PTI Hopes To Block Any Legislative Move To Grant CJP An Extension

Opposition's Asad Qaiser claims they have information that a committee is working on a draft for the proposed Constitutional amendment, which would grant an extension to the CJP

PTI Hopes To Block Any Legislative Move To Grant CJP An Extension

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has said it plans to block any legislative move from the government to extend the tenure of Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faiz Isa.

CJP Isa is set to retire on October 25, 2024.

There have been rumours for weeks that the government may soon introduce legislation in Parliament that amends the Constitution using its newly boosted majority to grant legal cover to an extended tenure for the CJP. It is pertinent to note that there was talk of a similar move for CJP Isa's predecessor, Justice (retired) Umar Ata Bandial, but no such move ever came to the fore. In part, this could be due to the fact that neither of the past two governments, whether under Imran Khan or Shehbaz Sharif, had the necessary two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution.

Currently, under the Constitution, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) and each of the other judges of the Supreme Court, are appointed by the President of Pakistan in accordance with Article 175-A. Another Article of the Constitution, Article 179, sets the maximum age of a judge as 65 years. 

Article 179 states, "A judge of the Supreme Court shall hold office until he attains the age of sixty-five years, unless he sooner resigns or is removed from office in accordance with the Constitution."

In such a situation, Chief Justice Isa will retire on October 25 this year after he reaches the age of 65. 

Talking to The Friday Times, senior PTI leader and former National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser confirmed that they have information that the government is planning to amend the Constitution to extend the tenure of the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan.

"We will not accept such an expected move in the parliament," he said, adding that they will not allow the government to play with the judicial system of the country/

The former National Assembly speaker said that the government, with its fake mandate, was taking all the wrong steps. He reiterated that the PTI was the rightful winner of the February 8 general elections and had the public mandate. If their reserved seats were allotted to them, they would gain a majority in the house.

"If a decision is taken to consolidate the Chief Justice of Pakistan's tenure for three years, the opposition will block this move," he asserted, asking why the government wanted to usurp the rights of the other judges in the queue to become chief justices.

Under the prevailing laws, once CJP Isa retires on October 25, Senior Pusine Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah will become the next chief justice of the top court under the turn-based principle. He is expected to hold the coveted office until November 28, 2027, when he retires. However, should CJP Isa continue in his position for another three years, it would mean that CJP Isa would remain the chief justice until he is 68 years of age and will have overseen the retirement of other brother judges, including Justice Aminud Din Khan, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Musarrat Hilali. Subsequently, if Justice Shah also gets a three-year tenure, he will oversee the retirement of Justice Munib Akhtar.

Qaiser added that they have also learned that a committee has started preparations for introducing the draft constitutional amendment in Parliament.

On the other hand, after reserved seats were allotted in the National Assembly following the recent round of by-elections, a strong ruling coalition has emerged with 229 members. In the 336-member National Assembly, the threshold for a two-thirds majority comprises 224 members.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is leading with 123 seats, followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) with 73 seats and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) with 22 seats. Additionally, the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) has secured five seats, the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) has four, and the PML-Zia and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) have clinched one seat each.

It is thus curious whether any attempts by the PTI or its allies to block such a move would even prove effective.

Legal community expresses concerns

The legal community has already expressed its concerns about the implication of any move to grant an extension to the chief justice.

Some view extensions for the chief justice as part of a move by the government to ensure that judges perceived to share the inclinations of former chief justice Umar Ata Bandial are denied turn-based future promotions as the chief justice by exhausting their tenures.

Senior lawyer Advocate Mian Daud told The Friday Times that rumours of an extension are being deliberately spread to further make Chief Justice Isa controversial so he can be pressured.