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Friday, May 24, 2024

Support for Chief Justice Faez Isa diminishing among Bar leaders

Members of Professional Group express disappointment at the SC’s January 13 order

Despite the expressed solidarity from prominent legal bars, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJ) Qazi Faez Isa is encountering waning support from the Professional Lawyers Group. The Independent Lawyers Group, also known as the Asma Jahangir Group, holds a majority in both the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).

Currently aligned with the PML-N, the PPP, and the security establishment, this group played a crucial role in the successful no-confidence motion against former Prime Minister Imran Khan in March 2022. The Professional Lawyers Group, which supports the PTI, is a minority in both bars, but both groups had previously united in support of Justice Isa when the PTI government filed a presidential reference against him in May 2019.

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Notably, members of the Professional Group who were part of Justice Isa’s legal team, including Muneer A Malik, Salahuddin Ahmed, and Hamid Khan, are expressing disappointment at the recent Supreme Court verdict, seeing it as detrimental to democracy. They believe the court’s decision to strip the PTI of its election symbol, the cricket bat, poses a threat to the credibility of upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, the Independent Group is urging the caretaker government to take action against those engaging in a malicious campaign against CJ Qazi Faez Isa. In response, the federal government has established a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the campaign, which has targeted Justice Isa since the filing of the presidential reference in 2019. Some lawyers are concerned that the JIT may have implications for freedom of speech and urge CJ Isa to ensure it is not misused to target those not in favor with the establishment.

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Critics highlight the selective scope of the JIT, as it will not investigate campaigns against high court judges. They call for an inquiry into the campaigns against judges such as Mohsin Akhtar Kayani of the Islamabad High Court and those from the Peshawar High Court who recently ruled in favor of the PTI in the election symbol case.