Why Justice Qazi Isa Is Under Fire?

Why Justice Qazi Isa Is Under Fire?
"I am contesting the case for the sake of maintaining the dignity of the institution and its reputation,” justice Qazi Faiz Isa conveyed to a 10-judge full bench on March 17 hearing.

Justice Qazi Isa has given landmark judgments in cases like Memogate (2012), Quetta massacre (2016), and it was his Faizabad sit-in judgment that made him controversial. How it culminated into a presedential reference is tied to a series of events. I recently came across a thread by lahoriiinusa on twitter that tells us why the Judge is under fire.

It all began when Supreme Court disqualified PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif from heading the party in Panama Papers case. Shortly after in early october 2017, the govt passed a controversial election bill amid ruckus in NA. The bill aimed at allowing Nawaz Sharif to head PML-N even after disqualification.

The religious circles were enraged specifically over the clause that removed affidavit pertaining the Finality of Prophethood. Through the Elections Act 2017, the words in Form-A “I solemnly swear” had been replaced with “I believe” in a clause relating to a candidate's belief in the finality of the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and it had been made not applicable to non-Muslim candidates.  Besides, Sections 7B and 7C of The Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002, which relate to the status of Ahmedis, had also been omitted from Elections Act. Over strong protests, the govt hastily reversed the ammedment and rectified the "mistake". However, the extremist elements were not appeased and began a sit-in at the outskirts of Islamabad. They demanded resignation from law minister Zaid Hamid and other responsible people.

On 23 November 2017, a supreme court bench comprising Justice Qazi Faiz Isa and Justice Mushir Alam took up a "suo motu notice of the chronic traffic congestion and road-block" caused by the sit-in in Faizabad.

The government made several attempts to disperse the crowds but in vain. PM Abbasi met with COAS on November 26, 2017, and civil-military huddle decided not to use direct force but iniate a dialogue. Army would not use force against its own people, COAS was quoted to have said according to media reports.

Subsequently, a 6-point agreement was reached with clerics over army's intervention. Two controversies marred the agreement:

1. Gen Faiz Hameed of the ISI signed as ‘guarantor’.

2. DG Rangers Punjab, MGen Azhar Naveed was videod distributing cash among the protesters. The pictures circulated all over the media.

The army-brokered agreement was an utter defeat of the government as evident from underlying stipulations. Law minister resigned, government itself had to compensate for losses to property, all protesters who were jailed were to be released and inquiry was to be conducted over the failed Nov 25 operation.

The agreement revealed how blurry were the lines of authority between civil and establishment spheres.

At the second hearing of the Faizabad sit-in case, police presented its first report on the operation. The report identified media's fault for leaking and thus alerting protesters by disseminating information. On 6 January, 2018, the court ordered intelligence agencies (ISI and IB) to submit their reports and criticized them for their lack of cooperation. Justice Isa threatened to summon the ISI chief if the court orders were not followed.

On 20th March, the court dismissed a report prepared by ISI as un-satisfactory and ordered the arrest of Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Justice Isa passed harsh remarks against the ISI and called them in-competent and ill-informed. 10 days later, SC admitted an year-old petition against Justice Qazi Faiz Isa by one Riaz Hanif Rahi. The petition sought to remove Justice Isa from the SC. On 4 April, the petition was dismissed as baseless. However, worth noting is the 11th hour entry of Barrister Ali Zafar (pro-establishment member of bar and currently PTI minister) in favor of the petition.

Meanwhile the Faizabad sit-in case continued and on 23rd November, exactly one year after the case was taken up, the court reserved its judgement and issued the verdict on February 6, 2019. The verdict was a damning indictment of the govt, opposition, media and the armed forces. In its conclusions to the judgement, the court directed the federal and provincial governments to monitor and prosecute those advocating hate, extremism and terrorism, and also ordered─ through the defence ministry and respective chiefs of the armed forces ─ to initiate action against armed forces' personnel found to have violated their oath. The judgement also noted that the Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has also taken to commenting on political matters and said that the military must never be perceived to support a particular political party, faction or politician.

After much delibration, on 11 April, the (new) PTI govt asked SC to set aside the verdict. This request was condemned across the country as an attempt to influence the courts. Soon reports began to surface that the government was preparing to file a reference against him, Justice Faiz Isa wrote to president Alvi seeking clarification.

The next day, the supreme judicial council finally removed doubt about the references by issuing notices to the govt. Civil society and other circles have come in support to the controversial judge.

"It’s been two years and not figment of my imagination that I and my entire family have been defamed and maligned,” Justice Isa has said.
Founding Editor

The writer is founding editor of NayaDaur Media. Formerly, he was editor of Daily Times, The Friday Times and a broadcaster at Capital TV and Express News. He is the author of Delhi By Heart, The Fractious Path and Being Pakistani: Society, Culture and the Arts.