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Attack on judiciary’s independence won’t be tolerated, says Chief Justice of Pakistan as judges allege interference by intelligence agencies

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Islamabad, Apr 3 (PTI) Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa on Wednesday vowed to thwart any attack on the judiciary’s independence as he indicated that a full court would hear the case about alleged interference in the judicial affairs by the powerful intelligence agencies.

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The move came after former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani recused himself from heading a one-man inquiry commission formed by the government to investigate the claims by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges about alleged interference by the intelligence agencies.

A seven-member bench of the apex court, presided by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Isa, is hearing suo motu notice taken on the letter written by the six judges.

During the hearing, Attorney General Mansoor Awan said that the government in all sincerity had formed a commission to probe the matter but it came under attack on social media and from the lawyers who wanted the court to hear the matter.

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The chief justice said that he was committed to upholding the independence of his institution.

“Judges must be sure that they are not in danger,” CJP Isa said.

“If there is any kind of attack on the judiciary’s independence, I would be at the frontline [in defending judiciary] and for sure, my fellow judges would be standing with me in this. And we never accept interference," he said.

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“If someone has another agenda to do so and so, then they may become the Supreme Court Bar president or the chief justice and enact his will. We will not tolerate pressure of this kind,” he added.

The hearing was adjourned till April 29, with CJP Isa saying, “It is possible that we may form a full court at the next hearing. We will hear the case on a daily basis.” He also stated that only seven judges were present in Islamabad and they were included in the panel to hear the case but it may be possible to include more judges in future hearings so that all 15 members of the apex court may sit as a full court to hear the case.

Last week, six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges — out of a total strength of eight — wrote a startling letter to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) members, related to attempts to pressure judges through the abduction and torture of their relatives as well as secret surveillance inside their homes.

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A day later, calls emerged from various quarters for a probe into the investigation, amid which CJP Isa summoned a full court meeting of the SC judges.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met CJP Isa, and the two decided to form an inquiry commission, which was later approved by the federal Cabinet.

However, lawyers and civil society members — in a joint letter — had urged the top court to take “cognisance of the matter in its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution as this issue eminently relates to the public interest and the enforcement of fundamental rights”.

On Monday, ex-CJP Jillani — tasked to head the one-man inquiry commission — recused himself from the role, urging Justice Isa to “resolve the issues raised in the letter at the institutional level”. At the same time, the top court took suo motu notice of the matter and constituted a seven-member bench to hear the case. PTI SH NSA AKJ NSA NSA

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