Alvi, ministers anticipating drive for Justice Faez Isa: Unhappy president and dejected ministers

ISLAMABAD: Several PTI ministers and members of Parliament have conveyed their disapproval to President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan over the government’s latest move of filing presidential reference to the Supreme Judicial Council against reputed SC Judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

Informed ministerial sources confided to The News that even President Arif Alvi was unhappy but he had to act on the advice of the prime minister. A source revealed that the president had to modify the language of the reference, which was worded harshly by the Law Ministry.

These sources also confided to The News that a number of PTI ministers and MPs have conveyed it to both Alvi and Khan that this is wrong and what government did was not well thought-out. The source said the PTI in general is against the government’s move against Justice Isa.

It is said that in their WhatsApp group, the PTI leaders seriously objected and told both the president and the prime minister how the PTI could, which had a leading role in the judicial movement, initiate a presidential reference against Justice Isa who is widely respected and known for his independence. Law Minister Farogh Nasim is being criticised for initiating the case against Justice Isa.

The law ministry had initiated the reference summary which, according to the PTI sources, was not even discussed in the cabinet. According to a ministerial source, the prime minister may discuss the issue in the next cabinet meeting. These sources said that the PTI ministers and leaders through their WhatsApp group also criticised the mishandling of PPP leaders and activists on Wednesday in Islamabad where they had gathered on the occasion of Bilawal Bhutto’s appearance before NAB. They say that interior minister Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah wrongly handled the situation and unnecessarily invited criticism for the government.

Of late, the government filed a complaint with the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against alleged misconduct of two superior court judges, who allegedly hold foreign properties either in their own names or through their spouses. The SC judge named in the reference is Justice Isa. Media reports suggest that the reference was prepared within the ministry on the instruction of Farogh Nasim. It is added that services of a former Supreme Court judge -- who had taken oath under November 3, 2007 Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) -- was hired to file the reference.

Following media reports about the filing of the reference, Justice Isa approached the president seeking clarity regarding reports that the government has filed a reference against him over allegations of misconduct. Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who is in line to eventually become the chief justice of Pakistan, wrote a letter to President Arif Alvi drawing his attention towards reports quoting government sources that a reference had been filed against him.

The SC judge lamented that “selective leaks amount to character assassination” jeopardising his right to due process and fair trial, and undermines the institution of the judiciary.

The government move, if surprised many within the cabinet and the ruling PTI, it invited a sharp reaction from the media, lawyers community and political parties. Many believe that if the government does not withdraw the reference, the issue may trigger another judicial movement.

While the lawyers associations have started giving their response rejecting the government’s move, the political parties are also firming up their strategies. The Qazi Isa issue, it is said, may become the focal point for a much serious agitation against the government after Eid.

There is also wide appreciation of Zahid F Ebrahim, who on Wednesday resigned from office a day after the government filed a reference over alleged misconduct by superior court judges.

The son of renowned lawyer and former SC judge Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, the additional attorney general penned his resignation to President Arif Alvi, maintaining that one of the purported references is against a senior judge of the SC, who is widely recognised for his unimpeachable integrity and against whom the government has already set its mind in the much-publicised review petitions in the Faizabad dharna case filed last month.

“In my humble view, this is not about the accountability of judges, but a reckless attempt to tar the reputation of independent individuals and is browbeating the judiciary of Pakistan. Unless resisted, it will cause irreparable damage to the institution which is the protector of our fundamental rights and the bedrock of our fledgling democracy,” Zahid wrote in his resignation letter.