Mar 24, 2009

The return of the CJ

The moment of triumph that we saw Sunday, as the national flag was raised once more over the Islamabad home of the man who resumes charge as Chief Justice of Pakistan, marks a historic moment that will become a part of history. Civil society activists who had waged a two-year struggle to see this victory were quite naturally jubilant. The accusations that former SCBA president Aitzaz Ahsan had tried to take credit for the success, with many key figures in the lawyers’ movement not a part of the ceremony, created an unfortunate note of disharmony. Even the PML-N leadership, whose role in the final push to restoration, was absent. But this cannot detract from the fact that a great deal has been achieved.Those who stand with the CJ, and for justice, must however keep in mind that the road they have boldly marched down does not end here. The real purpose of the struggle was, after all, the independence of the judiciary. The effort to ensure that the judiciary can function independently must then go on. The unusual involvement of people from all walks of life in the judicial restoration also means there are now enormous expectations from the judiciary. The issue of access to justice is quite clearly one they feel passionately about. The families of the hundreds of people who remain missing have already expressed their expectation that relief will be offered up quickly. It may be recalled that the case of Pakistan’s ‘disappeared’ people has remained shelved since November 2007. There are others too who hope the return of the deposed CJ will usher in a new era of justice. His practice of taking suo motu notice of cases ranging from rape to robbery has become a matter of public discourse. But realistically speaking, it may not be possible to meet all these expectations. They are too overwhelming. The real aim of the judiciary must be to work towards creating a more efficient and equitable system, so that now and in the future people can obtain the justice they so ardently seek.

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