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Meeting with deposed Pakistan judges

Anonymous [advocate, Lahore High Court, Lahore, Pakistan]: "This evening I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting with four very important judges of the Lahore High Court who refused to take oaths under the Provisional Constitutional Order promulgated by the Chief of the Army Staff on the evening of the 3rd of November. It is very unfair that not only have their names been removed from the website of the Lahore High Court, but their Lordships are not present in the list of 'former judges' either. Even after an exhaustive Google search, the CV of Mr. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Mr. Justice Umar Ata Bandial could not be found. Therefore, I have had to resort to my memory vis-à-vis date of appointment, date of retirement etc.

The names of My Lords are: -

1. Mr. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed: - His Lordship was appointed in December, 2004 and was to remain a Judge till 2018. There was every likelihood of his elevation to the Supreme Court of Pakistan keeping in view the length of service available to him [age of superannuation of a High Court Judge in Pakistan is 62 years whereas of a Supreme Court Judge is 65 years].

2. Mr. Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif: - His Lordship was appointed in May, 1998, and was the senior most Judge on the morning of 3rd of November. Consequently, he was the strongest candidate for the position of the next Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court. His retirement was to take place in 2010 and keeping in view his seniority, His Lordship was destined to reach the Supreme Court maximum by 2009. His biodata is available online.

3. Mr. Justice Umar Ata Bandial: - His Lordship was appointed in December, 2004 and was to remain a Judge till 2020. There was every probability of his elevation to the Supreme Court keeping in view the length of service available to him, which means another 3 years of service bringing retirement in 2023. His Lordship was one of the most distinguished and most expensive corporate lawyers before elevation to the Bench.

4. Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa: - His Lordship was appointed in May, 1998 and was to remain Judge till 2016. Keeping in view his seniority in the Lahore High Court, His Lordship's elevation to the Supreme Court was beyond any doubt which means another three years making 2019 as retirement year. One of the most learned, upright, courteous, and relief-giving Judges the Lahore High Court ever had in its sixty years history. A Barrister of the Lincoln's Inn as well as a Cambridge Graduate. In a short span of 9 years, His Lordship has benefited the profession of law with voluminous judicial precedents upheld by the Supreme Court which speak of quantity as well as quality. The best Judge in this world; nobody knows Criminal Law better than Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa. His biodata is available online.

I noted the following after meeting with them:

1. Their faces were sparkling with the honour of saying No to an illegitimate de facto ruler of Pakistan.

2. Their living rooms were full with guests congratulating them and their families for being so upright in the hour of adversity.

3. None had any impression nor words of regrets for dropping such high offices with such length of service ahead of them.

4. They did not have any major complaints about their colleagues who took oath under the PCO and regarded it as a matter of one's own conscience.

5. Three of them were happily and confidently preparing to revert to their former law firms. The fourth one has two brilliant lawyer sons and I am not sure if he would join their Chambers.

6. They were not vocal against the Chief of Army Staff. Not because of any fear but because they never resort to undignified language for the simple reason that they belong to the profession of law, not the profession of usurpation.

7. All of them, however, were critical of the state of affairs in which their beloved country is being dragged to. The role of political parties, the western influence and the limits thereof, the increasing gulf between the civil and the military.

8. All of them were very concerned about the ruthless baton-charge and subsequent detention of lawyers at the Lahore High Court on the 5th of November. They kept asking about the well-being of different busy lawyers who regularly appeared before them in the court room.

9. All of them were very concerned about the seeds of hatred that had been sown between the Bar and the Bench subsequent to the abhorrent events of 5th of November.

10. All of them were very concerned about the well being of the country, the rule of law, the writ jurisdiction, the concept of independent judiciary, the Constitution, the fundamental rights that are now being denied to the people in the absence of the Constitution, and most importantly the safety of the Chief Justice of Pakistan under detention.

In short, meeting them was meeting happy and satisfied people. Their houses right from the main gate to the guests' room were full with flowers and bouquets which people known and not known to them left not only as a token of respect but also as an approval of their decision. They were good judges. Their judgements have always been regarded as good judgements and it was the evening of 3rd of November when they handed down the last one."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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