For much of its short yet turbulent history, Pakistan has yearned for saviours. It would go looking for messiahs who would swoop in and save the day, a day that had been ruined by the inefficacy of the executive branch, its inherent corruption and mismanagement of institutions. Afflicted with a saviour complex, more often than not, this messiah’s attire is khaki. Other times though, and more often of late, the messiahs don black robes and a bench wig to go with. The latter version of the saviour was most aggressively visible in Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry’s court after his restoration from 2009 to 2013. The series of suo motu notices that followed were unrelenting. From NICL to EOBI, no one was spared. Sitting Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani also failed to escape Chaudhry’s wrath. However, by the end of his tenure as Chief Justice, Chaudhry had become wildly unpopular. He was heavily accused of personally meddling in political and economic affairs for his own aggrandisement. From rallying behind the man after his ouster, lawyers across the country now regarded the man as a judicial tyrant. The court learned from its mistakes, and the following chief justices exercised a policy of relative ‘judicial restraint’. Taking suo motu notices creates no real long-term change. The issues are brought to the public eye for some time but, as evidenced by Chaudhry’s court, they seem to wither away without a substantive change For the preliminary stages of his tenure, Justice Saqib Nasir seemed to ratify this restraint. However, as 2017 turned to 2018,it appeared this policy was abandoned. A series of quick-fire suo motu notices piled up, with local news outlets reporting an astounding figure of 27 alone in the first month of the year. It was as if we were back in Chaudhry’s court. It was what seemed like populist pandering, with most notices being regarding issues of public interest, most of which had gone viral on social and daily news media. Esteemed lawyer and political analyst Babar Sattar puts it succinctly in a recent piece where he lists the three justifications for such excessive suo motu action. The first is that of filling a vacuum left by the failings of the other two branches of government. This not only paints the government as inefficient but also takes away the confidence of the people in their institutions. An over-indulgence in suo motu notices also distracts the courts from tasks such as judicial reform. With such cases coming to the adalat-e-uzma, lower courts are undermined since all discontented parties want to move to the Supreme Court directly. Furthermore, taking suo motu notices creates no real long-term change. The issues are brought to the public eye for some time but, as evidenced by Chaudhry’s court, they seem to wither away without a substantive change. The sum total of all this is a negative impact on the court’s reputation and a detriment to its day to day workings. As more and more notices were taken, Justice Chaudhry created quite a few enemies. As mentioned earlier, many accused him of indulging in judicial activism to raise his personal profile. While a brilliant legal mind, Justice Nisar must also tread carefully to avoid facing similar accusations. His constant ‘activism’ coupled with his numerous public appearances has already raised quite a few eyebrows. The Court must ensure that the notices be taken sparingly and be reform-driven, lest Justice Nisar leave a muddied legacy. The writer is a student of Public Policy at the Wagner School, New York University. His interests include cricket, South Asian politics and political Islam Published in Daily Times, February 6th 2018.