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Pakistan courts face severe judges shortage after purge

[JURIST] The superior courts of Pakistan are facing a massive shortage of judges in the wake of automatic dismissals following President Pervez Musharraf's November 3 declaration of emergency rule, according to Pakistani officials in the country's Law Ministry [official website] quoted by Pakistan's News daily Tuesday. While the country's Supreme Court [official website] has been staffed with 14 judges so far, only slightly down from its regular strength of 17, the superior courts as a whole are at less than 50 percent strength, with 59 seats out of a total 116 vacant. A number of provincial courts are virtually skeletal, with the Lahore High Court (LHC) sitting only 19 judges of 50 and the Sindh High Court (SHC) [official websites] only 11 of 28. Law Minister Afzal Haider told the News that “We are shortly bringing in a new fleet of judges but I cannot give you a deadline.”

The superior court judges were effectively dismissed en masse by the emergency Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) [text]; while some have since taken oaths under the PCO many others have refused or have simply not been invited. The situation of the now-sitting PCO judges has been complicated by the refusal of many lawyers opposed to emergency rule to appear before them, seriously stalling litigation. Bar spokesmen have said that lawyers are nonetheless moving urgent cases through on a priority basis. The News has more.

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