Opposition lawmakers slams gov't move against judges

ISLAMABAD: Opposition lawmakers inside and outside the parliament expressed deep concerns over the filing of references against two superior court judges in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) by the government.

The opposition-dominated Senate passed a resolution against the references filed against Supreme Court’s Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court Justice KK Agha, while their counterparts moved a similar resolution in the National Assembly.

Speaking outside parliament, senior leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) condemned, what he described as, “[attempted] targeted killing [of the judiciary]” and demanded of the government to withdraw the references.

The resolution in the Senate was moved by Opposition Leader Raja Zafarul Haq. “The Senate expresses its full solidarity with the judiciary, lawyers elected representatives and Bar Councils of the country and we are with them in this struggle,” read the resolution.

“While supporting across-the-board accountability, the Senate feels that these targeted references are mala fide and politically motivated. They are a direct attack on the independence of Judiciary and are aimed at stifling the voices of reason, truth and justice in the highest judiciary.”

A similarly-worded resolution was moved in the National Assembly on Friday by the PML-N. The resolution termed the references a “direct attack on the independence of the judiciary… aimed at stifling the voices of reason, truth and justice in the judiciary”.

“This House expresses grave concern over the filing of references in the Supreme Judicial Council by the government against some Honourable Judges of the Supreme and High Courts in secretive manner without even the knowledge of the concerned Judges,” read the resolution.

“The filing of references has provoked serious criticism, caused a split in the Bar and the resignation of Additional Attorney General. There is a lingering suspicion that the arbitrary and suspicious manner of filing references before the Supreme Judicial Council linked to recent verdicts by the Honourable Judges,” it added.

“These references are a direct attack on the independence of the judiciary and are aimed at stifling the voices of reason, truth and justice in the judiciary. This House expresses solidarity with the Honourable Judges under siege, lawyers elected representation and Bars Council of the Country.”

Talking to the media outside the parliament, the opposition leaders strongly condemned the references. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the government’s attitude towards the judiciary was the same as former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had.

“The government is trying to make a selected judiciary and a selected opposition and we condemn this,” Bilawal said. “They [government] filed references against the judges and did not even tell them. These references were filed in secret and show the government’s intent.”

Former prime minister and Senior Vice President of PML-N Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also condemned the references and asked for their withdrawal. “We strongly condemn the references and urge the government to take them back,” he told a joint press conference with Bilawal.

“Today the Bar Councils and representative bodies are against the action taken by the government,” he said. “These references were made in the dead of the night and no one knew anything about it. This action was taken to dismantle the judiciary and drag their name through the mud,” he added.

Saying that a “targeted killing” [of the judiciary] was taking place, Abbasi, stressed that “we stand with the legal fraternity”. He added: “Today, the bar councils, lawyers representatives and the country’s people are all united against this step of this government.”

Abbasi said that the Senate had passed the resolution, condemning the attack, and “we have filed it in the National Assembly as well”. The opposition, he continued, tried to pass the resolution during the assembly session but the government “purposely” avoided it.

Ababsi alleged that the government had filed the references so that “judges are unable to give independent orders, are unable to give decisions against the government” and so that judges and the judiciary are suppressed.

Abbasi said that the PML-N has always respected the court. “The previous chief justice became part of a campaign against us but because of respect for the court, we didn’t speak about references against anyone,” he said.

“Today references are made in the darkness of the night,” he said, adding that no one has any knowledge what the due process was. “It has come to this point that references are being filed against judges, and the judge had to enquire about the references by writing to the president.”

Abbasi was also critical that information was being leaked about the judges, including details of their properties. “This is a conspiracy against the judiciary and we will foil all such conspiracies,” the former prime minister added.

Responding to a question, Bilawal allged that the references were filed in secret which showed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s intentions. “These are the remnants of Musharraf [era]. They are adopting the approach of Musharraf.”

Meanwhile, talking to the media persons after the Senate session, Leader of the House Shibli Faraz said that the opposition parties were creating hurdles in the passage of pro-people legislation in the parliament.

He said this shows that the opposition are not interested in any relief to the masses but are out to protect the corruption of their leaders. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Swati said it is the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide justice to the people at their doorstep.