Equality before the law

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The removal of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui as a judge of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) is one of the rare events in the judicial history of the country. However, it has given birth to a controversy about the role of state institutions in national affairs. Justice Siddique was removed over his speech at the Rawalpindi bar, where he had claimed that personnel of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were manipulating judicial proceedings. He had further claimed that the spy agency had approached IHC Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi and said: “‘We do not want to let Nawaz Sharif and his daughter come out [of the prison] until elections, do not include Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on the bench [hearing Sharifs’ appeals]’.”

It is no small thing that a judge levelled some serious allegations of meddling in judicial affairs by a state institution. Nor should it be. For the justice system to work the judiciary is considered as the most respected and trustworthy institution in society and it is the responsibility of the judiciary to answer the questions that directly target its credibility. Justice Siddiqui’s remarks raised fingers at the establishment’s alleged role in judicial affairs.

No doubt, there are obvious anomalies in our justice system. Certain accused persons are not granted bail and their cases are not decided on one reason or the other while in some cases the law takes its course very quickly. The judiciary needs to clarify that if the establishment agencies are not allegedly interfering in the delivery of justice in Pakistan, then why certain cases are not being decided on a priority basis. It seems even when proven so, historically those who have clearly broken the law seem to get away with it. The cases of Pervez Musharraf, Mirza Aslam Beg, Asad Durrani and Asghar Khan are some of the examples where clear verdicts are still awaited. Can the judiciary help the nation understand how and why an alleged murderer of over four hundreds innocent people, Rao Anwer, had been enjoying the luxuries of his home, being granted bail after being on the run from the law and hiding while politicians are being put behind bars? If it is not under alleged pressure from the security agency as claimed by the IHC judge, then what are the facts? Now it is also the responsibility of Justice Siddiqui to prove his allegations with clear evidence or accept the penalty for making false accusations.

Our chronic problem is that we readily brush under the carpet certain so-called sensitive issues rather than probing them. Shutting our eyes to such issues is not the answer. How long is this joke going to continue? What Justice Siddiqui has alleged needs to be seriously and thoroughly probed. Similar allegations have been levelled by several other quarters in different ways in the context of elections and otherwise, which is not a minor issue. The judiciary needs to come clean before the public by proving that all citizens are equal before the law.

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