Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, during a case widely seen as pitting the country’s judiciary against its government and powerful soldiers .The court said in its judgment: “(It) is claimed to be of no legal effect whatsoever and stands quashed.
The reference, filed by the govt in May last year, alleged that between 2011 and 2015, Isa acquired three London properties on lease within the name of his wife and youngsters but didn’t disclose them in his wealth returns.
Isa denied the allegation, saying he wasn’t a beneficial owner of the apartments, directly or indirectly. during a petition filed against the reference, he argued that the Asset Recovery Unit constituted by the govt to research his family’s properties was illegal and operated with none legal standing, and thus any actions taken by the unit against him and his family were also illegal and without legal effect. The petition said the names and property details of Isa’s family were gathered through illegal surveillance.
Isa’s wife gave her statement to the court on Thursday via video link, during which she provided the cash trail for the acquisition of the three properties in London. the small print of her accounts were available from the depository financial institution of Pakistan, she said.
The court instructed her to present the documents to the tax authorities.
“I must tell you one thing: we, as judges, are in charge of our actions privately and public life,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial, one among the presiding judges, told Isa’s wife.
“Therefore we are far more accountable than people , as we are holding people accountable. this is often not the trial of your husband, and yours also , but the trial of our institution (the judiciary).”
In February last year, the Supreme Court, and Isa especially , came under attack for passing a verdict that warned the military and intelligence agencies to not exceed their mandate by meddling in politics. This was seen as a rebuke over security agencies’ handling of protests by a spiritual party in 2017.
The judges’ comments were a rare public rebuke for the nation’s powerful soldiers , which have ruled Pakistan for nearly half its history and have in recent years been criticized for returning to a more active role in its politics. the military has repeatedly denied any interference.
The Supreme Court had been investigating the so-called “Faizabad protest,” during which the capital Islamabad was paralyzed by a hard-line religious group that accused a minister of blasphemy.
It also examined the role of the safety agencies, including their part in ending the standoff through mediation. The army’s role especially attracted criticism after video footage shared on social media showed a senior officer giving cash to protesters after a deal was struck to end the blockade.
“The involvement of ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and of the members of the soldiers in politics, media and other ‘unlawful activities’ should have stopped,” consistent with the decision , which was authored by Isa and another judge. “Instead, when (protest) participants received cash handouts from men in uniform, the perception of their involvement gained traction.”
Social-media campaigns unleashed fury on Isa for the judgment, and in May last year reports emerged on social media and tv news channels that President Arif Alvi had filed a reference against the judge over undisclosed assets.
The same month, additional attorney general of Pakistan Zahid F. Ebrahim resigned, describing the reference as a “reckless decide to tar the reputation of independent individuals and browbeat the judiciary of Pakistan.”
The Sindh supreme court Bar Association said the reference was “malicious” and had the aim of “undermining the independence of the judiciary and rule of law.”