Amongst the many things on my (very) long ‘to do list’ in Islamabad was a visit to the Supreme Court. I managed to cross that off the list.
I not only visited the outside of the Supreme Court but was able to negotiate my way into the (very) small Court Room Number 6 where the 5-judge bench was engrossed in the arguments about whether the current case (by the Chief Justice’s team against the President) should be heard by a full court or not.
It was a great day to be there. The issue was of substance and the big gun lawyers on both sides were there in full force, crammed into one of the smalled rooms in the court with nearly as many people standing as sitting. Miracle of miracles, I even got a set to sit on. And all this on a day when some very important issues were discussed and decided in our continuing constitutional crisis.
I spent all day there and was able to listen to the entire – I thought engrossing – proceedings. I really think that every citizen should go and see the courts in action. I have seen many, but this was really something. Frankly, I came out impressed by the court and the judges and more hopeful about our judiciary than I have been in a long time. The proceedings were lively, heated, engrossing, and intellectually stimulating.
Of course, future events could make me change my mind. But at least today, I was very impressed by the judges. More so than any of the lawyers there. Justice Javed Buttar, who was the senior most presiding judge was – I thought – extremely good in his cross examination, was fair to both sides (and hard on both too), and was able to take and give strong push on legal as well as procedural points. Personally, I found Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk to be very incisive on legal issues and quick in catching and questioning the possible chinks in the arguments of lawyers from both sides. He was also most effective in not allowing lawyers to go off on tangents – which they seemed to do very frequently. The other three judges – Chaudhry Ijaz, Raja Fayaz and Hamid Ali Mirza – spoke less, but overall I, as a citizen looking at the judiciary in action, came out feeling good about the bench as a whole.
The lawyers, I thought, were less impressive and more varied in quality of their ‘lawyering’ (again, my perspective here is of a concerned citizen, not a legal expert). Some big guns were there, including Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada and Ahmad Raza Kasuri for the government and Aitizaz Ahsan for the Chief Justice. Having heard them in non-court room environments but never in a court, I was eager to hear them argue. Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada and Ahmad Raza Kasuri were both somewhat disappointing and Aitizaz Ahsan was quite brilliant in argument. From the government side, I thought, Malik Quyyum argued most effectively. From the Chief Justice’s side, Mujeeb Pirzada was not too impressive (though his resemblance to Hafeez Pirzada was very strong).
The biggest disappointment was a certain Maulvi Iqbal. He seemed to be on the government’s side (but not on the official team) and there to essentially disruptÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â the proceedings. He caused a ruccus early in the day which, irrespective of its legal content (which, supposedly was also not strong) was just in bad taste. His inappropriate words, inappropriate shouting and tone and overall billigerance and confrontation with the judges reminded me of the worst threads right here on ATP.
Frankly, Justice Javed Buttar was much more patient with him than we usually are with our moderation policy here at ATP. At many times, I thought I should go to the judges and suggest to them that they should also have some ‘maaqool intezam‘ for ‘shararti‘ people. Of course I did not. But he did make me wonder if an inability to argue intellectually without resorting to inappropriate behavior has now become a national trait. On the other hand, the zarf of the judges in dealing with him was rather impressive.
Of course, the substance of the day was very eventful and may,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â eventually, turn the direction of the entire ‘constitutional crisis’ at hand. But let me not comment on that since that is all over the media. I thought these personal reflections on ‘my day at the Supreme Court of Pakistan’ may be more interesting to readers. Let me say that these are exactly that – personal reflections; please take them as no more than just that.
(P.S. I am writing from a rather slow phone connection, so apologies for any mistakes here. I will try to correct them, add links, and possibly even add more material, later tonight).