News Analysis | Saqib Nisar Seems Keen To Clean A Dirty Slate. But Is Anyone Interested?

News Analysis | Saqib Nisar Seems Keen To Clean A Dirty Slate. But Is Anyone Interested?
Ever since his retirement as the chief justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar has not hidden away from controversies involving the judiciary. He is a looming presence in Pakistan for not always the right reasons and is credited for sowing the seed for judicial activism.

His latest interview with Dawn is not the action of someone wishing to keep a low profile. He said in his 2017 court verdict, he did not “completely” declare ex-premier Imran Khan sadiq and amin (truthful and honest), he refuted the claim that he alongside former spymaster Lt Gen Faiz Hameed lobbied for the PTI chief, he confirmed that his Whatsapp is hacked – and admitted he may have made wrong decisions.

Through such disclosures, is he trying to wipe the slate clean? Is he trying to make a comeback of sorts?

“During his term, he intervened in a lot of matters that weren’t under his domain,” said legal expert Hina Jilani, pointing to his regular resort to suo motu powers under Article 184 (3) of the constitution, particularly in cases of money laundering, fake accounts, conditions of government hospitals, land encroachment cases, increase in population, drinking water companies and more. “He seemed to think of himself as a know-all and a saviour of the country in every matter possible,” she commented during Naya Daur’s programme Khabar Sey Aagey.

Twice, since his retirement, Nisar has been caught at the centre of controversy – in 2021, a former Gilgit-Baltistan chief justice saying in an affidavit that he witnessed Nisar relaying instructions to a high court judge to not release Maryam and Nawaz Sharif in the corruption references against them.

Nisar had dismissed the report at the time and shortly after an audio clip surfaced, allegedly of a conversation between Nisar and an unidentified man on the Sharifs trial, where the ex-CJP purportedly said that Nawaz would have to be “punished.”

The former CJP is also getting flak these days – Imran Khan has shown aggression towards his opponents since his outer in April 2022. Maryam Nawaz, after her return from the UK, has adopted an aggressive stance against judges and generals, including Nisar.

Further, many lips curled at Nisar’s disclosure in December last year that he met with former army chief retired General Qamar Javed Bajwa, where the general appreciated his “services for the country.”

“Nisar is expecting more attacks on him. Perhaps, he is also expecting his objectionable audios and videos to be released when politicians get desperate to win the electoral fight,” said senior analyst Mazhar Abbas to The Friday Times. “Nisar is nervous. He is guilt – and now wants to mend his tarnished reputation.”

Mazhar Abbas suggested that a fact-finding commission be formed by a reputable organisation, like the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, to review the role of the judiciary, establishment, and parliament over the years.

Commenting on the primary issue of independence of judiciary, Hina Jillani, who is also the co-chairperson of HRCP, said that institutions are losing their credibility and the role of the parliament seems missing in these circumstances. “It’s not the people or institutions that make the judiciary independent. Independence of judiciary is a fight for the judiciary to fight to guarantee democracy. In Pakistan, however, at no point in history have decisions of the apex court proved to be of support to the democracy.”

Dispelling the commonly held notion that the judiciary is pressured by the establishment, she added, “I think they are partners to one another.”