The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) has started its new judicial year with a ceremony attended by the Attorney General and representatives of the Apex bar council and association of the country. Though the speakers including the Chief Justice of Pakistan did not directly refer to the Panama Papers case, it was obvious that the July 28 judgement provided the backdrop to their speeches.
Thus, we hope that reservations expressed by the AGP and bar representatives regarding trichotomy of powers will be taken into account by the honourable court — and the bench set to review the July 28 judgement — when setting the agenda for the upcoming year.
Since the honourable CJP stressed the court’s role in dispensing justice and protecting fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens, we would like to use the opportunity to bring to the court’s attention several cases either pending hearings or deserving suo motto notices.
Several political prisoners remain incarcerated in the country’s prisons. Rights activists have time and again reminded the authorities concerned that what Mehr Sattar of Okara Military Farms or Baba Jan of Gilgit-Baltistan have been accused of under the Anti-Terrorism Act are really acts constitutionally guaranteed to all Pakistani citizens under freedom of assembly and right to protest. We expect the court to expedite hearing pleas of these political prisoners this year.
Then, there is the issue of enforced disappearances that continues to make a mockery of rule of law. In its recent report on South Asia, the well-reputed International Commission of Jurists has raised alarm over the spread of the practice beyond conflict zones and into settled areas of Sindh and Punjab provinces as well.
These issues directly affect fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens and the court needs to take them up to restore citizens’ trust in our public institutions and their ability to enforce the rule of law.
But that is not all. The court also needs to expedite hearings of petitions filed by concerned citizens on economic issues like (lack of) any policy for affordable housing and agricultural land reforms.
We hope that the court will end this judicial year with substantial progress in these and other cases concerning fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens.*
Published in Daily Times, September 13th 2017.