Commission to probe spy agencies' interference in judiciary after PM-CJP meeting

Premier Shehbaz to also take up letter controversy before federal cabinet tomorrow

Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
PM Shehbaz and CJP Isa along with others during the key meeting. — PID
PM Shehbaz and CJP Isa along with others during the key meeting. — PID

  • Government considers judges’ letter extremely serious matter: Tarar.
  • No compromise will be made on judiciary’s independence: PM Shehbaz.
  • Impartial judicial personality expected to lead commission: law minister.

ISLAMABAD: After a high-level meeting with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday decided to constitute a commission to probe into allegations levelled by the Islamabad High Court's (IHC) judges against the country’s spy agencies of interfering in judicial matters.

The premier-CJP huddle comes after six judges of the IHC — Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir, and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz — wrote to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to convene a judicial convention over the matter of the alleged interference of members of the executive, including operatives of intelligence agencies, in judicial affairs.

“PM Shehbaz assured CJP Isa that no compromise will be made on the judiciary’s independence,” Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said in a press conference after the key meeting today.

Tarar added that the federal government has responsibility to investigate the matter under supervision of an impartial judicial personality, which may be a retired judge with good reputation, under the Commission of Inquiry Act.

At the same time he also announced that a decision in principle has been made to constitute a commission, and the "premier will take up the matter during the federal cabinet meeting tomorrow (Friday).

"The federal government considered the content of the judges’ letter an extremely serious matter as no one should be allowed to meddle in any institutions’ affairs, and it should be probed."

To a question, Tarar categorically rejected speculations of concealing facts or slowing down probe process. He said such complaints should not be shied away and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led government always publicised outcomes of every probes through commissions.

The letter underscored that the code of conduct for judges prescribed by the SJC provides no guidance on how they "must react to and or report incidents that are tantamount to intimidation and interfere with judicial independence".

A day earlier, a full court meeting of the apex court was held in the federal capital to deliberate on the judges' letter that sought guidance from the SJC "with regard to the duty of a judge to report and respond to actions on the part of members of the executive, including operatives of intelligence agencies, that seek to interfere with the discharge of his/her official functions and qualify as intimidation".

The two-hour huddle, convened by CJP Isa, took place after bar associations of Sindh, Lahore, Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as senior lawyers demanded a probe into the letter which arguably might have serious consequences for the country's judiciary.

Separately, a plea has also been filed in the apex court seeking an open court investigation of the IHC judges' letter.

The constitutional petition, submitted by Mian Dawood Advocate, calls for the constitution of an empowered commission to investigate the "premediated" letter.