Monday April 15, 2024

‘I didn’t choose to sit there’: Justice Isa on criticism for attending NA session

Supreme Court judge's presence triggered debate on "optics” and “perceptions"

By Maryam Nawaz
April 11, 2023
Justice Qazi Faez Isa speaks during the National Assembly session to celebrate the Constitutions golden jubilee on Monday. — Facebook/NationalAssemblyOfPakistan
Justice Qazi Faez Isa speaks during the National Assembly session to celebrate the Constitution's golden jubilee on Monday. — Facebook/NationalAssemblyOfPakistan

ISLAMABAD: In the midst of a criticism spree following his presence in parliament's special session seated among politicians of the ruling coalition at the front row, Supreme Court of Pakistan's Senior Puisne judge Qazi Faez Isa Tuesday said he "did not choose" to sit at the spot.

The clarification by the senior judge came a day after he attended the National Assembly convention marking the 50th anniversary of the Constitution, which has since garnered him more critique than admiration.

His presence triggered a debate on "optics” and “perceptions".

"I would have preferred to sit in the hall on one side or in the gallery, but respect was shown to a member of the judiciary by seating me at the centre... I did not choose to sit there," Justice Isa said in a statement.

He added that all Supreme Court judges had been invited to celebrate the Constitution's golden jubilee. He added that assurances had been made that there would be no "political speeches" before he accepted the invitation, which was also been confirmed through the programme he received.

"Having cleared this point, first by my staff from the deputy director of the National Assembly, and then by me directly with the speaker, I accepted the invitation as I wanted to show solidarity with the Constitution."

Justice Isa also clarified that he had initially declined to make a speech on the occasion but when “political statements were made (in a few of the speeches)”, he requested to speak to clear some "misconceptions".

The apex court's judge expressed surprise at objections to his presence at the National Assembly convention and his seating place, clarifying that he "did not choose" to sit in the front row.

"The organisers of the convention had invited all to commemorate a singularly important day in Pakistan's history. The golden jubilee of the Constitution is a celebration of all citizens; it is not the exclusive domain of any particular political party or institution," Justice Isa emphasised.

The country's citizens, he further said, would be best served if seeds of discord were not planted, adding that the salvation of all Pakistanis lay in adhering to the Constitution.

During his speech at the lower house of parliament on Monday, Justice Isa termed himself a "defender" of the Constitution, saying that people would have the right to criticise him if he failed to uphold it.

The top court judge's presence at the session triggered a debate among lawyers and politicians, with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice President Shah Mahmood Qureshi saying Justice Isa should not have gone to parliament in the current circumstances.

Lawyer Abdul Moiz Jaferii said, "Justice Qazi Faez [Isa] holding up the Constitution and speaking in parliament to the applause of a coalition government which is hell-bent upon subverting it. What could possibly be worse optics at a fragile and fractured time for the Supreme Court?"