Last week saw two judges of the Supreme Court—both derogatively alleged to belong to an “Imran Khan camp”—resigning from their posts, indicating a judicial crisis the likes of which Pakistan is prone to. Under former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, both Ijazul Ahsan and Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi were often included in benches hearing important cases—particularly those related to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)—and their premature exits foreshadow the end of the political charisma of Khan, which had cast shadows on the idea of justice in the country. Of the two resignations, the most curious is that of Ahsan, who was set to become the next CJP in October, while Naqvi’s reasoning was apparent, as he is currently facing misconduct allegations before the Supreme Judicial Council.
To understand Ahsan and Naqvi’s reasoning, one must look back at Bandial’s court and its blatant public signaling of bias for Imran Khan. Following in the path laid down by ex-CJP Saqib Nisar, Bandial and his “likeminded” judges saw Khan as a savior of Pakistan. The spell, however, appears to have broken with Bandial’s retirement in October 2023, but leaves a disenchanted public more aware than ever of the split in the apex court that did not cover it with glory.
It was under Bandial that Khan—after his arrest triggered the May 9 riots—was granted freedom in now-infamous proceedings that began with “good to see you” and ended with the detention being declared “invalid.” This is not to suggest Khan is now fully on the outs; last year, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court granted him bail in the cipher case, declaring there were “no reasonable grounds” to believe the former prime minister had wrongfully communicated confidential information to the public—though it acknowledged the need for further inquiry.
Unfortunately, the visible split in the Supreme Court—both before and after the tenure of Bandial—has not covered the apex court with glory. Impartial observers can only hope the days to come will see a course correction that encourages the public to see it as an avenue of impartial justice, and not one bound by one bias or another.