In the past few years, Justice Isa has been a lonely crusader fighting the normalisation of expediency when dealing with violations of the law.
Condemn the man, not the institution, says Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who, despite finding much to be discontent about in his institution, appears nonetheless to be keeping faith in it. The honourable justice believes men must be fearless and act on their conscience and that those who do not — those who sully their offices with their incompetence or flaws of character — must be held personally responsible for their misdeeds.
He said as much as chief guest at the inaugural session of the Asma Jahangir Conference, held to honour the memory of one of the most fearlessly principled persons this country has produced.
The learned justice made the remark while recalling the role of the judiciary and the executive in subverting Pakistani democracy, pointing to various individuals whom he held responsible for the present state of affairs. However, it must be noted that the opinion takes too charitable a view of Pakistan’s power dynamics.
As Justice Isa mentioned, non-democratic players have repeatedly found willing collaborators in both the judiciary and the legislature for their conspiracies against democratically elected governments.
It would have made sense to blame individuals had these conspiracies been limited to one or two. Instead, our institutions completely failed in their constitutional duty to act as a check and balance on each other as successive usurpers continued to make a mockery of the law. Given our history, is it fair, then, to blame a few when the institutions themselves have lost all regard for the law?
“If anybody tells you they are under pressure, they are not true to their oath of office,” Justice Isa said at the event. “If you can’t handle the heat in the kitchen, get out.” The honourable justice is respectfully asked: how many have done so, and how many more have not?
“History will remember you” is an empty warning for those willing to rip up the very foundations of the state for their ill-conceived experiments. The citizenry, forced to spectate powerlessly each time a new ‘individual’ dictates their fate, can do little more than curse and point fingers at the institution which enables them. It is unfair to ask them to be more charitable when the institutions should apologise first for the many harms they have already committed. In the past few years, Justice Isa has been a lonely crusader fighting the normalisation of expediency when dealing with violations of the law.
He has been slandered and maligned relentlessly for his unwillingness to yield. The respected justice has shown himself to be a bigger person if he is still willing to excuse the complicity of state institutions in the long-running campaign to smear and punish him for embarrassing the men who consider themselves above any institution or the law. He should not expect the public to be as forgiving.