Why Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s Trial Must Be Aired Live On Television
Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom famously said in 1924, that it “is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”. In the case of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, it is of even more importance that the general public can see if justice is being dispensed, or not.
That Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s trial deserves to be aired on live television is a proposition which will be incomplete without contextualisation of his predicament. Ailia Zehra mentioned in her recent article, ‘(Justice Isa) has evidently been victimised due to his no-holds-barred verdicts and unflinching commitment to the rule of law.’ His landmark judgement came in the aftermath of Tehreek-e-Labaik’s first Faizabad dharna, when he remarked, amongst other key observations that ‘the armed forces, and all agencies manned by the personnel of the armed forces, including ISI, Military Intelligence (MI) and ISPR serve Pakistan, and thus all its citizens. They must never be perceived to support a particular political party, faction or politician’. He adjudged men in uniform handing out cash to TLP protestors as a reflection of bias. He remarked in his judgement that Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency had a perception of involvement in matters which should not concern it per the constitution.
The chronology of the events points to this particular judgment by Justice Qazi Faez Isa that raised the issue of army’s neutrality across Pakistan’s governance and political setup. To have given a judgement that criticised the role of armed forces meant Justice Isa viewed them as publicly accountable. Many political analysts argue that the judgement could have triggered a serious dislike for Justice Isa at the highest echelons of Pakistan’s power pyramid, prompting the presidential references against him. That the judgement which criticised Pakistan’s powerful institutions was bound to draw an ire would have remained an assumption, if it were not for what followed after. Since then, Justice Isa has been the subject of a shady presidential reference aiming to remove him, been the victim of vile and abusive social media campaign, was barred from hearing Supreme Court cases regarding PM Imran Khan and has received death threats.
People should be able to see and hear a Supreme Court judge who has been alleged to have propagated and strengthened RAW’s narrative through his judgements. People should now be able to hear and see his side of the story about his family’s monetary affairs, which were alleged to be shady by PTI government. It is precisely for this reason that Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s trial should be televised, so that the general public can ascertain if he is receiving a fair trial. It is crucial, therefore, that justice is seen to be done, because a single entity, not a political party or political dynasty, is currently battling against government’s power structure. And television is manifestly a good way to let people see justice being done in a court setting.
The story of the Presidential reference initiated against Justice Isa by PTI government also cuts a sorry figure. The Supreme Court has itself termed that President Arif Alvi’s reference “suffered with multiple defects”. It stated that since there were no valid authorisations for the investigation, tax records of Justice Isa were illegally accessed. The effort to pin down Justice Isa has already been marred by distortions. The argument often made against televised public hearing is that TV cameras could influence and distort the legal process, and witnesses might find it stressful. Like most scenarios in the land of the pure, the exact opposite of this argument will be the outcome. In other words, Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s legal process cannot suffer from any distortions more damaging than the ones it already has. Instead, its transparency public consumption is going to increase when the eyes of Pakistanis are glued to his hearing, in real time, which is supposed to probe sources of his family’s properties.
For better or for worse, I believe let’s give him the public hearing he’s demanding and let the people decide whether or not justice was done.
The writer is co-founder Future of Pakistan Conference and a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science.