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April 17, 2018

Security of judges


April 17, 2018

Reports of gunfire outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Ijazul Ahsan in Lahore separately on Sunday morning and the night before serve as a chilling reminder of the threat faced by public officials in the line of duty. Those responsible for the shooting have yet to be identified and an FIR has been filed against unidentified officials under anti-terrorism laws. For now, it is impossible to say who carried out the attacks or what the motive could be. A JIT headed by DIG Investigation Sultan Chaudhry has been formed and the responsible course of action now will be to wait till the investigation is complete before pointing any figures. We hope it can arrive at definite conclusions regarding culpability and also possibly suggest measures to avoid future such incidents. The legal community is understandably perturbed by this incident. Lawyers had originally planned to observe a strike to protest the shooting but were convinced to abandon the idea by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, who didn’t want those whose cases were being heard on the day to suffer. This is the correct response to the shooting. If indeed Justice Ahsan was being targeted or intimidated because of his status as a judge, for everyone in the legal fraternity to work even harder to dispense justice would be the best reply to this act of violence.

Condemnations have also poured in from the ISPR, all political parties and other important individuals. Our history tells us that the security of judges is imperative to the delivery of justice in a society such as ours. Not only Supreme Court judges but even those who preside over lower courts deserve to know they are safe. The nature of the attack is still somewhat hazy, and the police are still investigating where the bullets were fired from in both incidents.

What we can be thankful about is that the judge and his family members remain safe. The police and all security agencies need to work together to ensure their safety; no risks can be taken. The incident occurred in a place where a large number of police is already deployed. When a house can be fired upon in such a setting, it is clear that no one enjoys complete safety. We urge that the highly respected judges of our country be permitted to carry on their urgent duties without any harassment or sense of threat. Political leaders have already emphasised this. We hope they and all others in authority can work out a plan to improve security as a whole in the country, and as the CJP suggested, make it possible for every individual to stay safe and be removed from the way of possible harm carried out by unknown miscreants.

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