ISLAMABAD (ET): Want of judges has rendered the Chief Court of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) dysfunctional. Four out of five of the judiciary posts have remained unoccupied for the last two months. The provincial government failed to appoint new judges after two of the court’s members were promoted to the Supreme Appellate Court (Supreme Court) of G-B.
According to sources, the cause of the crisis is the struggle between various power brokers to get their hands over the lucrative positions.
“Unlike other parts of the country, the judicial commission doesn’t have any role in the appointment of the judges for the superior judiciary in Gilgit-Baltistan,” said Advocate Ahsan Ali, former president and a senior member of Gilgit-Baltistan Bar Council.
“This is the basic reason why every judge in the superior judiciary in G-B has been appointed on political grounds so far by ignoring merit and competence.”
Under the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Order Rule 2009, the governor recommends names for the office to the Prime Minister for the final selection via the ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan.
As per the Gilgit-Baltistan Governance Order 2009, a person qualifies for appointment as member of chief court only if he has three years of experience as a sessions judge or ten years of experience as a lawyer in High Court. However, some of the persons recommended for the post don’t meet these criteria, Ahsan added.
“Providing justice is a sensitive issue and judges must be appointed on the basis of merit, integrity and impartiality.”
The advocate said that petitions have kept piling up as the court remained closed for the last two months.
Initially, the court had three judges and now with two judges promoted to the Supreme Appellate Court, only one is left to serve the court.
According to Ahsan, the system of induction in the higher judiciary is not transparent in G-B.
Also, he said, the G-B Bar Council demands appointment of at least seven judges in the chief court to avoid any such crisis in the future in case judges retire or are promoted.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s G-B chief organizer Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman, while addressing a press conference on Friday alleged that some top brass at the ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan demands Rs20 million for elevating a candidate to the post of judge in the chief court. He cited it as the reason for the deadlock in the appointment of judges.
Hafiz also demanded establishment of a circle office of Supreme Court in G-B and appointment of judges through judicial commission to ensure transparency.
G-B Governor Pir Karam Ali Shah was contacted several times for his view on the issue. His personal secretary Syed Akber Hussain replied that the governor had no time for talks. When the secretary was asked to comment, he also refused to respond.
The G-B law minister Wazir Shakeel is one of the front-running candidates for the position of judge in the chief court.
While defending his candidature as judge for the superior judiciary despite being a cabinet member, he said that such examples existed in the past. Also he said that he had submitted his resignation to the chief minister on February 11 which would be approved if he is appointed a judge.