The Curious Case Of Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui
Before Justice Qazi Faez Isa became a name synonymous with presidential references and the resultant back and forth between opposite arms of the state, a lesser known (albeit infamous in his own right) judge from a lower court was sent packing by President Dr. Alvi. Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s tenure as the senior puisne judge of the Islamabad High Court came to a dramatic halt in October 2018. The notification from the Aiwan-e-Sadr had come after a protracted tussle replete with Supreme Judicial Council hearings, multiple show-cause notices and opinions from Chief Justices( R) Khosa and Nisar.
All of this was set off by a fiery rant delivered by the Justice at a Rawalpindi Bar Association event in July of 2018. In a room full of television cameras and fellow members of the legal fraternity, Siddiqui accused the ISI of manipulating judicial proceedings. He provided no evidence for these claims and given his erratic-ness and the sensational claims he made, his speech managed to turn many heads. So much so that he was called out for misconduct by fellow judges and proceedings began.
So what went wrong?
Justice Siddiqui’s repertoire of judgments is so diverse that it may leave one scratching her head when trying to figure out his ideological leanings. From declaring Valentine’s day “un-Islamic”, chastising the Capital Development Authority for their failure to demolish illegal refugee settlements, helping Maulana Abdul Aziz secure bail, calling for President Musharraf to be tried on anti terrorism charges to excluding similar charges from Mumtaz Qadri’s case, colour is not devoid from His Lordship’s legal career.
In the months following up to his July speech he had penned opinions on the Faizabad sit-in and Bol/Axact case that had undeniably ruffled feathers. A handful of days ago Justice Siddiqui’s legal counsel, while arguing in front a Supreme Court bench, presented his client’s claims that state agencies had pressured him to go a particular way on the potential appeals that PM Sharif might submit and the case against Bol TV and Axact. He went as far as to name the officers that had approached him, although it was still his word against theirs.
What drove a senior judge to make these allegations? What pushed him to put his career on the line and make extraordinary unsubstantiated claims about the very state that he was representing? Was he privy to something unspeakable or was it just reckless malice?
And if he did feel so strongly about the alleged “manipulation” was this the best way to bring light to the issue?
As ordinary citizens, we would be remiss to not notice a trend when representatives of the state toe the line on some select issues. We need not look further than the Isa family’s pursuit of justice. Justice Isa is slated to become the country’s senior most judge in September 2023 and the PTI government’s legal efforts against him show no signs of abating, not yet at least. 2023 is election year, 2022 is when the country will probably have a new military chief. To say interesting times are ahead would be a gross understatement.
Zarnaab Adil is a graduate of the Wagner School at NYU. He is an author and a political risk consultant based in Brooklyn, NYC.