Justice Maqbool Baqar (retired) was appointed caretaker chief minister of Sindh earlier this month. He is known for his judicious rulings
ollowing days of discussion on who the next caretaker chief minister of Sindh would be, a consensus was finally reached on August 14 between former Sindh chief minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, representing the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Rana Ansar, the outgoing opposition leader, representing the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), minutes before a three-day deadline expired. The agreement resulted in Justice Maqbool Baqar (retired) being appointed as the caretaker chief minister. His nomination was put forth by the PPP.
On August 17, he was sworn in as the 8th caretaker chief minister of Sindh. Governor Karman Khan Tessori administered the oath.
Previously, Justice Baqar had held senior positions in superior courts. He served in the Supreme Court of Pakistan until April 2022, having been elevated on February 17, 2015. Earlier, he had become the top judge of Sindh High Court in September 2013.
Born on April 5, 1957, he had enrolled as an advocate in May 1981. He had earned his LLB degree from the University of Karachi. He became an additional judge of the SHC on August 26, 2002, and was confirmed as an SHC judge the following year.
When Gen Pervez Musharraf imposed the emergency in November 2007, Justice Baqar was among the judges who refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order. For this, he was dismissed along with some other colleagues. He was reinstated as a judge of the SHC in 2008, following the success of the movement for the restoration of judiciary led by lawyers and the civil society.
During his tenure at the SHC he gave important rulings in terrorism-related cases, drawing the ire of some terrorist organisations. He was targeted in a bomb attack in June 2013 for which the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility. Justice Baqar too was injured in the attack that claimed nine lives, including some members of law enforcement.
Despite sustaining injuries, he resolutely resumed his duties following rehabilitative surgeries. Following the bomb attack, law enforcement agencies had arrested Bashir Leghari, who was suspected of orchestrating the plot and was believed to have links with the banned militant outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Asif Chotu faction.
Post-retirement, he remained vocal about corruption in the judiciary. Speaking at the Karachi Literature Festival in February this year, Justice Baqar said that corruption persisted in the judiciary; and that appointment of judges had not always been based solely on merit.
Justice Baqar delivered some key judgments during his tenure at the Supreme Court. Notably, he presided over the hearing of Asif Ali Zardari vs National Accountability Bureau (NAB), in which the judgment established that the NAB had overstepped its authority while investigating complaints against the former president. Additionally, he penned a dissenting opinion in the case of Qazi Faez Isa vs Federation of Pakistan, holding that the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa was driven by political motives.
Justice Baqar is known for his critical assessment of the Judiciary. Following his retirement in April 2022, he publicly highlighted significant shortcomings in the country’s judicial system. “I believe that despite our efforts, we have fallen short of expectations. Delays and backlog continue to plague all courts in the country. This reality should concern all stakeholders. It is, therefore, crucial that we eliminate obstacles to swift and affordable justice and counter unnecessary delays in adjudication with genuine commitment and an unwavering focus on fulfilling our constitutional role.”
Post-retirement, he has remained vocal about corruption in the Judiciary. Speaking at the Karachi Literature Festival in February this year, Justice Baqar said that corruption persisted in the judiciary; and that appointment of judges had not always been based solely on merit.
His selection as the caretaker chief minister has been applauded by labour rights organisations due to a history of his pro-worker rulings. One of his significant rulings was in the Baldia Town factory fire case, where he delivered a verdict that ensured substantial compensation for the victims of the arson. The devastating fire in a multi-storey factory building, in September 2012, had resulted in the death of more 250 factory workers. In September 2021, he delivered a keynote speech at the Rasheed Rizvi Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (RCCHR), shedding light on the status of labour laws and workers’ rights in Pakistan.
The writer is a journalist and researcher focusing on security, political and insurgent movement and human rights. He tweets at @zalmayzia