Justice Isa had complained that he was barred from performing his constitutional duties when an SC order banned him from hearing PM Imran's cases. “My brethren are not my conscience keepers, nor am I theirs,” he had written while terming the order illegal and unconstitutional. The verdict was widely condemned by lawyers' bodies who had said that it violated the judge's constitutional right. The judge was not informed of the order beforehand and he came to know of the development through media.

Justice Isa is resentful because he has evidently been victimised due to his no-holds-barred verdicts and unflinching commitment to the rule of law. The space for critical expression has long been shrinking in Pakistan and those who challenge the status quo face intimidation. In a country where a Supreme Court judge is harassed by the state machinery, one can only imagine what happens to ordinary activists critical of the state's policies, especially those operating in the country's peripheries. What is however certain is that the man is not ready to give up. By standing up to undemocratic forces with remarkable clarity, Justice Isa is protecting the constitutional freedoms of every Pakistani citizen.
Managing Editor

The author is Managing Editor, Naya Daur Media. She covers counter-extremism, human rights and freedom of speech among other issues. She tweets at @AiliaZehra and can be reached at ailiazehra2012@gmail.com