Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, who will be sworn in as the country’s 26th chief justice on Friday (January 18), was born on December 21, 1954, in Dera Ghazi Khan.
Married with two daughters and four grandchildren, Justice Khosa’s brothers are former bureaucrat Nasir Mahmood Khosa and former Balochistan inspector general of police (IGP) Tariq Masood Khosa.
A brilliant student more than five decades ago, the 64-year-old top court judge secured the fifth position in his matriculation exams in 1969 from the Multan Board.
In 1973, he appeared for the bachelor’s exams from Government College Lahore at Punjab University and secured the first position, after which he did his master’s in English language and literature in 1975.
His successful academic career continued as he attended the Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge, obtaining a master’s degree in law with a specialisation in Public International Law.
Later, he was called to the bar on July 26, 1979, at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, London. Barrister Khosa was then appointed as a judge at the Lahore High Court (LHC) in May 1998.
When on November 3, 2007, former military ruler Pervez Musharraf declaring a state of emergency suspended the constitution and demanded the judges of the superior judiciary to retake oaths under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), Justice Khosa refused to abide by the presidential order.
Consequently, he was sacked from the office among other judges of high courts and the Supreme Court (SC).
Justice Khosa was restored to his prior position as a high court judge on August 18, 2008, in the wake of an unprecedented mass movement to restore the superior judges sacked for not retaking their oaths under the PCO.
The movement, initially launched by lawyers, had later attracted political workers and civil society activists.
He was also in the seven-member larger bench of the SC which heard the contempt of court proceedings against former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.
In May 2012, the SC ruled against Gillani, disqualifying him from holding the office of the prime minister.
Widely known for adding lyrical flair to his observations and judgments — most recently in the landmark Panama papers verdict that he opened with a quote from Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” – Justice Khosa, in Gillani’s case authored a separate six-page note wherein he quoted famed Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran’s poem “Pity the Nation”.
The note became subject of media coverage all over the country, but lesser known was the top court judge’s love for literature which he enunciated through his dissenting note in the split 2:3 Panama case verdict that removed Nawaz Sharif as the country’s premier.
“Behind every great fortune there is a crime,” Justice Khosa noted while pointing out an epigraph by Honore de Balzac selected by Puzo, saying, “It is ironical and a sheer coincidence that the present case revolves around that very sentence attributed to Balzac.”
Justice Khosa also passed several remarks that attracted the public attention while hearing the case against Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death for committing blasphemy.
Acquitting Aasia, Justice Khosa had said that she “appeared to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’.”
He had ended the ruling by quoting a hadith pledging, “Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I [Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)] will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”
Justice Khosa also headed the bench which upheld the conviction of rogue cop Mumtaz Qadri in 2015 for the murder of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
Besides dispensing poetic justice, the incoming top judge 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 SC, Justice Khosa has 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 December 17-23 in 2018.
He will remain the country’s top judge for 11 months and is scheduled to retire on December 21, 2019. Justice Khosa will be succeeded by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who will head the apex for over one year till October 25, 2024.