The Judicial Commission of Pakistan has created history by elevating Justice Ayesha Malik to the Supreme Court – the highest judicial forum of the country. For the first time ever, a woman judge will be represented on the bench of this Muslim country’s exclusively male-dominated top court.
Justice Ayesha brings a very diverse educational and professional background to the Apex court. She had schooling in Paris and New York, did her Senior Cambridge from the Karachi Grammar School, and later A Levels from Francis Holland School for Girls in London. She did her LLB from Pakistan College of Law, Lahore, and later did her LL.M from Harvard Law School, USA.
She was named a London H. Gammon Fellow 1998-1999 for outstanding merit and has appeared as an expert witness in England and Australia in family law cases. She was elevated to the bench of Lahore High Court in March 2012 and has since authored several notable judgments with specific reference to women’s rights and gender equality and is also a member of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ).
Justice Ayesha keenly contributed to the process for expediting the litigation process by automation and case management and took a position on environmental matters, and is a green judge with advocacy of environmental justice.
Her elevation to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, approved by a divided verdict of five to four in her favor, has been hailed as a victory by lawyers, activists, liberals, and modernists – who see this as a starting step towards women empowerment in a South Asian patriarchal society such as Pakistan.
After decades of struggle, this will secure greater representation for women and their rights. However, this was not an easy journey for Ayesha Malik to accomplish. Citing her lack of seniority as a ground for their opposition, many conservative lawyers and activists rose against her elevation to the Supreme Court. And September last year, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan initially rejected her nomination.
This time she received support from the Chief Justice of the country, Hon. Gulzar Ahmed, tilting scales in her favor and making this monumental step of female representation in Pakistan possible. Overall, this nomination has not only created a sense of change nationally but has received international appreciation.
With Justice Ayesha’s elevation to the Supreme Court, Pakistan has perhaps entered that phase in its history where the United States reached in 1981 when Ronald Regan brought Justice Sandra O Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court and India where Justice Fathima Beevi became the first female Supreme Court Judge in 1989.
However, many caution that the nomination of one female judge will not be enough, and much more is needed for equal representation of women across the board.