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The real test begins: Can CJP Qazi Faez Isa deliver justice without fear or favour?



The Supreme Court need not be united in its decisions, but the judges must be united in their objective to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

“That I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. And that, in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

— Oath of the Chief Justice of Pakistan

As Justice Qazi Faez Isa dons the robe of the country’s top judge, over a hundred civilians are in military custody, draconian legislation that never received the President’s assent has been published in the gazette, elections on time seem impossible, and the pendency of cases in the Supreme Court has soared to over 56,000.

In April, Justice Isa attended a convention on the 50th Anniversary of the Constitution. In his speech, he held up a copy of the Constitution and said: “This book is our identity, Pakistan’s identity. I want to say on behalf of my institution that we are also defenders of the Constitution. And if I do not do that, then you can criticise me.”

The real test begins now. And here are its toughest questions:

corresponding amendments to the Army Act, military courts were empowered to try civilians for certain terrorism related offences. Terrorists were at war with our nation — terrorists responsible for the savage and inhumane murder of children.

In the District Bar Case, the majority of the Supreme Court upheld the 21st Amendment. Per the majority, “we appear to be confronted with a warlike situation and consequently the Federation is duty bound by the constitution to defend Pakistan.”

Justice Isa did not agree, and instead held, “the constitution does not permit the trial of civilians by the military as it would contravene fundamental rights.” Per Justice Isa, “no normal person can sympathise with killers who must be prosecuted and punished, but in accordance with the law and the Constitution. If we rush to convict terrorists through unconstitutional means we stoop to their level.”

Even when it came to the trial of suspected terrorists, Justice Isa held that justice could not be handed over to the military. And so, he struck down a constitutional amendment.

Last month, the amendments to the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act were published in the gazette. The amendments to the Army Act entrench and give legal cover to the role of the military in national development. Neither of these amendments received the President’s assent, which the nation later discovered through his tweet.

Yet, members of the caretaker government rushed on national television, claiming that the President’s assent was deemed to be given. The simple problem with this interpretation is that this is not what the Constitution says. The deeming provision of the Constitution under Article 75(3) only kicks in when a bill has been passed a second time by a joint sitting of Parliament. This never happened.

Regardless of the draconian nature of these amendments, members of an unelected setup were eager to deem assent. The amendments to the Pakistan Army Act extend the jurisdiction of military courts over a person who “is or has been” subject to the Army Act. This suggests that the amendment applies to serving and retired members of the military. Retired army officers can now be tried by military courts for defamation, electronic crimes, and unauthorised disclosure. Previously, the jurisdiction of a court martial over retired army officers was far more restricted.

Under the Official Secrets Act as it stood, the focus was on espionage which was prejudicial to the “safety or interests of the state”. The amendment, however, introduces an additional element of intentionally acting in a manner which is prejudicial to “public order”. Under the new law, it is a criminal offence to be “in the vicinity of” a military establishment for any purpose prejudicial to “public order”.

What does acting prejudicial to “public order” mean? How much vicinity is considered enough? The room for abuse is glaring.

Both these amendments have now been challenged in the apex court. The institution, now headed by Justice Isa, will hear this challenge and determine whether these laws will remain in the gazette.

preamble of the Constitution provides that “the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.” A core constitutional principle is the right to be governed by your elected representatives.

On dissolution of the national assembly or a provincial assembly, a general election shall be held within a period of ninety days after dissolution. Despite the efforts of some, there is no other interpretation possible. The constitutional command is unambiguous.

Yet, two provinces have been unrepresented for several months. A decision of the Supreme Court has been and continues to be violated. Even today, there is no definitive date for general elections at the provincial or national level.

Currently, the ECP is busy arguing over which authority has the duty to announce the date for elections, and using the census to justify the delay. Article 48(5) of the Constitution states that where the President dissolves the National Assembly, the President shall appoint a date for elections. The language is crystal clear.

The ECP, however, insists that, in fact, they have the authority to announce the date. The clash over the announcement of the election date will inevitably lead to further unnecessary litigation.

As regards the census, it was approved by the Council of Common Interests including the caretaker chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Election Act, 2017, expressly prohibits a caretaker government from taking major policy decisions. The very edifice of the approval of the census is questionable. Even otherwise, the census and fresh delimitation cannot override the 90-day time limit.

“Democracy demands elections, the Constitution demands elections. Democracy is meaningless without such an exercise. To concede to the [Election] Commission the power, especially on the constitutional plane, to interfere with the electoral process in so fundamental a manner could be tantamount to derailing democracy itself,” per the decision authored by Justice Munib Akhtar ordering provincial polls.

Without elections, there is no democracy.

The court should not need to tell us what is clearly written in the Constitution. As the ECP and the caretaker governments shirk their responsibility (like the governors did earlier this year), the stage is set for the matter to end up in the courts.

with over 56,000 pending cases. This cuts at the basic right to access justice. There can be no trust and confidence in the legal system when it takes several years for litigants to be heard. Unfortunately in Pakistan, the right to be heard has become a privilege, not a right.

Years are spent while families of missing persons and victims of enforced disappearances are granted a hearing. Citizens continue to be detained in internment centers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. At times, persons wrongly convicted have already served the entirety of their sentence while awaiting an appeal. A dysfunctional legal system itself acts as a punishment for many. This cannot continue. Reducing the backlog must be a priority.

In March this year, Justice Isa called for the postponement of cases under Article 184(3) until amendments to the Supreme Court Rules, 1980, were made. In a “circular” issued through the registrar, former CJP Umar Ata Bandial asserted that the observations made by Justice Isa were to be disregarded. In response, Justice Isa claimed, “history witnesses, that when in an individual power is concentrated, disastrous consequences follow.”

Justice Isa has been vocal about the need to democratise the court. Currently, the power to form benches, the invoking of the court’s original (suo motu) jurisdiction, and the convening of a judicial commission meeting for the appointment of judges are all powers that lie with the chief justice. As the absolute power he spoke against now vests in his office, it is for Justice Isa to honour his word.

disputed the need for provincial elections within 90 days. The only dispute was regarding the manner in which the court’s suo motu jurisdiction was invoked.

Yet, weeks were spent needlessly arguing over whether the decision ordering provincial elections was accepted by a majority of 3:2 (or whether the petitions were rejected by 4:3). The majority was clearly 3:2. While the judges agreed on the principle of 90 days, they could not speak with one voice. The fact that the citizens of two provinces were unrepresented became secondary.

The divisions in the judiciary were exploited by the former coalition government in their brazen defiance of the court, and the moral authority of the highest court was diminished.

It now falls to Justice Isa to take his institution along with him. This is not to say that there should be no dissent. Ultimately, the judiciary does not need to be united in their decisions. It does, however, need to be united in its objective to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. And to dispense justice without fear or favour.

This is their oath to the nation, and its people.


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Indian police raid media office, homes of journalists in illegal funding probe



Indian police raided the office of a news portal and the homes of journalists and writers linked to it on Tuesday as part of an investigation into suspected illegal foreign funding of the media company, two government officials said.

Laptops and mobile phones were taken away as part of the investigation into the media company NewsClick, the officials and some of the journalists said.

“A special investigations team launched a search operation to identify all those individuals who were possibly getting funds from overseas to run a media group with the main agenda of spreading foreign propaganda,” said an official in the interior ministry overseeing the raids by the Delhi Police.

The raids were part of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, India’s financial crime agency, into suspected money laundering by NewsClick, the official said.

Another ministry official said the raids were conducted at more than a dozen homes of journalists and some other writers linked to NewsClick.

“We have not arrested anyone and the search operations are still underway,” the second official said.

Both of the officials declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak to the media. A Delhi Police spokesperson said he was not in a “position to comment, as of now”.

NewsClick officials were not immediately available for comment. It says on its website says it is an independent media organisation launched in 2009 dedicated to covering news from India and elsewhere with a focus on “progressive movements”.

Officials said the investigation began after a New York Times report in August named NewsClick as part of a global network receiving funds from American billionaire Neville Roy Singham, allegedly to publish Chinese propaganda.

NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha said at the time the allegations were not new and the organisation would respond to them in court.

The Press Club of India said it was deeply concerned about the raids.

India has fallen to 150th in the World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, from 140th last year, its lowest ever.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government rejects the group’s findings, questioning its methodology, and says India has a vibrant and free press.


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In major milestone, first-ever women’s cricket match held in Swat



After enduring several restrictions and roadblocks, girls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat finally played the “first-ever” women’s cricket match in the Kabal tehsil on Tuesday.

Women cricketers from Kabal and Mingora tehsils participated in the match, which was played in the ground of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School Kabal.

During the 10-over thrilling contest, the Mingora women’s cricket team emerged as winners after beating Kabal by seven runs.

The game was attended by a large audience, which included female spectators, Babuzi Assistant Commissioner (AC) Luqman Khan, Kabal AC Junaid Khan, organiser and taekwondo champion Ayesha Ayaz, coach Ayaz Naik and others.

After the match, trophies, certificates and cash prizes were distributed among the players.

Speaking to, the women cricketers expressed their happiness and recalled how they had been barred from playing the sport.

Over the weekend, several clerics and a group of elders in the Charbagh tehsil had prevented the girls from playing cricket. They had called women’s participation in sports “immoral”.

After outcry from players and locals, Swat Deputy Commissioner Dr Qasim Ali Khan had instructed officials to find a “suitable location” for the match.

Sapna, one of the players, said: “I can’t find the words to describe how disheartened we felt when certain individuals prevented us from playing in Charbagh. It made us question whether we were not considered human beings and whether we had no rights.”

She said that she and her friends had been restless after that incident.

“But today, I am overjoyed that we were given the opportunity to play in front of a large audience and we emerged victorious,” she added.

Ayesha Ayaz, a 13-year-old budding taekwondo player who has secured two gold medals and one silver medal for Pakistan, stressed that the women of Swat possessed “remarkable talent” across various domains, including sports.

She advocated encouraging female participation in sports activities, asserting that they should not face obstacles but be granted opportunities to showcase their abilities and contribute to the nation’s prestige.

Naik, one of the match’s organisers, also expressed his gratitude to the district administration and organisers, hoping that they would continue promoting sports in the same way.

“This marks the initial step towards independent women’s sports activities, and we are committed to taking further substantial measures to offer increased opportunities to female players,” he said.


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Fiscal reforms critical for economic stability, sustainable growth in Pakistan: World Bank



Pakistan’s economy slowed sharply in fiscal year 2023 with real gross domestic product (GDP) estimated to have contracted by 0.6 per cent, according to the World Bank.

In a report released on Tuesday, titled ‘Pakistan Development Update: Restoring Fiscal Sustainability’, the global body said the decline in economic activity in the country reflects the cumulation of domestic and external shocks including the floods of 2022, government restrictions on imports and capital flows, domestic political uncertainty, surging world commodity prices, and tighter global financing.

The report said the previous fiscal year ended with significant pressure on domestic prices, fiscal and external accounts and exchange rate, and loss of investor confidence.

“The difficult economic conditions along with record high energy and food prices, lower incomes, and the loss of crops and livestock due to the 2022 floods, have significantly increased poverty.”

As per the report, the poverty headcount is estimated to have reached 39.4pc in fiscal year 2023, with 12.5 million more Pakistanis falling below the lower-middle income country poverty threshold ($3.65/day 2017 per capita) relative to 34.2pc in fiscal year 2022.

“Careful economic management and deep structural reforms will be required to ensure macroeconomic stability and growth,” said World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Najy Benhassine said in the report.

He added: “With inflation at record highs, rising electricity prices, severe climate shocks, and insufficient public resources to finance human development investments and climate adaptation, it is imperative that critical reforms are undertaken to build the fiscal space and public means to invest into inclusive, sustainable, and climate-resilient development.”

Without a sharp fiscal adjustment and decisive implementation of broad-based reforms, Pakistan’s economy will remain vulnerable to domestic and external shocks.

Predicated on the robust implementation of the IMF stand-by arrangement (SBA), new external financing and continued fiscal restraint, real GDP growth is projected to recover to 1.7pc in fiscal year 2024 and 2.4 per cent in fiscal year 2025, the report added.

It said economic growth was therefore expected to remain below potential over the medium term with some improvements in investment and exports.

According to the report, limited easing of import restrictions thanks to new external inflows will widen the current account deficit in the near term and weaker currency and higher domestic energy prices will maintain inflationary pressures.

“While the primary deficit is expected to narrow as fiscal consolidation takes hold, the overall fiscal deficit will decline only marginally due to substantially higher interest payments.”

The report underlined that the economic outlook was subject to extremely high downside risks, including liquidity challenges to service debt payments, ongoing political uncertainty, and external shocks.

“These macroeconomic challenges can be addressed through comprehensive fiscal reforms of tax policy, rationalisation of public expenditure, better management of public debt, and stronger inter-government coordination on fiscal issues,” said Aroub Farooq, economist at the World Bank, and author of the report.

To regain stability and establish a base for medium-term recovery, the report recommended reforms to drastically reduce tax exemptions and broaden the tax base through higher taxes on agriculture, property and retailers; improve the quality of public expenditure by reducing distortive subsidies, improving the financial viability of the energy sector, and increasing private participation in state-owned enterprises.

The Pakistan Development Update is a counterpart to the semiannual South Asia Development Update by the World Bank. This report assesses economic developments, prospects, and policy challenges within the South Asia region, the lender said.


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