Justice on trial.

 
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THE Supreme Court may have pushed back an attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary by quashing a malicious presidential reference against a fellow judge, but the threat is still looming. Although the court has cleared Justice Qazi Faez Isa of charges of misconduct, the battle is still on. A vengeful government is not willing to take the humiliation lying down.

Justice Isa's case has exposed the fascistic methods used to intimidate an upright judge. There have been many instances in the country in the past when judges were sent home by military governments. But there is no example of a judge being falsely implicated for wrongdoing and subjected to a media trial. For sure, the presidential complaint was an attempt to tarnish Justice Isa's reputation and intimidate the judiciary.

The presidential reference had become a test for the judiciary. The case had turned into a battle between the executive and the bar. For the first time in the country's history all four high court bar associations as well as the Supreme Court Bar Council became a party in the petition against the reference.

The charge against Justice Isa that his family owned undeclared foreign properties had fallen flat after his wife's testimony. The court's short order may not have fully satisfied the bar, but the quashing of the presidential reference is indeed a triumph of the struggle for the independence of the judiciary as it is for Justice Isa.

It was hardly a coincidence that a reference was filed against Justice Isa just months after his landmark ruling in the Faizabad dharna case in February 2019. The ruling was a damning indictment of the dubious role of the security establishment's involvement in the 2017 siege. The illegal action by a radical religious group that had paralysed the capital for more than two weeks had led to the virtual collapse of civilian law enforcement.

The move against a judge of the country's top court cannot be seen in isolation.

The verdict blamed the intelligence agencies for not stopping the illegal protests. Instead, when 'participants received cash handouts from men in uniform, the perception of their involvement gained traction'. The ruling, citing the Asghar Khan case, particularly pointed to the apparent involvement of the top intelligence agency and of members of the armed forces in politics, media and illegal activities.

Predictably, the indictment evoked a strong reaction from the security establishment. The role of the...

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