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Obituary: Ex-chief justice Ajmal Mian dies at 83

Updated October 17, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: President Waseem Sajjad administering the oath of the office of Chief Justice of Pakistan to Justice Ajmal Mian at Aiwan-i-Sadr on Dec 23, 1997.—Photo from A Judge Speaks Out
ISLAMABAD: President Waseem Sajjad administering the oath of the office of Chief Justice of Pakistan to Justice Ajmal Mian at Aiwan-i-Sadr on Dec 23, 1997.—Photo from A Judge Speaks Out

KARACHI: Justice Muhammad Ajmal Mian, a former chief justice of Pakistan, died early on Monday morning after a long illness. He was 83.

He is survived by a widow, three sons and two daughters.

Several sitting and former judges of the Supreme Court and the Sindh High Court attended his funeral prayers at Mustafa Masjid at the Defence Housing Authority. He was buried at Mewa Shah, one of the oldest cemeteries in the metropolis.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, judges of the apex court and the high courts offered condolences to the family of the late chief justice.

Ajmal Mian belonged to the Dehli Punjabi Saudagraan business community, but opted to carve out a niche for himself in the legal profession.

The former CJP, who graduated from the University of Karachi in economics and political science in 1953, was called to the bar as a member of the Society of Lincoln’s Inn, London, on Feb 5, 1957.

He later enrolled as advocate of the High Court of West Pakistan, Karachi bench, on April 22 of that year.

The late chief justice, who also served as chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, practised law in Karachi before he was appointed an additional judge of the Sindh High Court (SHC) in March 1978. He became a confirmed judge of the SHC in 1980.

Later he was elevated as a permanent judge of the Supreme Court on Dec 10, 1989. He served as acting Chief Justice of Pakistan four times in 1997 — from Feb 28 to March 4, from May 30 to June 19, from Oct 10 to Oct 13 and finally from Dec 3 to Dec 23.

On Dec 23 he was named Chief Justice of Pakistan and retired from service in that position on June 30, 1999.

Justice Ajmal Mian’s name evokes a controversial chapter in the country’s judicial history. He arguably allowed a ‘coup’ within the Supreme Court against Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah in Nov 1997 when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister.

Justice Sajjad headed a bench which was hearing a contempt case against Mr Sharif, who was asked to appear in court on Nov 28. But the day set off a chain of events that casts a stigma on the political class, as well as on the judiciary, to this day.

An unruly mob, allegedly instigated by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, stormed the Supreme Court building, forcing Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah to put off the hearing.

The chief justice became virtually powerless since a 10-member bench, headed by the late justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, assumed control of the Supreme Court, allegedly at the behest of the government.

Justice Ajmal Mian took administrative control of the apex court as acting Chief Justice after the bench directed him to discharge administrative as well as judicial functions of chief justice.

He authored a book, A Judge Speaks Out, in 2004.The book contains insights into major events in the judiciary’s history, especially the ’97 crisis.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2017