In a surprising development, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, the second senior-most judge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan after the incumbent Chief Justice, has tendered his resignation. Ahsan’s resignation, which paves the way for him to become the next Chief Justice of Pakistan after Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, has sparked inquiries regarding the timing and underlying circumstances surrounding this decision.
Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan’s resignation came just one day after President Arif Alvi accepted Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi’s resignation. Ahsan’s impending elevation to the position of Chief Justice would have occurred after Chief Justice Isa’s term concludes in October, as the senior puisne judge, Justice Tariq Masood, is set to retire before that time.
Justice Ahsan and Justice Naqvi were perceived to be closely associated with former Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial. Analysts have pointed out that these jurists were involved in issuing several controversial orders, along with another judge, Justice Munib Akhtar. This division within the Supreme Court was evident during Chief Justice Bandial’s tenure but started to recede when Chief Justice Isa assumed leadership.
Sources suggest that two references were being prepared against Justice Ahsan, and he might have been aware of this, leading him to opt for an early resignation to evade accountability potentially. Legal experts have noted that this development aligns with a growing trend where Supreme Court judges facing accountability issues are confronted with references filed by lawyers.
Prominent anchorperson Shahzeb Khanzada expressed concerns about the early resignation, questioning why someone destined to become the Chief Justice in just 10 months would choose to resign prematurely. He juxtaposed this decision with the example of Chief Justice Isa, who remained in office to face charges.
Justice Ahsan’s Legal Career
Born in 1960, Justice Ahsan commenced his legal career in the 1980s. He served as a judge in the Lahore High Court, eventually becoming its Chief Justice in November 2015. Subsequently, he was elevated to the Supreme Court in June 2016, where he played pivotal roles in various landmark cases.
Justice Ahsan was part of the bench that disqualified Nawaz Sharif based on the Panama Papers revelations. He oversaw proceedings related to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) references against Nawaz Sharif, his family members, and former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. His involvement extended to key rulings on disqualifications under Article 62(1)(f) and the eligibility to lead political parties.
He also played a role in interpreting Article 63-A in the context of no-confidence votes against Prime Minister Imran Khan. Additionally, he was involved in Supreme Court interventions in parliamentary matters during the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) government. Notably, Justice Ahsan had a history of striking down NAB laws.
Legal expert Reema Omer highlighted that Justice Ahsan’s jurisprudence had often been controversial, with several of his decisions drawing criticism. His departure from the Supreme Court marks a noteworthy event in Pakistan’s legal landscape, raising questions about the circumstances surrounding his resignation and its implications for the judiciary.