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In Pakistan, a New Chief Justice Promises a New Beginning

by AFP and Newsweek Pakistan
Farooq Naeem—AFP

Farooq Naeem—AFP

Chief Justice-designate Jillani will retire in July.

President Mamnoon Hussain approved on Wednesday the nomination of the Supreme Court’s senior-most judge to succeed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who retires on Dec. 11.

Pakistan’s next chief justice, Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, is expected to be sworn in on Dec. 12. He is currently doubling as the country’s chief election commissioner. Jillani’s term as top judge will be brief: he’ll hit the retirement age of 65 on July 6, 2014, and is likely to then be succeeded by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk.

Observers expect the Jillani court to be far more restrained than the personality-driven Chaudhry court, which, many say, was addicted to adulation from the press and emboldened by its lawless army of young barristers. The Chaudhry court squared off with both the elected government and the Pakistan Army. Chaudhry was responsible for the dismissal of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and demanded in January the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. His court is now also widely viewed as being inveterately hostile to the economy.

“The judiciary under Iftikhar Chaudhry was a one-man show, everything and everybody was under his complete control,” says Asma Jahangir, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. “Jillani will serve as a judge while the present chief justice acts like a politician. Jillani will do what a judge is supposed to do, he has no special agenda.”

Retired justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui’s assessment is not as optimistic. “I don’t think there would be much of any change after the retirement of the present chief justice because his team will be the same,” he said. “A whole team of judges is working with the chief justice, and they won’t go with Iftikhar Chaudhry [on Dec. 11].”

Jillani has a master’s degree in political science from Forman Christian College, Lahore, and a law degree from the University of Punjab. He began his law practice in Multan in 1974, and was appointed assistant advocate-general of the Punjab in 1979. He became the province’s advocate-general in 1993. Jillani joined the Lahore High Court as a judge in 1994 and became a Supreme Court justice in 2004. He was among the 60-odd judges sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf on Nov. 3, 2007, who then returned to the court in 2009.

In a ruling earlier this year, Justice Jillani signaled a positive break from the judicial hyper-activism of recent years by declaring void a Lahore High Court verdict on the grounds that judges cannot legislate or intrude into the domain of the executive.

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