Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa will remain the country's top judge for 11 months and is scheduled to retire on Dec 21. — File photo

Profile: Pakistan's 26th Chief Justice — Asif Saeed Khan Khosa

Over a period of more than 19 years, the judge has decided about 55,000 cases, including several high-profile ones.
Published January 17, 2019

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, who was sworn in as the 26th chief justice of Pakistan on Friday (January 18, 2019), was born on December 21, 1954 in Dera Ghazi Khan. He is married with two daughters and four grandchildren.

Justice Khosa's brothers are former bureaucrat Nasir Mahmood Khosa and former inspector general of police (IGP) of Balochistan Tariq Masood Khosa.

The judge, who is now 64 years old, received his undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Punjab and his LLM degree from Queens College at Cambridge in 1978.

Read: 'Suo motu notices to be taken sparingly,' says Justice Khosa

He enrolled as an advocate at the Lahore High Court in 1979, and then at the Supreme Court in 1985. As an advocate, he conducted over 600 cases. On February 18, 2010, Justice Khosa was elevated to the position of a Supreme Court judge.

  • Justice Khosa, over a period of more than 19-and-a-half years, has decided about 55,000 cases.
  • A special bench headed by Justice Khosa has decided over 10,000 cases of a criminal nature since 2014, according to an article published by The Express Tribune last year. “The total number of pending cases in the top court has reached near 40,000 and a few hundreds of criminal cases are left, which is being considered as a landmark achievement of the apex court,” the article read.

'Poetic justice'

Justice Khosa is known for adding lyrical flair in his observations and judgments — most recently in the landmark Panama papers verdict that de-seated Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister in 2017.

His dissenting note in the split 2:3 verdict — Khosa was among the two who held Nawaz should be disqualified — on April 20, 2017 began with a reference to the popular 1969 novel ‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo in which he pointed out an epigraph by Honore de Balzac selected by the author: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime", saying that "It is ironical and a sheer coincidence that the present case revolves around that very sentence attributed to Balzac."

The literary reference became a major talking point as opposition parties, in particular the PTI, latched onto it to drive home the allegations of corruption while PML-N spoke out against the choice of analogy.

Nawaz was subsequently disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution in July the same year.

Read Khosa's article, written when he was a barrister, critical of the ambiguity inherent in Articles 62 and 63 here.

In 2012, when a SC bench — headed by headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk — slapped former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani with a contempt charge, Justice Khosa authored an additional note along with the detailed judgement which included an original rendition of Khalil Gibran’s poem 'Pity the nation'.

Justice Khosa was also part of two high-profile blasphemy-related cases; he headed the bench which upheld the conviction of Mumtaz Qadri in 2015 for the murder of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and last year in October, he was part of the bench that acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy charges.

Justice Khosa’s razor-sharp critique of the prosecution case is combined with remarkable judicial prose — lawyer Faisal Siddiqi

A column written by lawyer Faisal Siddiqi published in Dawn on the verdict in the Aasia Bibi case noted:

"Justice Khosa’s razor-sharp critique of the prosecution case is combined with remarkable judicial prose, when he appears to regret the imprisonment of Aasia Bibi by holding that 'Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s [Aasia Bibi’s] religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood … was also not short of being blasphemous … in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’."

Next in line

Justice Khosa has authored multiple books during his career, including 'Heeding the Constitution', 'Constitutional Apologues', and 'Judging with Passion and Breaking New Ground'.

He also edited and compiled ‘The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973’ with all amendments up to date.

The next in line to take reins of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Khosa previously served as the acting chief justice from June 5-11 in 2017, June 29 to July 5 in 2017, May 14-30 in 2018, and Dec 17-23 in 2018.

Justice Khosa will remain the country's top judge for 11 months and is scheduled to retire on Dec 21, 2019.