Amid institutional wrangle, Justice Isa addresses NA convention, says SC stands with Constitution

Published April 10, 2023
Justice Qazi Faez Isa addresses a National Constitutional Convention to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Constitution. — DawnNewsTV
Justice Qazi Faez Isa addresses a National Constitutional Convention to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Constitution. — DawnNewsTV

Justice Qazi Faez Isa, senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court, said on Monday that he and the country’s top court stood with the Constitution.

He made the remarks while addressing a special national constitutional convention at the National Assembly hall to mark the golden jubilee of the Constitution of Pakistan, where he was the only top court judge in attendance.

The Constitution was passed by the National Assembly on April 10, 1973, authenticated by the president on April 10, 1973, and promulgated on August 14, 1973.

The remarks by Justice Isa, who is slated to become the next chief justice of Pakistan in September, come amid a split within the SC, made apparent over the law few weeks over the course of several hearings conducted on holding elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

During the speech, Justice Isa expressed his gratitude at being invited, saying that the “other judges were perhaps busy and could not attend”. He, however, stressed that he did not agree with the political matters stated by the earlier speakers.

The spokesperson for the NA secretariat later told Dawn.com that all the top court judges were invited for today’s event but they neither attended, nor gave a reason for it.

At the outset of his speech, Justice Isa clarified that he was not here to make a political speech but to say “on behalf of myself and my institution that we stand with this book (the Constitution).”

As he made the remarks, which were met with thumping of desks by the participants, Justice Isa also held up a copy of the Constitution.

“This book is our identity, Pakistan’s identity. The elected representatives of the time unanimously voted on it, there was no negative vote. There were four abstentions I think.”

Justice Isa called for recognising the importance of the Constitution.

He said that all the participants of the convention were politicians who looked at matters through a particular lens but he was a lawyer who looked at matters through the lens of the law.

Recalling his time as chief justice of Balochistan High Court (BHC), Justice Isa said he was at first hesitant to take up the mantle but strived hard to set up the high court and appoint judges.

“Sometimes we don’t hate our enemies as much as we hate each other. Why is that? Us and you, you as in parliament, and the bureaucracy should have one focus: serving the people.

“Our job is to make decisions swiftly according to the law and the Constitution. Your job is to make laws which are beneficial for the people. And the job of the executive is to implement the laws and the policies made by the government of the time.”

Gesturing towards NA Speaker Raja Pervez Ashrad, he said that he had asked prior to attending today’s gathering if political matters would be talked about. “But you assured me that only constitutional matters would be talked about. But a lot of political things were talked about,” he said with a laugh.

“It is their freedom of right given by the Constitution. So I don’t say anything to them but that does not mean I agree with them. I want to make this clear. Perhaps, tomorrow cases of these people will [be heard] and decisions will be taken against them and maybe they will talk against me so I just want to make it clear that I came [for the] golden jubilee of the Constitution. This is a celebration.”

Justice Isa said that the movement for the formation of a separate homeland for Muslims started off with a “dream” that Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Muhammad Iqbal had which later became a political movement.

“And in the whole world, the whole world, the biggest country for Muslims came into being. But now I am ashamed to say that Pakistan no longer has this privilege, it is now with Indonesia.”

He said that Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan, president of the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, was dismissed by a bureaucrat who formed a cabinet of ministers.

Justice Isa said that Maulvi Tamizuddin challenged his dismissal in the Chief Court of Sindh, following which the judges at the time, including Chief Justice Constantine, restored the assembly.

“Unfortunately, this was challenged in the Federal Court of the time and the decision was overturned. At the time, there was judge and the concerning thing is that this judge, Justice Cornelius, was also Christian and perhaps in the minority, if you read his judgement he talked about Islam and if you read the majority judgement said that it was [in line with] the Queen of England.”

He said that he did not like the use of the word “minorities” because they were equal citizens and they had played a huge role in the country.

“I wanted to say that we write verdicts, instead of making speeches but because today is such a day that if we go back to the past […] and stand with Maulvi Tamizuddin and the judges who restored the assembly, would Pakistan have been split into two? This is a question I am leaving to you as a student of the law.”

He also commended Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for deciding that April 10 would be celebrated as National Constitution Day.

Justice Isa noted that 50 years had passed since the Constitution was passed and called for embracing it. “Not because my salary is guaranteed in it but because it talks about the people’s basic rights. The most important thing the Constitution talks about is people’s basic rights.”

He regretted that the Constitution was not taught in schools. He said that his wife had taught at an American school in the past where they would teach small kids about the American constitution and would also conduct mock elections. He said that when people understood the intricacies of a constitution, they would understood that they held the reins of the state in their hands.

He said that the Constitution talked about certain fundamental rights that were not talked about in many other countries, giving the example of right of information.

Wrapping up his speech, he said: “I thank you and I want to say on behalf of my institution that we are also defenders of the Constitution. All of you and me included have taken the oath that [we] shall protect [and] defend the Constitution of Pakistan. And if I do not do that, then you can criticise me.”

He again clarified that he had no relation to the political things talked about during today’s gathering. “Don’t be offended, it is possible they say or you say tomorrow that we called you yet you decided against us,” he said while addressing the NA speaker.

PM hails framers of Constitution for ‘going for consultation, not confrontation’

Speaking shortly after the special session began, PM Shehbaz hailed the framers of the Constitution’s for going for “consultation instead of confrontation”.

“I salute the framers of the Constitution who went for consultation instead of confrontation and gave Pakistan this Constitution.”

PM Shehbaz praised the framers of the Constitution for setting aside their differences and sitting together even though they had differing ideologies.

Terming today to be of the “utmost importance” in the country’s history, he said the presence of people from various professions in the NA today proved that the Constitution was still alive, “even after 50 years and after amendments were made in different articles”.

Also celebrating the incumbent government’s one year in power, he said, “It has been a year today. There are difficulties, challenges — there is no doubt about that — there must also have been faults and mistakes.

“There is no doubt about that […] but once when it has been resolved that we have to collaborate and make this work, then even the biggest of challenges are overcome.”

In an earlier tweet, the premier had described the Constitution as a “sacred document that has weathered many storms over the past 50 years and held the federation together”.

“Constitution of Pakistan continues to be central to shaping our national character, identity and future trajectory. [The] time has come to place parliament at the core of national life, both in letter & spirit. Rules of the game framed in light of the Constitution show us the way forward,” he had said.

During the event held at the NA hall, the prime minister also presented a resolution pledging to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution and reaffirming its “commitment to uphold the principles of democracy, rule of law, human rights and social justice as enshrined in the Constitution”.

The resolution was adopted by the participants in attendance.

It declared April 10, 2023 as National Constitution Day, which would be celebrated each year to commemorate the legislation’s adoption and to educate the people about its significance.

The resolution appreciated the “role of the parliament, executive and judiciary in upholding and implementing the Constitution of 1973 and ensuring that the principles, values, and objectives enshrined in the Constitution are upheld”.

It called upon the “state organs to take all necessary measures to ensure that the Constitution of 1973 is fully implemented, and that the rights and interests of the people of Pakistan are protected and safeguarded”.

‘Hushed judgements will result in chaos’

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari also spoke on the occasion and recalled the day when the Constitution was passed. He said his father was among the signatories and “by the grace of of God, we had restored democracy”.

“We have created Pakistan, and it is our obligation to save it,” he said. Zardari also vowed that he would not leave behind a “broken Pakistan” for the future generation.

Zardari further said, “God willing, nothing will happen to the Constitution. We will not allow anyone to play [with it].”

Near the end of his address, Zardari said there was nothing that Pakistan could not achieve, but the country needed time. He also warned that “hushed judgements” would only result in chaos, but he did not specify which judgements he was referring to.

The PPP co-chairperson said: “Haste makes waste. A rushed judgement is a hushed judgement. These are hushed judgements. These judgements do not strengthen democracy or strengthen Pakistan. They will only lead to chaos. We cannot afford chaos.”

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