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Former chief justice Nasirul Mulk
Former chief justice Nasirul Mulk

When the Supreme Court had approved the setting up of special military courts to try hardened militants under the 21st Constitution Amendment, former chief justice Nasirul Mulk was the only member of the bench who was identified as a “democrat” judge.

And the reason for the recognition was his judgement in the 21st Amendment in which Justice Mulk had held in unequivocal terms that the authority of parliament had no limitation in amending the Constitution and the amendments brought about in exercise of such power were not liable to be challenged on any ground whatsoever before any court.

And since the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to strike down any amendment to the Constitution, it was not necessary to examine the grounds on which the 21st Amendment had been challenged, he had written in his verdict.

As Justice Mulk has been made caretaker prime minister to hold the 2018 general elections on July 25, the legal fraternity is confident that the polls will be held in a free, fair and impartial manner.

Lawyers always regard Justice Mulk as a judge who during his tenure as chief justice brought honour, dignity and grace to the judiciary as he seldom interjected in court proceedings with questions to the counsel unless necessary.

No one has ever seen him losing his temper; he rather extended equal opportunity to litigants but was always firm about not allowing the contesting sides to get sidetracked by entering into the political arena.

“Justice Mulk is undoubtedly a man of character and impeccable integrity who always dispensed justice without fear or favour in accordance with the Constitution and law,” observed senior member of the Pakistan Bar Council Raheel Kamran Sheikh.

He said he was sure that as caretaker prime minister Justice Mulk would govern the country quite well in terms of the role he was required to perform under the Constitution and would maintain his reputation for impartiality in the upcoming elections. Mr Sheikh was confident that Justice Mulk would not contribute to postponement of the elections in any manner whatsoever.

When Justice Mulk, who also served as chief justice of the Peshawar High Court in 2004, was made the 22nd Chief Justice of Pakistan on July 2014, the late Asma Jahangir had commented that after decades a person like Justice Mulk had assumed the top office — a kind of a judge Pakistan would never have in another 100 years.

Likewise, in his retirement speech at a full court reference hosted by the apex court on Aug 13, 2015, Justice Mulk had sounded a word of caution that the Supreme Court, being a guardian of the Constitution, would resist every action taken by any institution threatening the green book and the state structure formed under it — a word of advice still relevant in today’s prevailing political situation.

He said the Supreme Court had demonstrated its determination to preserve and protect the Constitution, thereby protecting and promoting democracy and good governance in Pakistan.

On Aug 15, 2014, Justice Mulk, while heading a four-judge SC bench, had issued an order restraining all state authorities from acting in any manner unwarranted by the Constitution and law, in an attempt to preempt what perceived by many as recurrence of successive military takeovers in the wake of marches and sit-ins by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek.

Similarly, Justice Mulk, while heading a three-man commission, had in a 237-page report rejected the PTI’s claim of systematic rigging in the 2013 general elections by holding that despite some lapses on the part of the Election Commission of Pakistan, the elections were in large part organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law.

Family background

Justice Mulk was born on Aug 17, 1950 in Mingora, Swat. He completed his degree of Bar-at-Law from Inner Temple London and was called to the Bar in 1977.

His father, Kamran Khan, was a businessman known for his philanthropic work in Swat. Justice Mulk is fond of playing golf and is often seen taking a walk in the Margalla hills.

He practised as an advocate in all fields of law for more than 17 years until his elevation as a judge of the Peshawar High Court.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2018