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There are very few people in Pakistan’s judicial history who have upheld the constitution at any cost. The late justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, Justice Athar Minhullah and Justice Qazi Faez Isa are some who have, but there are very few other names that come to mind when one reads the history of the Pakistani judiciary, which is tainted by the validation of martial laws and its support for the invisible forces undermining democracy.

We have just seen the toxic legacy of the recently retired chief justice Saqib Nisar, who virtually destroyed the credibility of the honorable courts. However, when the invisible forces were engineering the political discourse with the help of retired justice Saqib Nisar, there was a Supreme Court judge who even at that time refused to lend support to the invisible forces for political engineering and always gave verdicts on the basis of merit and in accordance with the constitution. Justice Qazi Faiz Isa is a judge who has been giving verdict after verdict on the cases that other judges refuse to hear because they are afraid of a  backlash from the invisible forces.

Isa headed the famous Quetta commission inquiry case, and his verdict was unprecedented as he held the powerful spy agencies responsible for their negligence. His latest verdict, on the 2017 Faizabad sit-in case, can be termed as one of the most fearless decisions in the country’s recent judicial history. Isa wrote in that judgment that the invisible forces backed the sit-in and were also curbing the freedom of the press.

The Faizabad verdict was not liked by the establishment nor the sitting government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The PTI government tried to politicize the judgment through its group of loyalist lawyers, but its efforts were unsuccessful and the PTI government eventually had to file a review petition regarding the judgment. It was clear from that move that Isa will not be tolerated by either the PTI or the invisible forces, as a bold judge can certainly turn the table at his own through verdicts based on the constitution. In a recent move to try and remove Isa from the Supreme Court, the PTI government filed a presidential reference against a few high court judges, and the only one on the Supreme Court is Isa.

According to the legal definition, a reference is a case filed against an individual in a court or a body that has the full authority of a court. In Pakistan, the Supreme Judicial Council is the competent authority to hear cases against senior judges. The reference against Isa is based on the assumption that Isa did not declare the assets of his spouse and thus he is guilty of hiding information, which falls into the category of misconduct. The additional Attorney General Zahid E Ebrahim resigned in protest, stating that the reference against the judge was a “reckless attempt to browbeat the judiciary.” One wonders why Saqib Nisar was not tried for his misconduct by the Supreme Judicial Council, as he openly sided with PTI and the invisible forces to engineer the current political discourse.

The other question that comes to mind is whether the PTI government has any knowledge of the recent history of the country. Even the dictator General Pervez Musharraf was not able to oust the judges of the Supreme Court through the Supreme Judicial Council and, in fact, that effort led to his fall from power. Isa is recognized by the bar associations as a man of dignity and honesty, and if the PTI government thinks it can fire him, it is digging its own grave. A government already struggling with a major economic crisis and the problems of misgovernance can hardly withstand the pressure of a countrywide lawyers’ movement supporting Justice Isa.

Isa is recognized by the bar associations as a man of dignity and honesty, and if the PTI government thinks it can fire him, it is digging its own grave

The PTI government’s witch hunt targeting political opponents, its curbs on the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression, and now its attempts to oust a judge for refusing to take dictation from the government or the invisible forces are taking it down a suicidal path. Isa is a highly dignified man whose father was a close aide of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In fact, Jinnah made him the first president of the Muslim League in the province of Balochistan.

The character assassination campaign against such a dignified man with a great family history is equivalent to making a mockery of one’s own self. First, Isa was declared a traitor after he penned the decision on the Faizabad sit-in and now he is being portrayed as a corrupt judge. In response, Isa has written a letter to the president of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, asking him why a copy of reference against him is not being provided to him so he can answer the allegations against him. In his letter, he said that not providing him with it is equivalent to character assassination.

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Adding to the worries of the PTI government is the stance of the opposition parties, which are terming it an attack on the judiciary. Maryam Nawaz, the vice-president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has already stated that her party will resist every move to oust Isa. Things are certainly going wrong for the PTI and the powers that be, and in order to control the current political discourse, they are victimizing everyone who opposes the prevailing system. If it takes just one judge to frighten the invisible forces and the PTI government, they are clearly losing the game. If they were in control of the proceedings they would not have victimized the few dissenting voices. On the other hand, it is not about Isa, it is about the institution of the judiciary as it badly needs judges like him to restore its credibility.

Isa is standing on the right side of history and he has nothing to lose as history cannot be engineered, nor it can be written with force or power. It is the PTI government and the invisible forces that have everything to lose. After all, the last thing the PTI and the invisible forces want is a massive national lawyers’ movement backing Justice Isa, which could prove to be the final nail in the coffin of the PTI government. It is time for PTI to adopt a saner approach and instead of imposing an authoritarian system of governance, it should strengthen democracy.

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