Sat, Jan 19, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Pakistan’s ‘poetic justice’ vows to reform top court


Pakistan’s new chief justice was yesterday sworn in, pledging reform of the Pakistani Supreme Court, whose controversial decisions include ousting a prime minister and freeing a Christian accused of blasphemy.

Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, 64, became the 26th chief justice of Pakistan after a televised ceremony at President’s House in Islamabad saw the judge take the oath in front a crowd of dignitaries.

“I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor,” Khosa said.

Known as the “poetic justice” for his habit of citing works of literature in his judgements, he is regarded as Pakistan’s top expert in criminal law.

Khosa was a member of a Supreme Court panel that last year overturned the death penalty and freed a Christian woman jailed for blasphemy, sparking days of violent protests by Muslim hardliners.

He was also among the judges who disqualified from politics for life former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif after corruption allegations in 2017.

In his judgement, he cited the Balzac epigraph from Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather, which reads: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.”

However, he avoided such references as he pledged judicial reforms at a farewell ceremony for his predecessor, Mian Saqib Nisar.

Nisar had been widely criticized by the legal community and politicians for his broad use of his suo moto powers — a device in the Pakistani legal system that allows a judge to take notice of any issue of public interest.

Under the cover of such notices, Nisar was known for making surprise inspections and famously launched a massive crowdfunding effort to build dams.

Some critics accused him of blurring the lines between judicial and executive powers.

Khosa on Thursday called for a resolution to such concerns.

“Let us discuss the alleged encroachment of the executive domain by the judiciary ... and how best the judiciary can return to its normal, but effective adjudicatory role,” he said.

He also vowed suo moto notices would be used “very sparingly.”

Former Supreme Court Bar president Akram Sheikh lauded the remarks as a “very welcome gesture.”

The move to “separate the powers of the judiciary and the executive expunged by the new chief justice will ensure dichotomy of power and strengthen democracy,” he told reporters.

Pakistan’s judiciary lacks the capacity to cope with the country’s surging population and an expanding case load, resulting in a mammoth backlog.

About 1.9 million cases are pending in the country’s courts and there are just 3,000 judges to deal with them, Khosa said.

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