Chief Justice Saqib Nisar will lay down his judicial mantle on 19 January 2019 and leave it to the posterity to determine the contours of his performance. When he took over two years ago in December 2016 as the 25th Chief Justice of Pakistan he looked a mellow professional promising to follow in the quiet period of his predecessor Anwar Zaheer Jamali. However during his two years in office he rejuvenated the traditions of judicial activism pursued by Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and emerged as a very stout national judicial voice.
Hailing from an Arain family of Lahore Mian Saqib Nisar followed the traditional path to superior judiciary with a difference that during his professional ascent he became the first office-holder of the Bar to be appointed federal secretary of Law by the administration of Mian Nawaz Sharif in 1997. After holding this position it was a matter of time for his elevation to the Bench and he was duly taken on Lahore High Court in 1998.
In a twist of career his nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the then president Asif Zardari despite recommendation of CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry who suspended the proceedings enabling Justice Saqib Nisar to join SC bench along with Justice Asif Khosa. He was active in the bench for six years before taking over as the Chief Justice. He started his term with a mute note but gradually emerged as a strong and assertive judge in his own right.
His true colours came out during Panama Papers case against the incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This matter was initially dismissed as an aberration initiated by a foreign journalistic source but Mian Saqib Nisar formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) after enough irregularities were found in the case. The case ultimately led to the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif on technical legal grounds. The process of law initiated by JIT resulted in the undoing of premier politicians of Pakistan and gave Saqib Nisar a special position in the annals of the country’s judicial history.
He ordered removal of official security provided to people who faced dangers of terrorist attacks on the premise that such practice was no more the responsibility of the state. His public profile was tremendously enhanced when he took punitive action against culprits such as Shahrukh Jatoi and made sure that he was sentenced. It was a big break from the past practices of the rich and powerful successfully dodging writ of the law. His decision to remove encroachments did hit snags and was put off the rails as such quarters appear to compromise the interests of high-placed groups. Karachi, however, will remember him as the restorer of Empress Market in Saddar.
However, perhaps the most important and popular step taken by the CJP is the dam-building initiative and the start of a dam fund that has received high donations. He should be credited with creating awareness about shortage of water in the country and providing a platform for addressing the issue on the highest level in the country. To pursue this initiative he even toured the UK to seek donations and came back with success creating a precedent in the judicial history of Pakistan.
He also took part in a daring decision to exonerate Asia Bibi and took great personal risk in doing so. This decision created a widespread furore created by the extreme rightist fringe that required tough handling of the state. This decision increased Pakistan’s prestige amongst world community and it finally was able to clear its reputation of an intolerant country. This will always be counted as a landmark decision and may have a far-reaching impact.
Mian Saqib Nisar also took action against the appointment of the crony of Imran Khan as Special Assistant to Prime Minister under the pretext that the appointment reeked of nepotism. His persecution of dual nationals holding important official positions is according to the laid down constitutional provisions and discourages Pakistanis to run for dual nationality status. Mian Saqib Nisar formed a JIT to investigate allegations of financial wrongdoings against former president Asif Zardari unnerving all associated with his party. In the current climate of the nation demanding severe accountability of wrong-doers the apex court has no option but to go for it firmly.
Mian Saqib Nisar will become a private citizen in just under three weeks but his legal acumen and judicial courage will be long remembered. He has been able to put the heart of the judiciary under the right place from where it can take more decisions positively impacting the national destiny of Pakistan.
Noor Israr has a discerning taste in music and he is a trained singer