Pakistan's Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Friday began examining a government request for the removal of two senior judges for concealing assets abroad amid a nationwide protest by lawyers, who say the duo were being victimised for being "independent-minded". Pakistan President Arif Alvi moved the SJC last month, asking it to take action against Supreme Court Judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Karim Khan Agha of the Sindh High Court for allegedly hiding information of their properties in the UK.
The SJC is a constitutional body and deals with cases of misconduct against judges of higher courts. Only the SJC can remove a Supreme Court or a High Court judge. The five-member SJC is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The other members are four seniormost judges -- two from the apex court and as many from the high courts. The court proceedings, which were held in-camera, lasted for about one-and-a-half hour. However, there was no formal announcement.
Attorney General Anwar Mansoor appeared before the SJC as the prosecutor. According to the guidelines, in the first stage the SJC will determine if the cases were maintainable and merit formal trial. Earlier in the day, wearing black bands in solidarity with the accused judges, the Supreme Court Bar Council (SCBA) led the protest. The (SCBA) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) termed the cases as "vendetta by the government against the independent-minded judges".
The agitating lawyers led by SCBA president Amanullah Kanrarni also burnt copies of the cases outside the Supreme Court. A group of protesters also held a sit-in at the main entrance of the apex court, virtually blocking the access to the court room. The agitators also put up banners, demanding the withdrawal of the cases, on the walls of the SC building.
There were also reports of protests in Quetta, Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore. But the protests in those areas were not forceful as the legal fraternity was divided on the issue with some segments distancing themselves from the strike. Opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Awami National Party and Jamaat-i-Islami, have also announced their support to the lawyers' protest.
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