Gilgit-Baltistan: Judicial Reference Controversy

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GILGIT (ET): As the judicial reference controversy against a senior Supreme Appellate Court (SAC) judge draws public attention, the opposition leader of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) has demanded implementation of a resolution that sought regularisation of judges’ service.

“The government does not honour the wishes of public representatives,” Janbaz Khan said on Sunday, referring to a resolution unanimously passed by the GBLA in September. He said that had the resolution been implemented, the judicial reference controversy would never have occurred.

The resolution, which was tabled by Khan in the house, stated that the judges of G-B’s SAC are appointed for a period of three years, extendable for further term, “which is tantamount to keeping the judiciary under the control of the government”. According to the Article 60 (8) of the G-B Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009, the chief judge and judges are appointed by the Prime Minister, who can also serve as chairman of the G-B Council upon the recommendation of the G-B governor.

“The GBLA through the resolution urge the federal government to make necessary amendments in the said order to bring the service structure/age limit of the SAC Judges at par with the Supreme Court.”

The controversy erupted when G-B SAC Justice Nawaz Abbasi moved a reference against Justice Jafar Shah, after G-B Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah alleged that Justice Shah had threatened him. G-B Chief Minister Mehdi Shah in turn barred Justice Abbasi from working in Islamabad and revoked his request for an extension in service.

G-B SAC Chief Judge’s contract will end on January 14, while the contract period of the remaining two judges will end in the mid of this year.

Under the presidential order, the government will have to hire three fresh judges, an exercise that will be repeated after every three years, putting strain on the budget of this cash-starved region, said G-B High Court Bar President Ehsan Ali. He said the method of appointment of judges for G-B’s apex court is not only against established norms of independent judiciary but also a burden on the meagre resources of the region.

However, G-B Law Minister Wazir Shakeel said G-BLA lacks authority to make amendments in the Self Governance Order but said the resolution has been forwarded to the federal government for further process. “A meeting was due to happen but the general law and order situation of the country delayed it,” he added.

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