CJP Saqib Nisar: Top judge’s legacy
65 year old Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar is set to retire on Thursday, leaving behind a legacy of landmark verdicts in his tenure during turbulent times.
Justice Nisar heard a number of high-profile cases during his tenure including the fake bank accounts case that highlighted the alleged corruption of the country’s top politicians and release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman falsely accused of blasphemy. He was never hesitant in taking suo motu notices on issues deemed important.
The outgoing chief justice is credited for launching an unprecedented initiative pertaining to the construction of dams and spearheaded its fund-raising campaign.
We take a glimpse at his landmark judgements.
Fake bank accounts case
Approving the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) request, the Supreme Court took up the fake bank accounts case in July 2018 pertaining to alleged transactions of billions of rupees into suspicious accounts belonging to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur and others.
The top court bench headed by CJP Nisar summoned the Omni Group chairman and sought the FIA report detailing the 29 bank accounts named in the scandal.
Consequently, the SC had constituted a six-member joint investigation team to investigate the fake bank accounts case. Later, it tasked the National Accountability Bureau to complete the investigation within two months.
Aasia Bibi acquitted in blasphemy case
On Oct 31, 2018, the Supreme Court set aside the conviction of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar read out the verdict, exonerating Asia Bibi from blasphemy charges and ordering her immediate release if she was not wanted in another case.
The ‘much-needed’ dam fund
In July 2018, the CJP asked public to donate money for construction of ‘much-needed’ diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams.
He also ordered for opening an account with the SC’s registrar in which all donations will be collected. It also said that all those donating for the cause will not be asked of their sources of income.
In September, the Supreme Court allowed the change of title of a special fund to the ‘Supreme Court of Pakistan-Prime Minister Diamer Bhasha-Mohmand Dams’.
According to CJP, the fund was created to address the looming water crisis faced by the country.
High tax deduction on mobile cards
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar took notice of high taxes charged by mobile companies on pre-paid cards. He issued summons to mobile phone operators and other relevant officials on high levy charged on mobile phone cards in the country.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of about 40% deduction on Rs 100 mobile card across all cellular networks in Pakistan. Expressing wonder on this heavy tax deduction, the CJP asked why such a huge amount is deducted by the private mobile companies and under what tax heads.
Ban on Indian content
The Supreme Court on Oct 27 slapped a ban over airing Indian content on Pakistani channels, after setting aside a decision of Lahore High Court, allowing to broadcast foreign content on the Television screens.
Couple of days before his verdict, the CJP had expressed his dislike over performance of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and customs for failing to control swarm of illegal dish channels, while hearing case regarding ‘grey trafficking’.
Disqualification of PTI bigwig, Jahangir Tareen
On Dec 15 2017, the Supreme Court announced its much-awaited verdict, rejecting plea to disqualify Imran Khan and declared PTI’s key party leader Jahangir Tareen disqualified on the petitions filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi.
Abbasi had filed the petition seeking disqualification of PTI chief and party’s secretary general Tareen for not disclosing their assets and ownership of the offshore companies.
Regularisation of properties in Bani Gala
The Supreme Court on Nov 1, 2018 ordered 65 persons including Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan to regularize their properties in a case pertaining to the encroachments in Islamabad’s Bani Gala area.
The Top judge expressed his resentment at the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for allowing such constructions to take place, and said he could not believe what was going on at the authority.
Mineral water companies and their ‘skyrocketing’ profits
In November 2018, the CJP took suo motu notice of the exploitation of ground water by mineral water companies. The chief justice sought data regarding water usage by companies from concerned departments.
He stated: “Water is very precious for us. Mineral water companies are acquiring water free of cost after installing turbines and then selling it at exorbitant prices he remarked, adding that all possible measures will be taken to preserve water.”
On Jan 12, 2019, the Supreme Court imposed a levy on companies selling mineral water and beverages at a rate of Re1 for every litre of surface water extracted by them.
Authored by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the judgement also required the provincial governments as well as the Islamabad Capital Territory administration to set up separate and distinct accounts to receive the amounts collected under the water charges.
Azam Swati and IGP transfer case
The chief justice in October 2018 took suo motu notice of the sudden transfer of Islamabad police chief in the wake of reports about the federal minister’s suspected role in it due to some petty issue with the police officer.
The case forced the then federal minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati to leave office, especially after his party reportedly asked him to face inquiry.
Azam Swati was caught in a spotlight in the wake of IGP’s transfer on October 27 after he allegedly refused to take action on a complaint by the son of Azam Swati, regarding a fight over purported encroachment with a family at their farmhouse.
It is pertinent to mention here that the SC had formed the JIT, comprising officials of FIA, NAB and IB to probe the issue on November 2.
New JIT formed for Model Town case probe
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Dec 5 winded up a petition in the Model Town case after the government assured the apex court to form new joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the incident.
The larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar conducted its hearing to decide whether petition for formation of new joint investigation team was admissible. The bench comprised Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Azmat Saeed, Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Mazhar Alam Mian.
The apex court on October 6 had taken notice of plea by Bisma Amjad, the daughter of Tanzila Amjad who was among those martyred in the Model Town firing incident, seeking formation of new investigation team to probe the carnage.
Removal of Bilawal, CM Sindh’s names from ECL
On Jan 7, 2019, CJP Nisar directed to strike off the names of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and former president Asif Ali Zardari’s counsel Farooq Naek from the Exit Control List (ECL) and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report pertaining to the fake bank accounts case.
The chief justice reprimanded the JIT for placing provincial lawmaker Shah’s name on the ECL. “It should have seen first that he is the chief executive of a province. He was defamed with the [government’s] ECL move.”
Pakpattan shrine land case of 1985
In August 2018, the Supreme Court took up a review petition in a land dispute case of Pakpattan decided by the apex court back in 2015. The case pertained to illegal construction of shops on shrine land in Pakpattan in 1985.
Later in October, the SC bench, headed by Justice Nisar, issued notice to Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif was the chief minister of Punjab during that period three decades ago.
Disqualification of sitting PM Sharif
Though, the apex court bench that disqualified PM Sharif was not headed by CJP Saqib Nisar, but it was in his tenure that the most high-profile case was heard and its historic verdict was announced, sending the sitting PM home.
In a historic verdict by the Supreme Court bench on July 28, 2017, a five-judge bench disqualified then PM Nawaz Sharif in a unanimous verdict in the Panamagate case, thus cutting short his third stint in power.
The CJP had formed the joint investigation team to probe the offshore assets case against Mr. Sharif and his family. Under the light of JIT findings, the SC disqualified the PM and barred him from holding office in future.
Sharif served as prime minister twice in the 1990s before he himself was ousted in a 1999 coup leading to a decade of exile. He won a third term as prime minister in a 2013 election.
The court also ordered that all cases of the Sharif family including PM Nawaz Sharif be referred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) within six weeks.
The Panama Papers scandal unraveled to the world in April that year with shock and Pakistan was no exception especially when its ruling elite were discovered to have stashed their wealth offshore.