The Supreme Court need not be united in its decisions, but the judges must be united in their objective to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Rida Hosain Published September 18, 2023 Updated about 7 hours ago LISTEN TO ARTICLE 1x 1.2x 1.5x “That I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. And that, in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”
— Oath of the Chief Justice of Pakistan
As Justice Qazi Faez Isa dons the robe of the country’s top judge, over a hundred civilians are in military custody, draconian legislation that never received the President’s assent has been published in the gazette, elections on time seem impossible, and the pendency of cases in the Supreme Court has soared to over 56,000.
In April, Justice Isa attended a convention on the 50th Anniversary of the Constitution. In his speech, he held up a copy of the Constitution and said: “This book is our identity, Pakistan’s identity. I want to say on behalf of my institution that we are also defenders of the Constitution. And if I do not do that, then you can criticise me.”
The real test begins now. And here are its toughest questions:
Amendments to the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act In 2015, through the 21st Amendment and corresponding amendments to the Army Act, military courts were empowered to try civilians for certain terrorism related offences. Terrorists were at war with our nation — terrorists responsible for the savage and inhumane murder of children.
In the District Bar Case, the majority of the Supreme Court upheld the 21st Amendment. Per the majority, “we appear to be confronted with a warlike situation and consequently the Federation is duty bound by the constitution to defend Pakistan.”
Justice Isa did not agree, and instead held, “the constitution does not permit the trial of civilians by the military as it would contravene fundamental rights.” Per Justice Isa, “no normal person can sympathise with killers who must be prosecuted and punished, but in accordance with the law and the Constitution. If we rush to convict terrorists through unconstitutional means we stoop to their level.”
Even when it came to the trial of suspected terrorists, Justice Isa held that justice could not be handed over to the military. And so, he struck down a constitutional amendment.
Last month, the amendments to the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act were published in the gazette. The amendments to the Army Act entrench and give legal cover to the role of the military in national development. Neither of these amendments received the President’s assent, which the nation later discovered through his tweet