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Pakistan - Judiciary

The judiciary includes the Supreme Court, provincial high courts, and other lesser courts exercising civil and criminal jurisdiction. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the president; the other Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president after consultation with the chief justice. The chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court may remain in office until age sixty-five. The Supreme Court has original, appellate, and advisory jurisdiction. Judges of the provincial high courts are appointed by the president after consultation with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, as well as the governor of the province and the chief justice of the high court to which the appointment is being made. High courts have original and appellate jurisdiction.

There is also a Federal Shariat Court consisting of eight Muslim judges, including a chief justice appointed by the president. Three of the judges are ulama, that is, Islamic Scholars, and are well versed in Islamic law. The Federal Shariat Court has original and appellate jurisdiction. This court decides whether any law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. When a law is deemed repugnant to Islam, the president, in the case of a federal law, or the governor, in the case of a provincial law, is charged with taking steps to bring the law into conformity with the injunctions of Islam. The court also hears appeals from decisions of criminal courts under laws relating to the enforcement of hudood laws that is, laws pertaining to such offences as intoxication, theft, and unlawful sexual intercourse.

In addition, there are special courts and tribunals to deal with specific kinds of cases, such as drug courts, commercial courts, labor courts, traffic courts, an insurance appellate tribunal, an income tax appellate tribunal, and special courts for bank offences. There are also special courts to try terrorists. Appeals from special courts go to high courts except for labor and traffic courts, which have their own forums for appeal. Appeals from the tribunals go to the Supreme Court.

A further feature of the judicial system is the office of Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman), which is provided for in the constitution. The office of Mohtasib was established in many early Muslim states to ensure that no wrongs were done to citizens. Appointed by the president, the Mohtasib holds office for four years; the term cannot be extended or renewed. The Mohtasib's purpose is to institutionalize a system for enforcing administrative accountability, through investigating and rectifying any injustice done to a person through maladministration by a federal agency or a federal government official. The Mohtasib is empowered to award compensation to those who have suffered loss or damage as a result of maladministration. Excluded from jurisdiction, however, are personal grievances or service matters of a public servant as well as matters relating to foreign affairs, national defense, and the armed services. This institution is designed to bridge the gap between administrator and citizen, to improve administrative processes and procedures, and to help curb misuse of discretionary powers.

On 09 March 2007, President Pervez Musharraf suspended Pakistan's Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on various corruption charges. Chaudhry had developed a reputation for judicial activism during his short time on the bench and ruled against the Government of Pakistan in several high-profile cases. Islamabad's legal and media circles are abuzz with speculation about what motivated the President, but genuine facts are scarce. Whether this was a case of high-level corruption or part of a broader struggle for control of the judiciary, the hands-on manner in which President Musharraf went about suspending Chaudhry seized the attention of the media.

The vast majority of Pakistanis were not adequately literate to understand the intricacies of the Chief Justice proceedings, or how this controversy affected the things that mattered most to them: food, shelter, and personal safety. On 20 June 2007, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that President Musharraf's suspension of the Chief Justice had been unconstitutional. The court's decision was not unexpected, a fact that did not stop the media from turning the day leading up to the announcement into a live-from- in-front-of- the-Supreme-Court spectacle.




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