Justice Qazi Faez Isa takes on the role of the 29th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, he brings with him a wealth of legal expertise accumulated over decades, but he also confronts the formidable task of uniting a judiciary that is perceived as divided and fragmented.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa is the son of the late Qazi Mohammad Isa of Pishin, a prominent member of the Pakistan Movement. With a career in law going back 45 years, Justice Isa worked as a lawyer for 27 of these years and was a senior partner at a leading law firm in Pakistan. He was appointed chief justice of the Balochistan High Court on August 5, 2009. Then in September 2014, he was elevated to the Supreme Court.
Justice Isa’s background is steeped in privilege. Born into a Sunni family with a rich political legacy, his father played a prominent role in the All-India Muslim League and later served as Pakistan’s ambassador, while his mother was actively involved in various social organisations. However, his roots are also tied to the persecuted Hazara community, providing him a unique perspective into Pakistan’s complex socio-political fabric.
Educated at prestigious institutions such as the Karachi Grammar School and the Court School of Law (now City Law School), London, Justice Isa’s academic journey laid the foundation for his future legal career.
On returning to Pakistan, he entered the legal profession, eventually becoming a partner at RIAA, one of the nation’s top-earning law firms. Justice Ayesha Malik, the first female Supreme Court justice, was also a partner at RIAA.
This corporate legal practice, primarily based in Karachi, was lucrative but differed significantly from the litigation-focused careers of many other judges.
In 2009, Justice Isa was appointed chief justice of the Balochistan High Court (BHC). The appointment came in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, declaring the actions of Gen Pervez Musharraf on Nov 3, 2007, unconstitutional and illegal.
What made this move particularly remarkable is Justice Isa’s limited prior connection to Balochistan. His upbringing, schooling, and legal practice were primarily centred in Karachi and abroad, making his direct elevation to a province’s chief justice office quite unconventional.
During his tenure in Balochistan, Justice Isa dealt with numerous cases that allowed him to further develop his judicial philosophy. This experience prepared him for his subsequent elevation to the SC in September 2014, where he would continue to make significant contributions to jurisprudence in Pakistan.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa: Controversial Roles and Courageous Actions
Memogate Commission: In 2011, Justice Isa led the Memogate Commission, investigating a scandal involving a secret memo seeking US intervention to prevent a military coup. The commission accused Hussain Haqqani of treason, which sparked controversy.
Assassination Attempt Inquiry: Justice Isa headed an inquiry commission in 2010 regarding an assassination attempt on Justice Khawaja Sharif. He strongly criticized Dr. Tauqir Shah, a government official, during this investigation.
Quetta Bombing Inquiry: In 2016, Justice Isa investigated a terrorist attack in Quetta, highlighting security failures and negligence by government agencies.
Audio Leaks Commission: Justice Isa’s leadership of this commission, formed to investigate audio recordings allegedly involving judicial figures, faced legal challenges, but he continued proceedings.
Justice Isa is known for his extensive, well-researched judgments covering various critical issues, including misuse of state resources, environmental protection, religious extremism, minority rights, women’s inheritance rights, freedom of information, and judicial independence.
- Balochistan Suo Motu: Justice Isa initiated this case following the killing of Hazara community members. He emphasized the importance of suo motu actions and citizen rights.
- Suo Motu on Killings of Nationalists: In 2009, he ordered intelligence agencies to cooperate with police in investigating the killings of Baloch nationalist leaders, setting a transparency precedent.
- Faizabad Dharna Verdict: Justice Isa’s courageous verdict in this case clarified the declaration change, condemned rights violations, and questioned the roles of intelligence agencies.
- NAB vs Hudaibiya Paper Mills: He emphasized fair trial and due process in this case, underlining the importance of not delaying prosecutions indefinitely.
Presidential Reference and Review Judgment
President Alvi’s reference against Justice Isa led to its dismissal as unconstitutional. A historic review judgment favored constitutional supremacy, upholding judicial independence despite opposition.
Justice Isa’s Vision
- Democracy and Civilian Supremacy: He advocates for civilian supremacy and opposes military interference in politics.
- Progressive Islamism: Justice Isa interprets Islam progressively, advocating for women’s rights, environmental protection, and curbing religious extremism within an Islamic framework.
- Curbing Extremism: He uses Islamic teachings to denounce extremist ideologies, promote tolerance, and protect religious minorities.
- Rule of Law: Justice Isa opposes the misuse of state resources, corruption, and environmental degradation, emphasizing the rule of law.
- Freedom of Information and Media: He supports an independent media, stands with journalists facing harassment, and advocates for transparency in the judiciary.
In essence, Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s career reflects his commitment to justice, constitutional supremacy, and democratic values, despite facing challenges and controversies along the way.