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LAHORE: Life of a judge is not a bed of roses in any part of the world, including Pakistan, where apart from the well-guarded Army Chiefs, sitting Lieutenant Generals, highest-ranking police officials, incumbent and former Prime Ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers, court arbiters and their family members have also been targeted with utmost impunity by both known and unidentified assailants.
However, threats against Pakistani judges and even their family members have been on the upswing in recent years, research carried out by the "Jang Group and Geo Television Network" shows.
At a juncture when every Pakistani citizen finds himself trapped in a labyrinth of terror, lawlessness and crime, the extremely serious issue pertaining to the security of court judges has also cropped up yet again, meaning thereby that it has certainly become an uphill task to dispense justice in Pakistan.
Although court judges anywhere in the world wield a lot of influence; a few aspects of their lives, like consistent threats and other dangers, are not enviable at all as perils continue to loom large over them.
Just yesterday, some unknown people had fired twice within a span of a few hours at the gate of sitting Supreme Court judge Ijazul Ahsan’s residence in Model Town, Lahore. The two separate firing incidents at the judge's home had triggering widespread condemnation in Pakistan, besides raising many an eyebrow as Justice Ijazul Ahsan is not only the monitoring judge of corruption references filed by National Accountability Bureau against the Sharif family, but along with Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, he is also on the bench that recently observed a complete audit of the Pakistan Railways should be conducted in order to ascertain alleged Rs60 billion losses to the state entity headed by minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. Here follow some major incidents of violence/terrorism and personal enmity that have targeted Pakistani court judges, their vulnerable blood relatives and other senior court officials in recent years:
Not long ago, in January 2018, Saad Gulzar, the son of Supreme Court judge, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, had escaped unhurt after unidentified men opened fire on his vehicle in Karachi. Saad was on his way to office when the unidentified motorcyclists shot at his car.
He was signalled to halt his car by the assailants, but he did not stop after which they opened fire at his vehicle. An exchange of fire between Saad’s guards and the culprits took place. However, the attackers escaped unhurt.
In February 2017, at least one person was killed and four civil judges (Asif Jadoon, Asifa, Rabia and Tehreema) injured when a suicide bomber rammed his motorbike into a court van in Peshawar.
Police said driver of the van carrying the judges was killed in the incident in Hayatabad area of the provincial capital. In June 2016, the reported abduction of Advocate Ovais Ali Shah, the son of Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, had signified that risks and perils that continued to loom large over the lives of sitting Pakistani judges and their immediate family members.
On August 5, 2015, unknown men had killed an additional District and Sessions judge, Tahir Khan Niazi, in Rawalpindi. In November 2014, one person was killed in an explosion targeting a vehicle carrying anti-terrorist court judge Nazeer Ahmed Langove in Quetta. The judge had remained unhurt.
In June 2014, unknown gunmen had opened fire in Quetta, killing Environmental Tribunal judge, Sakhi Sultan.
In March 2014, an Additional Sessions judge Rafaqat Awan was among the dozen people killed in an attack on an Islamabad court.
In February 2014, Aqib Shahani, the son of District and Sessions Judge Jacobabad, Khalid Hussain Shahani, was killed.
On June 26, 2013, Sindh High Court Judge Maqbool Baqir was attacked by militants in Karachi while he was on his way to the court. Justice Baqir had survived.
On August 30, 2012, gunmen had shot dead a Quetta judge Zulfiqar Naqvi along with his driver and police bodyguard in a suspected sectarian attack.
On March 18, 2012, a policeman had perished after unknown men had opened fire at the residence of Multan’s Shariat Court judge.
On July 17, 2007, at least 17 people were killed as a suicide bomber had blown himself up outside the venue of the district bar council convention in Islamabad, killing some PPP political workers waiting for the arrival of the then deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was due to address a lawyers’ convention.
This attack had come on the heels of the bloodshed at Lal Masjid, which had claimed over 100 lives just a week earlier.
On May 13, 2007, Syed Hammad Raza, a senior official at Pakistan’s Supreme Court, was shot dead near his home in Islamabad. The slain official was a close associate of the then CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry.
On February 17, 2007, a suicide bomber had killed 15 people including a judge Wahid Durrani inside a courtroom in Quetta.
Muhammad Jamshed Jadoon, an Anti-Terrorism Court judge in Gilgit, was murdered in a public park in broad daylight in June 2006.
On July 25, 2003, three civil judges and five prisoners were killed inside the Sialkot district jail, while the lower judiciary arbiters were on their monthly judicial inspection.
Police had later raided the prison to free 10 judges taken hostage by armed prisoners, who were demanding their freedom in return for that of the judges.
Besides demanding a safe passage from the jail, the captors also wanted a bus and guns from the negotiating authorities.
The judges who had died in the shootout were identified as additional district and sessions judge Sagheer Anwar and civil judges Shahid Ranjha and Asif Mumtaz Cheema.
In 2003, the then Lahore High Court judge (later elevated as Chief Justice Lahore High Court and thereafter as a Supreme Court arbiter) Khawaja Sharif and his wife Ayesha Sharif were stabbed by their former domestic servant Muhammad Yousaf at their residence in Lahore.
The servant had been relieved of his duties for stealing. Justice Sharif was stabbed in the face and neck in the wee hours of the day when he had got up to offer Tahajjud prayers.
In 1996, Justice Nizam-ud-Din Ahmed of the Sindh High Court and his son Nadeem Ahmed Advocate were killed outside their Karachi residence.
The charge sheet had attributed the double murder case to a dispute over a prized land plot near Karachi’s Awami Markaz at Shahra-e-Faisal, as Justice Nizam had reportedly opposed its commercialization and illegal allotment.
Son of Justice Rashid Aziz Khan, who was LHC CJ from 1997 to 2000, was also severely injured in an attack in Lahore.
Here follows a list of some global incidents where incumbent arbiters or their close family members were assassinated, targeted unsuccessfully or physically assaulted by disgruntled plaintiffs, foes in high places or by the enraged drug lords:
In February 2018, Clyde Waite, an African American county judge in Philadelphia, United States, said he was assaulted at his home while he was on the phone. He could not recall what had actually happened and who did it.
(Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer)
In November 2017, Larysa Golnyk, a judge in Ukraine, was attacked and beaten by unknown men as she was leaving the court building
Golnyk was known for blowing a whistle on a local mayor Oleksandr Mamai, who had allegedly tried to bribe her to close a corruption case against him in 2016.
In November 2017, a British construction project leader was jailed for five months for assault on a judge, Robin Tolson. The attack had left the circuit judge with scratches and bruises.
Judge Tolson had been presiding over Robinson’s case for years
(Source: The Times)
In May 2017, a man in Britain was jailed for 14 years after jumping out of the dock to attack a judge when he was found guilty of burglary.
Lewis Grindle caused panic at Hull Crown Court where earlier in the trial he had thrown a pencil at the judge.
In 2014, rampaging jihadists had killed the famous Iraqi judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman, who had sentenced Saddam Hussein to death.
In Iraq again, gunmen had shot dead the brother-in-law and 10-year old nephew of Justice Mohammed al-Ureybi, the judge trying Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. This happened in 2006.
(Reference: The Telegraph)
In 2014, a US judge Katherine Forrest had received chilling online death threats from supporters of the alleged mastermind behind the notorious illegal-drug-peddling web site "Silk Road."
The US National Public Radio had revealed on April 1, 2013 that at least 1,370 threats were received by US federal judges in 2012.
By the way, in 2013, a man was jailed in England for 18 months on the charges of attacking a judge John Devaux and knocking off his wig.
In 2010, a judge and a clerk were killed by an Albanian man inside a court in central Brussels.
In China, three arbiters were shot dead in 2010, after a man nourishing a grudge over an unfavourable ruling, had opened fire at them.
(Reference: Xinhua News Agency)
In 2009, according to wire agency "Associated Press," an American judge Cinda Fox was attacked by a man on a murder trial.
Justice Fox had suffered minor injuries, before a police detective had shot the culprit in the head and shoulder.
In 2010, Judge Cinda Fox had decided to retire, saying she was too emotionally scared to work.
In March 2006, a judge was shot dead by a radical lawyer in Turkish court over ban on headscarves.
(Reference: The Guardian)
According to a "Washington Post" report of November 19, 2001, two Mexican judges and the wife of one were killed by drug-traffickers.
Coming to Italy, in 1992, an Italian judge (magistrate) Giovanni Falcone was killed by the Sicilian Mafia or La Cosa Nostra, together with his wife Francesca Morvillo (herself a magistrate) and three of his bodyguards.
Falcone was one of the major organisers of the famous "Maxi Trials" (1986-1987), during which 360 drug peddlers/dealers were convicted for serious crimes. Not fewer than 119 of these were also charged in absentia.
Another Italian judge Paolo Borsellino was killed by a Mafia car bomb, just 57 days after his friend and fellow Anti-mafia magistrate Falcone was assassinated. He is remembered as one of the main symbols of the battle of the State against the Mafia. The airport in Italian city of Palermo was re-named Falcone-Borsellino Airport to honour the two judges.
In recent years, top Italian law-enforcement leaders have met frequently to guarantee maximum protection for Sicilian magistrates whose lives have been threatened by the Cosa Nostra Mafia.
A few years ago, four magistrates in Sicily were put under the "highest level" of police protection after threats concerning their investigations of the Cosa Nostra Mafia.
In India, an Additional District and Sessions Judge Vijay Singh was killed in Patiala in 2005.
In 2012, in the wake of attacks on three trial court judges in the Indian capital, Delhi’s Acting Chief Justice AK Sikri had expressed anguish over the incident and had assured all judicial officers of their personal safety and a fearless environment to dispense justice.