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Judicial reforms remain a distant dream


Despite the passage of two years of the PTI-led federal government’s tenure, it has been unable to reform judicial system — which was one of the main agendas of the ruling party.

In his first speech as the prime minister, Imran Khan had hinted that the country’s judicial system was not delivering.

The premier had expressed his intention to meet then chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar for introducing reforms in the judicial system so that cases could be disposed of early. He had particularly mentioned the long-pending cases of widows and wanted them to be disposed of within a year. However, nothing has happened in this regard so far.

Likewise, PM Imran had convened a meeting on May 29 to consider the agenda of judicial reforms. During the meeting, the premier had expressed his disappointment over the lack of structural reforms in the justice system.

The prime minister formed a committee comprising Law Minister Farogh Naseem, Advieor on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan and Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan to formulate a timeline-based roadmap for the legal reforms process as per the people’s expectations. Interestingly, no progress has taken place in this direction.

Lawyer Umer Gilani, who pleaded a case in the Supreme on judicial reforms, said when the PTI government had come to power, there was widespread hope that as the delivery of justice to common people was the main plank of its election manifesto, the ruling party would devote single-minded attention and unparalleled financial resources to this sector. “It was with this hope that the Supreme Court had disposed of our petition against the delays [in disposing of cases,” he added.

Gilani believes that unfortunately, nothing of the sort has happened regarding reforms in the justice system.

“Only cosmetic legislative changes have been made while the rotten structure of the system remains exactly the way it was two years ago. In terms of financial allocation, we continue to spend less than 1% of the federal budget for the dispensation of justice. With this little public funding, access to justice for the common person will remain a dream.”

Senior lawyer Ali Zafar, who belongs to the PTI, also admitted that there was nothing related to judicial reforms which could be highlighted.

“Though our government has promulgated a few ordinances, we cannot say that these were steps towards bringing structural reforms in the justice system”, he added.

Like other senior lawyers, Zafar also believes that it is prime responsibility of the law ministry to bring the reforms.

The law ministry on Tuesday released its two years performance report, wherein it is stated that 27 acts and 37 ordinances were introduced by the government during last two years.

However, one section of lawyers criticise the incumbent government over its “failure” to evolve consensus with opposition parties to carry out legislation in parliament. Most of the legislation is done through ordinances – not a preferable method in in a parliamentary system.

Even the Supreme Court has proposed to the federal government to carry out new legislation on the accountability law.

The court had asked the government to insert new provision for granting bail to suspects in NAB cases. Likewise, timelines regarding the disposal of NAB cases should be rationalised.

The federal government has sought time from the apex court for introducing new legislation regarding the NAB chairman’s power to accept volunteer returns. Despite passage of many months, the federal government has not taken any step in this regard.

It has also been learnt that all vacancies of judges in special tribunals and courts are yet to be filled. Even the court has expressed serious concerns over the delay in the appointment of judges.

A senior official told The Express Tribune that federal ministers were now approaching the attorney general for legal opinion instead of the law ministry.

In addition, the federal government has been unable to bring transparency in the appointment of law.

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