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ISLAMABAD: Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali expressed regret over the ongoing controversy about the issue of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP)’s proceedings.

According to a letter issued late night of Saturday by the AGP office, he said all appointments to the higher judiciary should be made on merit.

The letter stated that during the aforementioned JCP meeting, the AGP fully supported the viewpoint expressed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood who raised objections to all the five nominations proposed for elevation to the Supreme Court of Pakistan by the chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

The AGP refrained from commenting on the merits of nominees, the letter said. However, he stressed the need to keep merit in view during the upcoming meeting.

The main contents of the AGP letter to the JCP are: “I am dismayed by the controversy emanating from the recent proceedings of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (“Judicial Commission”). My consistent position has been that appointments to high judicial office must be premised on merit, and in light of Articles 175 and 177 of the Constitution of Pakistan: it is thus imperative that the requisite criteria be structured for such appointments. This will ensure not only that elevations are made in the public interest, but also that the members of the Judicial Commission may confirm appointments in an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual goodwill.

I had put the same recommendation to the worthy Members during the Judicial Commission’s proceedings of July 28, 2022. While appreciating the hard work put in by Honourable Justice Mr Sardar Tariq Masood and endorsing his stance, I categorically stated that I agree with him. In the interest of propriety, I refrained from commenting on the merits of each nominee.”

“I; however, observed, and continue to maintain, that the Honourable Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court is eminently qualified to be considered for elevation to the Apex Court, and that such elevations, in any event, must be made against existing vacancies, no more and no less.

As I stated, the rejection or confirmation of candidates must be regulated by guiding rules. These rules must be settled beforehand, and the data of any new candidates must be thoroughly assessed accordingly. It was for this particular reason that I suggested that the meeting be deferred until the approval of such criteria. It is hoped that those same self-evident reasons will no longer be misconstrued.

I would also be remiss not to mention that any appointment to the Supreme Court of Pakistan is a sacred trust, vested in the members of the Judicial Commission. To fulfil this trust, members must afford one another a full and unimpeded airing of their views. The conclusion of the meeting precluded the honourable Justice and senior puisne judge Mr Qazi Faez Isa from completing his remarks, which we were all continuing to benefit from.

By way of conclusion, I am constrained to observe that the proceedings of the Judicial Commission can no longer be marked by such acrimony. We find ourselves in these rather transient offices as fiduciaries: our duty is to the republic we serve, not the travails of our personal experiences. To ensure the dispensation of justice, it is vital that the most outstanding jurists be elevated to the August Supreme Court of Pakistan, in a manner that is rooted in merit and process.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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