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World News


The Underlying Patterns of Judicial Interference in Pakistan

The legal community in Pakistan is increasingly vocal about concerns over external interference in the national judicial system. Earlier this year, the Islamabad Bar Association raised alarms about potential outside actors manipulating judicial proceedings. Following this, judges of the Islamabad High Court sent a letter to Pakistan’s Supreme Judicial Council, detailing various forms of interference they have encountered. This letter has prompted more judges to speak up about pressures from third parties attempting to influence specific case outcomes.

These recent developments have unveiled a discernible pattern of alleged manipulation within Pakistan’s courts, particularly in cases involving individuals connected to political opposition or previous governments. One prominent example is the arrest of Muhammad Ali Wazir, leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) and a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly. The PTM advocates against war crimes, extrajudicial killings, torture, and harassment of Pakistani Pashtuns. As a leader of PTM, Wazir has been vocally critical of Pakistani authorities, demanding justice and accountability for crimes against Pashtuns in tribal areas.

Muhammad Ali Wazir spent 26 months in prison on various sedition charges before being released in February 2023. After making public statements about his situation, he faced new accusations and was again detained. Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission highlighted his arrest as part of “a larger, more worrying pattern of state-sanctioned violence against people exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.” Legal experts have noted the lack of substantial evidence against Wazir, who was released from prison after securing bail in September 2023.

In another significant case, Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa addressed concerns over judicial manipulation and emphasized the need for internal control within the judiciary. He referred to the case of former Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who appealed against the election tribunal’s decision to void his election to the National Assembly in 2019. Although the court suspended the tribunal’s order and reinstated Suri’s membership, the matter remains unresolved. Chief Justice Isa has called for a review of the case, despite objections from Suri’s lawyer, who argued that the case is moot due to his client’s resignation. The discussion has since shifted to Suri’s allegedly illegal tenure and the demand for the return of his perks and privileges. Chief Justice Isa questioned the legality of actions by both Suri and the Supreme Court, suggesting possible third-party influence benefiting the former deputy speaker. He believes more cases require review due to similar external interventions.

In 2020, Deputy Chair of the Senate Saleem Mandviwalla received hundreds of complaints from business leaders across Pakistan, claiming victimization by the courts. This issue has resurfaced with new accusations against Pakistan’s largest real estate investor, Malik Riaz, and his company, Bahria Town. Despite multiple investigations and cases, no evidence of guilt has been produced against Riaz or Bahria Town.

Media reports suggest that Riaz has been targeted due to his associations with former Prime Minister Imran Khan and other prominent political figures from previous governments. Initially, it was alleged by prosecutors that Malik Riaz and Bahria Town were illegally occupying land in Karachi. An investigation by the Supreme Court showed that Bahria Town obtained the Karachi land in question in a legitimate way and in accordance with the law, as did several other government entities in the immediate area.

Nevertheless, after the case was resolved, Malik Riaz was almost immediately accused of multiple disparate law violations including corruption, land scams, and tax evasion. Due to the inconvenient fact that neither Riaz nor Bahria Town have been found guilty of anything yet, the whole case has an increasing smell of foul play about it, especially when even the prosecution has admitted to its severe procedural issues involving evidence and timeline.

The pressure on Pakistani judges to deliver verdicts against specific individuals and their associates undermines the judiciary’s credibility and erodes public trust in the political system. There is an urgent need to implement reforms that would reshape institutions and their policies. The new policies should be focused on increasing the rule of law and protecting the autonomy of the judicial system. If addressed correctly, the concerns raised by judges from the Islamabad Bar Association and the Islamabad High Court might serve as a great opportunity for improving the national judiciary mechanism.

For Pakistan to achieve the economic stability it desperately needs, political stability and transparency are essential. State actors must prioritize restoring judicial independence and safeguarding courts from internal and external interference. Implementing policies that uphold democratic principles and the separation of powers is vital for Pakistan to navigate its current political challenges.