Fawad lauds retiring CJP Ahmed for 'historic stand on minority rights, independent judgments'

Published January 31, 2022
Outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed (L) and Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry (R). — APP
Outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed (L) and Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry (R). — APP

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Monday praised the retiring chief justice of Pakistan, Gulzar Ahmed, for "supporting minorities" in the country as well as "authoring independent judgements".

Justice Ahmed is set to retire on February 1 (Tuesday) after two years and 42 days in office. He was appointed to the highest judicial office in the land on Dec 21, 2019.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial will take over as the chief justice on February 2.

On the eve of Justice Ahmed's retirement, Chaudhry praised his "historic stand" regarding minorities' places of worship, saying it had greatly increased his honour and prestige.

"At a time when India's judiciary seems helpless at the hands of extremists, judges like Justice Gulzar supported minorities and wrote independent judgements," he tweeted.

In another tweet, the minister noted that five Supreme Court judges are set to retire in 2022, therefore, parliament should focus on introducing an amendment in the Constitution regarding judicial appointments.

If the parliament can make the process of appointments to the Supreme Court independent and transparent, it would be a huge accomplishment, he added.

He urged all political parties to set aside their differences and consider the idea of a constitutional amendment.

A day earlier, the information minister urged the judiciary to take stock of its rapidly declining reputation in the world rankings and stated that it would be a big challenge for the next chief justice.

He had highlighted a question raised by Minister for Law Farogh Naseem while commenting on the Sarina Isa case judgement: "If the judges are not responsible for the assets of their wives and children, then how is it possible to hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable?"

"The judiciary needs to take stock of its rapidly declining reputation in the world rankings. It will be a big cha­llenge for new chief justice when he swears in," Chaudhry tweeted in an apparent reference to a report released last year by the World Justice Project (WJP), acc­ording to which Pakistan ranks 130 out of 139 countries on the rule of law index.

The country ranks five out of six in the South Asian region, according to the WJP Rule of Law Index 2021 released in October 2021.

'Minorities' rights, places of worship to be protected'

During his tenure as the CJP, Justice Ahmed took notices of attacks on temples, reprimanding police for failing to prevent them and assured minorities that their rights and places of worship would be protected as long as he served the top judicial office.

Speaking at a seminar in August last year, Justice Gulzar had recalled how he felt pain when he learnt about the desecration of temples both at Hindu Samadhi in Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and at Ganesh Mandir in Bhong, Rahim Yar Khan.

"That was the reason why prompt suo motu notices were taken on the desecration of the worship places because such tragic and unfortunate incidents of desecration of the holy places of the minority communities were neither tolerable nor acceptable in the country," the CJP had said.

"Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras and churches are as important and sacred to me as my own religious places," he had observed.

He was referring to the attack on a century-old shrine in KP's Karak in 2020. Justice Ahmed had taken notice of the incident and on his orders, not only was the shrine restored to its original condition by the KP government, but the apex court also ordered the KP government in October 2021 to recover Rs33 million from the culprits involved in vandalising and destruction of the Samadhi.

He later also celebrated the festival of Diwali at the temple to express solidarity with the Hindu community.

He also took notice when a temple in Rahim Yar Khan was vandalised, summoning the Punjab police chief and censuring the force for its failure to safeguard the temple.

New CJP

The notification for the appointment of Justice Bandial as the next CJP was issued by the law ministry of Jan 17.

When elevated to the office of CJP, Justice Bandial will face a veritable mountain of around 51,766 cases that are pending before the Supreme Court alone. The overall backlog of cases in Pakistan's judiciary, including the superior courts as well as district courts, stands at a whopping 2.1 million.

Justice Bandial will serve in the top judicial office until Sept 16, 2023, when he is due to be replaced by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

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