ISLAMABAD – The senior puisne judge of the Islamabad High Court, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, once again made headlines on Saturday by criticising the alleged meddling by Pakistan’s premier spy agency – the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) – in judicial affairs.
Accusing the secret agency of ‘manipulating’ the judicial bodies and the constitutional courts, the judge claimed that he was conveyed that all references against him would be removed if he accepted the terms.
“We are not independent and our institution is in the hands of those carrying guns,” he told a gathering of lawyers from Rawalpindi Bar Association.
A corruption accused
Siddiqui’s remarks came just days before the Supreme Judicial is to hold open trial of a corruption reference against him, making it a first such case in the history of Pakistan. The hearing will take place on July 30.
Justice Siddiqui is facing a reference on misconduct moved on the complaint by a retired employee of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for alleged refurbishment of official residence beyond entitlement.
On Feb 22, SJC had issued a show cause notice to Justice Siddiqui on another reference against him for making unnecessary and unwarranted comments about some “important constitutional institution saying such comments prima facie had the tendency of undermining the respect otherwise such constitutional institution enjoys”.
Critic of armed forces’ alleged role in politics
Siddiqui, who took notice of last year’s violent Faizabad sit-in, has been performing his duties at Islamabad High Court for last six years. He was posted as Additional Judge in Islamabad High Court on 21st November 2011 to represent the Punjab province, and was later appointed as a permanent judge.
Justice Siddiqui also made headlines last year when he criticised the armed forces for their role as the “mediator” in the agreement that led to an end of the sit-in by religious groups at Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange in November. “Who is the army to adopt a mediator’s role?” the judge had questioned at the time. “Where does the law assign this role to a major general?”
But the first time Siddiqui gained prominence was when he sentenced the officers of Capital Development Authority (CDA) to fail for failing to demolish illegal Afghan settlements in the federal capital and for not enforcing judicial orders.
‘Foot soldier’ of Lawyers’ Movement
He is the same judge who, in 2013, ruled that Pervez Musharraf, the man who was once Pakistan’s all-powerful military ruler, should be tried on terrorism charges for sacking top judges towards the end of his eight-year rule in 2007.
In his judgment, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui ruled that confining judges to house arrest was an “act of terrorism”. He said Musharraf had “spread fear in the society, insecurity among the judicial officers, alarm in the lawyers’ community and terror throughout Pakistan”.
The ruling and subsequent arrest prompted the former army chief to flee from the court and take refuge in his home in Islamabad’s Chak Shahzad, before escaping to Dubai.
Siddiqui also actively took part in the Lawyers’ Movement for the restoration of superior judiciary, especially former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, following the emergency imposed by the Gen (r) Musharraf in 2007. He was also arrested by Rawalpindi police for staging a protest.
‘Supporter of Maulvi Abdul Aziz’
As an attorney in 2007, Justice Siddiqui represented and helped bail out Maulana Abdul Aziz who was charged in multiple cases in connection with the Lal Masjid standoff.
‘Champion of anti-blasphemy laws’
Siddiqui, who is the senior most judge after Islamabad High Court’s chief justice, had also taken a notice of blasphemous content on the social media, which was later removed on court order. Officials from Facebook also visited the country and assured such controversial content would not be uploaded on the social networking site in future.
He was also part of the two member bench which excluded anti-terrorism clauses from the case against Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, but upheld his conviction under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
‘Upholder of peace’
It was Justice Siddiqui who had restricted all kinds of protests to Democracy Park and Speech Corner (DPSC) at Parade Ground near Shakarparian last year.
Justice Siddiqui on October 31, 2016, also stopped the PTI from locking down the federal capital and asked the party to hold its protest at the DPSC which the district administration and the CDA allocated for political gatherings in November 2015.
The detailed judgment said: “In future, all political and/or religious protests/rallies etc., in Islamabad should be confined to the Democracy Park and Speech Corner without any discrimination, fear or favour.”
‘No Valentine’s Day celebrations’
Justice Siddiqui is also credited for banning celebrations of Valentine’s Day – an “un-Islamic event” – in the federal capital.
‘Once a candidate’
Mr. Siddqui has in the past contested the polls from Rawalpindi on Jamaat-e-Islami ticket, which he lost.
The judge, who was born on 1st July, 1959, in Rawalpindi, has recently donated Rs1 million (the net salary for the month of June) to the Supreme Court fund for Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams.
In a letter addressed to the registrar of the apex court, Mr. Siddiqui said the receipt of the contribution might kindly be issued in the name of his late parents Qazi Aziz-ur-Rehman and Mrs Ume Kalsoom.
Most of the family members of Mr. Siddiqui are involved in parting education in different institutions. His late father was known as a social and political worker, who enjoyed the office of elected Chairman of Local Bodies.