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Rights activist and former SCBA president Asma Jahangir. — Photo by AFP

Asma Jahangir, former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association has expressed surprise at the heated debate on a statement issued by the Human Rights Watch on the “judiciary muzzling its criticism in the media through contempt of court powers”.

“It was simply factual and the manner in which the arms of the bar leaders are being twisted to protect the excesses of the superior judiciary further confirms the sensitivity of the judiciary to its legitimate criticism,” a statement issued by Jahangir said.

The media in Pakistan which vigorously fights for its freedom was “uncomfortably silent over the judgment of the Islamabad Hight Court followed by the Lahore High Court muzzling the media”, the former SCBA president said.

“Unfortunately, those who criticise the judiciary are labelled in humiliating terms by the watch dogs of the prerogative of the judiciary to misuse its powers,” the statement said.

Jahangir urged bar leaders to “show their independence and not be cowed down by the onslaught of individuals with vested interests”.

“They must remain neutral commentators and continue to make the judiciary accountable where necessary, while supporting them fully when under unfair pressures,” the statement added.

“Blind supporters of all judicial pronouncements may also take note of the comments made by the International Commission of Jurists, the President of the International Crisis Group and the interim report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of the Judiciary, as well as commentary made by foreign media outlets and judges,” Jahangir said.

All the above mentioned organisations and UN Procedures “fully supported the demands of the lawyers' movement until the bitter end. Surely they cannot be right then and all wrong now,” she said.

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