- Matter of judiciary’s integrity
It would have been much better, and far more appropriate, if Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had presented some minimum quantifiable evidence along with his explosive outburst on Saturday. It is incredible, indeed, if the intelligence service is “manipulating judicial proceedings as its officials manage to constitute benches…and mark cases to selected judges”. He also alleged that ISI approached the CJ of Islamabad High Court and told him that “they don’t want release of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter before elections”. The next claim was even more alarming. “I know who takes whose messages to the Supreme Court,” he thundered, before adding, “I was told ‘if you assure us of decisions in our favour, we will end references against you’”. They also offered, he said, to make him CJ of the high court in September. Grave allegations indeed.
CJ Saqib Nisar, understandably upset, has rightly ordered an immediate inquiry. The army, too, was quick to ask for one. And while the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) also raised similar concerns, its Vice Chairman Kamran Murtaza has asked for a parliamentary probe. No doubt the PBC realises the gravity of the situation, since the accusations come from such a senior judge, but it seems to place more trust in a parliamentary inquiry than a judicial one.
Justice Siddiqui’s shocking revelations, though not yet backed by evidence, have raised considerable controversy for understandable reasons. Just like the rest of society, it has also split the judiciary. Till Saturday, such things were part of the usual chatter that takes place on the sidelines. Now, though, it has been brought into the spotlight. A thorough inquiry must investigate the facts and take urgent, necessary action. Neither the judiciary, which is burdened by decades of backlog, nor the military that is fighting a war against terrorism, can afford to interfere, or be seen interfering, with other institutions. Perhaps this was the trigger that was needed to finally put an end to all the chatter in this matter once and for all.