Umar Ata Bandial called for dialogue to settle all political issues

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Friday called for dialogue to settle all political issues, and emphasised that progress can only be made if all political parties followed the established democratic practices and performed their respective roles in parliament under the Constitution.

“A purely political impasse does not have a legal solution; it can only be resolved through dialogue between political leaders and their parties,” the CJP emphasised while speaking on the role of judiciary in maintaining rule of law and upholding the supremacy of the Constitution at the 9th International Judicial Conference here at the Supreme Court.

Also addressed by chief justices of various high courts, the conference was organised to focus on key areas, including the role of various stakeholders in the administration of justice, global challenges, dispute settlement mechanisms, and delivering justice in the era of digital advancement.

“The judiciary has no role to break a political deadlock,” CJP Bandial stressed, but hoped that the political leadership of the country would take the necessary corrective action and confidence-building measures with the public and national interest as their foremost consideration.

Citing the 2021 case on climate change, the CJP highlighted that in the wake of the recent floods that had ravaged around one-third of the country and displaced millions of people, most of whom already belonged to vulnerable segments of society, the court’s decision was a wake-up call for the legislature and the executive to take immediate action to mitigate the pernicious effects of climate change on people.

To truly progress as a nation, which was fully committed to the ideals and aspirations of the Constitution and the rule of law, the CJP observed, all stakeholders in the justice sector needed to rise to the challenge. “The judiciary cannot pursue these ideals singlehandedly. The other organs of the state, namely the legislature and the executive, must also adhere to constitutional principles and ensure that their actions advance, rather than negate, the ideals and aspirations of the Constitution,” he noted.

Additionally, he further said, the executive must also be diligent in implementing the decisions of the court, especially in matters of constitutional importance, without undue delay to truly anchor the rule of law in the country.

CJP Bandial observed the court had the power to declare the rights guaranteed to the people by the Constitution and the law, but it could not implement them, except in limited circumstances. The executive must take charge in this field and ensure that the words of the court were translated into practical action for the people.

The bar is also expected to join hands in delivering justice where it lacked the most by making the courts, or other fora of dispute resolution, accessible to people who could not access them due to poverty, marginalisation and illiteracy, the CJP said.

Earlier, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah described the role of the judiciary in strengthening the rule of law as: “The good, the bad and the ugly.”

“As an institution we cannot be oblivious to the fact that history’s judgement of our performance thus far may not be flattering. We have contrived concepts such as ‘holding the Constitution in abeyance’ and justified the ‘doctrine of necessity’,” he regretted.

“We authored cases such as Dosso, Nusrat Bhutto, Zafar Ali Shah and Tikka Iqbal Muhammad Khan, while having sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, sided with usurpers that were all-powerful. And decided against them only mostly when they had fallen out of favour or had walked into the sunset. We sent an elected prime minister to the gallows and it is ironic that we don’t accept the judgement as a precedent,” CJ Minallah further noted.

The disqualifications of chosen representatives under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution had raised questions. Such a high standard of scrutiny was never applied in the cases of unelected usurpers and other public office-holders, he stated.

He added independence of the judiciary that they jealously guarded was for the benefit of the average citizen that relied on them to uphold the promise of legal equality made by the Constitution against an all-powerful state and the power elites that controlled the state.

But, CJ Minallah said, many in this country regarded the judiciary as part of the “power elite”, therefore it must bring the same attitude of introspection and humility while exercising authority involving their own entitlements.

“When we exercise public authority to uphold our dignity, we must remember that the power is meant to serve public interest, and not our own,” he added.

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