Islamabad, January 17, 2019 (PPI-OT): Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, the Chief Justice Designate;
Mr. Anwar Mansoor Khan, learned Attorney General for Pakistan;
Mr. Kamran Murtaza, Vice Chairman, Pakistan Bar Council;
Mr. Amanullah Kanrani, President, Supreme Court Bar Association;
Members of the Bar;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a bittersweet feeling to address you all for the final time as a member of the judiciary. I have given many speeches and addressed many gatherings during my time on the bench, but none quite as important to me as this. Wasting no time, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect back on some of the revolutionary movements this Court has been a catalyst for in the recent years. First and foremost is the judgment relating to Gilgit-Baltistan announced earlier this morning directing the Federal Government to promulgate the Proposed Order as annexed to the judgment, establishing judicial, legislative and executive organs in Gilgit-Baltistan guaranteeing its people the fundamental rights provided in the Constitution of Pakistan pursuant to the Al-Jehad Trust case. I believe this decision is a testament of our love for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, whose hearts beat for Pakistan just as strongly as ours.
This Court also took action to ensure water security in Pakistan which is projected to reach life-threatening levels of shortage in the future. The importance of water for human existence cannot be emphasised enough and with the overwhelming support of Pakistani citizens from all parts of the world, the issue of water conservation has finally become a cause that each individual of this nation is conscious of and vows to contribute towards.
I hope that the Government will continue to work against the threat posed by this dire issue. In this respect, the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams is a matter of survival for Pakistan. Tackling the problem of free extraction of water for bottled water is another step to ensure that Pakistan is built for and runs for its people, not for those corporations who unlawfully benefit and profit at the expense of the nation.
Another feat, if I may, is the Supreme Court’s efforts to diffuse the ticking population bomb. The current rate of population growth means that 14000 children are born in Pakistan each day, many of whom are born into poverty and know struggles of hunger, thirst, deprivation and neglect that no human should ever have to cope with. The Committee constituted by this Court formulated recommendations which have been approved by the Council of Common Interests and is in the process of being translated into an Action Plan by the Government. I am confident that with the three pillars of the State joining hands in this cause, a sustainable population growth rate will be achieved in the coming years.
It is said that a person’s kindness can be measured by how they treat those who can offer them nothing, and it is disheartening at times to see how Pakistan treats those who can offer it nothing. In many ways we as a nation have failed the vulnerable and downtrodden amongst us. However, with the assistance of my brother Judges it is hoped that this Court has been able to take some steps towards undoing the entrenched stigma and oppression of vulnerable people.
The rights of our minorities are no longer merely highlights of speeches – Christian marriages are to be issued marriage certificates by NADRA the way Muslim marriages are, and the Katas Raj Temple has been restored. With these steps I firmly believe this Court has at least attempted to discharge its duty to guard the rights of both the white and green of the Pakistani flag. Our overseas Pakistanis have at last been facilitated in casting their votes in by-elections through internet-voting. The right to access to justice has been realised for the people of FATA and the courts of law have been directed to be constructed in these areas within a period of six months.
However, I must remind my fellow Pakistanis of their duty to individually uphold these fundamental rights that this Court stands as a flag-bearer of. The case of Tayyaba, a child maid who was abused at the hands of her employers, is not a standalone matter. While we have seen justice done for her, there are many other children being deprived of their rights all around us, there are many other children whose rights each Pakistani must protect, ensuring that we do not strip these innocent children of the childhood that is their right.
Similarly, while the rights of pensioners of a number of large banks to a minimum standard of living have been secured, I must remind my fellow countrymen that everyone should be able to enjoy a dignified existence, especially after having worked honestly for their whole lives to make it happen. Increasing the pensions to facilitate the right to dignity for pensioners should set a precedent for the rights of employees all over Pakistan.
NADRA was directed to issue National Identity Cards to transgenders in a broader attempt to reduce, if not remove entirely, the stigma attached thereto. The judiciary also took note of healthcare related issues in Pakistan. The lack of resources at government hospitals compounded by the exorbitant and unaffordable fees of private hospitals has meant the right to life and health is for those who can afford it, rather than every citizen. We have tried our best to turn the tables around in this regard. Finally, one of the rights close to my heart is that of education which not child or person should ever be deprived of, for it is only an educated nation that has been able to develop and prosper.
The core feature, as may be apparent now, of all these decisions – is recognising the importance of protecting the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution – the right to life, the right to education, the right to security of person, the right to not be unlawfully detained or tortured, which are some of the most essential rights without which the country would be nearer to anarchy than democracy. However, we must move on from a bare bone understanding of what a right means.
The right to life does not simply mean the right to exist, no matter how ill or frail that existence may be. It confers on individuals a right, and on the State a duty, to take care of its citizens from the cradle to the grave; to make sure that they are not forced to run from pillar to post in times of need; to have access to basic necessities including food, water, healthcare, shelter, education and all the means to live a meaningful life. Through these efforts, the rights of many have finally been secured and many other public interest matters which were shelved for years have now become priorities for the Government.
The role of a judge is never easy, I am aware that the decisions we make shape not just the day to day lives of individuals, but have the potential to mould the lives of generations to come. I sincerely hope that Pakistan is able to embrace the work of the judiciary in tackling corruption, deprivation, and injustice. For ultimately, Pakistan is built by the many, not the few – and it is up to each of us to help and care for each other as human beings, not as lawyers, or judges, or by our title – but as humans.
At this juncture I am reminded of the oath I took thrice before – first, when I was elevated to the High Court; second, when I was elevated to the Supreme Court; and third, when I became Chief Justice – when I solemnly swore to bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan; to discharge my duties, and perform my functions honestly to the best of my ability and faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law; to abide by the code of conduct issued by the Supreme Judicial Council; to not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; and in all circumstances, to do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor, affection or ill-will.
These words have guided the decisions and choices I have made during my time at the bench, particularly as Chief Justice. I, like all of you, have the deepest love and respect for my country, and it has been an honour to serve my countrymen. It will be futile to try to explain in words how rewarding my walk in these robes has been, how the walls of this Court have constantly reassured me of the strength that is required of Judges, how restoring smiles to the helpless has often reminded me of why I became a Judge, and how this pen has helped me and my fellow Judges fearlessly guard the rights of my nation.
Fear has no place in a Judge’s life, nor does the fear of opposition bring so much as a wrinkle on his forehead, for his only duty is to the Constitution and the people for whom he stands as a beacon of justice. Today, I am both humbled and grateful to be here before you all and say that with the grace of the Almighty, I have earned more contentment, satisfaction, prayers and respect than I ever expected. At this moment I am reminded of the words of Sahir Ludhianvi
Mana Ke Is Zameen Ko Na Gulzar Kar Sake
Kuch Khar Kam Toh Kar Gaye Guzre Jidhar Se Hum
In the end, I would like to thank each of my brothers, those who have laid down their robes and those who grace the Bench with me today, for always extending their unqualified support to me in all my efforts in dispensing justice and for working tirelessly round the clock, rendering their own health and interests secondary to the interests of this nation.
I am also grateful to the employees of the Supreme Court and particularly each and every member of my staff, all of whom have invested long hours with me, without so much as a frown; throughout my time here, particularly when I became Chief Justice, they have taken pains to ensure that the Court works at the pace that I expected of them. Lastly and most importantly, I am highly indebted to my beautiful family, particularly my wife and four children, for being my pillars and source of strength and comfort throughout these years. I would not be here today if it were not for you all.
Thank you very much. Pakistan Zindabad!
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