Pakistan to investigate army’s meddling in judiciary, law minister says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 28, 2024 | 9:04 AM

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan will set up an inquiry commission to investigate accusations by six High Court judges of interference and intimidation by the country’s powerful intelligence agencies in judicial decisions, the law minister said on Thursday.

Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar made the announcement at a news conference in Islamabad, saying the decision was taken at a meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa.

Their meeting took place after a letter written by six judges of the Islamabad High Court was sent to Isa’s office. It alleged that the country’s top spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had been intimidating them to seek favourable decisions in political cases.

The Pakistani army’s media office did not respond to a Reuters request for a comment.

“We believe it is imperative to inquire into and determine whether there exists a continuing policy on part of the executive branch of the state, implemented by intelligence operatives who report to the executive branch, to intimidate judges, under threat of coercion or blackmail, to engineer judicial outcomes in politically consequential matters,” said the letter, addressed to the Supreme Judicial Council headed by Justice Isa and seen by Reuters.

It mentioned as an example that the ISI’s operatives intimidated through “friends and relatives” two of the judges who had declared against taking up a political case related to jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan last year.

It said the six judges had brought such cases in their chief’s knowledge and also met the then chief justice of Pakistan to “share their concerns regarding efforts of ISI operatives to affect judicial outcomes”.

They said the interference continued despite their chief assuring them that he had taken up the matter with the ISI head, who gave his word that there would not be any such interference, the letter said.

Khan’s main opponent, the prime minister’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), had also accused the ISI of intimidating the same court’s decisions which led to convictions of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif after his ouster from the prime minister’s office in 2017.

The powerful army plays an oversized role in making and breaking governments in Pakistan. The country has been ruled by military regimes for almost half its history since independence from Britain in 1947. Khan and elder Sharif both have alleged that they were ousted by the military after they fell out with the generals.

“We want it to be thoroughly probed because we had also been its victim,” Tarar said.

PM Sharif will formally take the decision to set up the commission in a cabinet meeting on Friday, Tarar said.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Angus MacSwan)