Sunday, January 9, 2022

Pakistan Gets First Woman Supreme Court Judge Despite Top Judges' Opposition

Judge Ayesha Malik has been confirmed as Pakistan's first woman Supreme Court judge in the face of strong opposition by the majority of sitting judges of the top court and Pakistan Bar Council. It was two  affirmative votes by the PTI government representatives that helped her win 5-4 confirmation in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). Only two of the five sitting Supreme Court judges who are members of the SJC supported her confirmation. 

Justice Ayesha Malik

The historic nomination of Justice Ayesha Malik was supported by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed,  Justice Umar Ata Bandial, ex-judge Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem and Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan. It was opposed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representative Akhtar Hussain opposed the selection.    

Justice Ayesha Malik is a Harvard Law School graduate. She started her legal career working with Mr. Fakhurddin G. Ebrahim at Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim & Co. in Karachi in 1997. Then in 2001 she joined the law practice of Rizvi, Isa, Afridi and Agnell as the head of the firm's Corporate & Litigation Department in Lahore. Justice Ayesha Malik was appointed to the Lahore High Court in 2012 where she made a historic ruling banning the "two-finger test" in rape cases.  Justice Malik said the test was "humiliating" and had "no forensic value".     

Justice Malik's appointment to the nation's highest court is part of a silent social revolution in Pakistan with a rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up in public and private institutions. However, the status of women in Pakistan continues to vary considerably across different classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and urban social customs on women's lives. While some women are soaring in the skies as pilots of passenger jets and supersonic fighter planes, others are being murdered for defying tribal traditions.  

Female Labor Participation Rates in South Asia

Pakistan's female labor force participation rate (22%) has recently surpassed the rate in India (21%) but still remains very low relative to the global average of 47%. Women's education and literacy levels remain low in Pakistan but the gender gap is declining in terms of literacy rates and mean years of schooling, according to Pakistan Labor Force Survey 2017-18.  There is about a one year gap between men and women in terms of education attained. On average, a Pakistani male born after 1995 will leave school in 8th grade. A female born at the same time will leave in 7th grade.

A 2020 global survey conducted by Payoneer, a global payments platform company based in Silicon Valley, showed that Pakistani women freelancers are earning $22 an hour, 10% more than the $20 an hour earned by men. While Pakistani male freelancers earnings are at par with global average, Pakistani female earnings are higher than the global average for freelancers. Digital gig economy is not only helping women earn more than men but it is also reducing barriers to women's labor force participation in the country. The survey also concludes that having a university degree does not help you earn more in the growing gig economy. The survey was conducted in 2015.

Freelancers Hourly Rate by Gender. Source: Payoneer

An average Pakistani freelancer working 34 hours a week at $20 an hour earns $34,000 a year, or Rs. 5.7 million a year, a small fortune for a young Pakistani. This is one of the upsides of the online global labor market for skilled young men and women in developing nations like Pakistan. Sometimes freelancing experience leads to tech startups in Pakistan.


Rashid A. said...

Just my opinion.

According to this report:

Justice Qazi Faez did NOT participate in the voting both times the matter came up before JCP.

Ayesha Malik got 5 votes in favor, but 3 votes in opposition.

Reason for opposition by Bar Council: Appointment is a violation of principle of seniority.

I believe these lawyers organizations are off base. They must NOT insist on seniority, which is like riding an escalator, no consideration for merit. That is the system used for appointment of Chief Justice of Pakistan. Pakistan has had some definitely mediocre CJP!

Yet, this might imply that system to promote judges from High Courts to Supreme Court is highly prone to personal/ institutional favoritism.

There is very little meaningful role of the parliament. A parliamentary committee will vote on this and it can only approve or disapprove. And if I remember it correctly, if the committee disapproves, then (according to Judge Iftikhar Choudry ruling) it has to satisfy the Court of its reasoning.

The final decision is still with the judges. Judges and lawyers select next judge. At least judges must not be involved. It is an incestuous and opaque process, like electing the pope.

All of these judges, Law Minister, Attorney General, and Bar Council are NOT representatives of people.

It is possible there is some other undercurrent present on this affair. Pakistani lawyers organizations (Bar Councils, Bar Associations) are split into various groups, some supporting the govt and some opposing it. (That is always true regardless of the govt.) Current Bar Council leadership does not see eye to eye with the govt.

With Justice Gulzar (considered by some eminent lawyers to be establishment guy) nominating her twice, and Law Minister Farogh Nasim & AG Khalid Javed (both of PTI) supporting it, but Bar Associations opposing it, AND Qazi Faez skipping the two meetings, I wonder if politics is playing a role in it.

I hope she will be a fair judge. I don’t know much about her merit. I hope she is not any party’s nominee.

It is indeed a historic opportunity for women‘s right and their empowerment. It would be a shame if it is hijacked for some political mission.

Just my opinion!

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "Justice Qazi Faez did NOT participate in the voting both times the matter came up before JCP. Ayesha Malik got 5 votes in favor, but 3 votes in opposition.
Reason for opposition by Bar Council: Appointment is a violation of principle of seniority"

The Pakistan Constitution states that a Supreme Court judge nominee is not eligible unless he (she) is:

A citizen of Pakistan who:
has for a period of, or for periods aggregating, not less than five years been a judge of a High Court (including a High Court which existed in Pakistan at any time before the commencing day); or
has for a period of, or for periods aggregating not less than fifteen years been an advocate of a High Court (including a High Court which existed in Pakistan at any time before the commencing day).

There is no mention of the "principle of seniority" in the Constitution.

Here's a Dawn report on the SJC vote:

Lahore High Court Justice Ayesha A. Malik’s nomination was secured by a majority of five to four during a heated JCP session that lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, senior puisne judge Justice Umar Ata Bandial, former judge Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem and Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan supported Justice Malik’s candidature — who is fourth in the seniority list of the Lahore High Court.

However, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representative Akhtar Hussain opposed the selection.


It is worth noting that on Sept 9, 2021, the JCP did not reach a decision on whether to nominate Justice Malik or not. Four of the eight members; Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, former judge Dost Mohammad Khan and PBC representative Akhtar Hussain had opposed the idea of her appointment to the apex court, whereas the CJP, Justice Bandial, Farogh Naseem and the attorney general weighed in, in her favour. At the time, Justice Isa was out of the country and therefore could not attend the meeting.

Despite the strike call issued by the PBC — which had earlier announced its opposition to Justice Malik’s proposed elevation — the protest by lawyers was quite muted and very unlike the earlier protest by the legal fraternity on Sept 9. In fact, cases continued to be heard in routine at the Supreme Court as well as the Lahore and Islamabad high courts.

Rashid A. said...

On the debate about the new judge:

Both sides have a point:

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "Both sides have a point"

Americans who opposed slavery abolition, women voting rights, affirmative action, diversity mandates, gender equity, civil rights legislation and various social programs have always justified their positions with reasons to make themselves appear righteous.

Riaz Haq said...

‘For the first time, I felt free’: #Pakistan’s #women-led #livestock market in #Sindh. Rural women have always reared animals but excluded from selling them. A new market is changing attitudes. Hundreds of women to trade animals at Marui livestock market

It is hoped that the market, organised by Tando Allahyar district government and local NGO the Research and Development Foundation (RDF), will encourage more women into the livestock sector. It is part of a six-year Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress project to strengthen small-scale agribusinesses and reduce poverty in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, run in partnership with the International Trade Centre and the World Trade Organization.


In rural provinces, women have always reared animals but are excluded from selling them. A new market is changing attitudes

Global development is supported by
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
About this content
Zofeen Ebrahim in Tando Allahyar
Thu 20 Jan 2022 02.00 EST

On Saturday, Rozina Ghulam Mustafa arrived at the market in Tando Allahyar city, Pakistan’s Sindh province, to sell the goats she had raised, milked and fed.

Usually her brother sells the animals, but he sold them too cheaply because he didn’t know their true value. “He has always sold our goats at a much lower price,” she says, standing inside an enclosure with 15 of them.

For Mustafa, joining hundreds of women to trade animals at Marui livestock market – believed to be Pakistan’s first women-led livestock market – was a big moment.

By the afternoon, she had yet to sell any animals, but was unperturbed. “That’s OK; it’s my first time and I will learn how to trade,” she says. “For the first time I felt free, I could make the decision of buying and selling myself.”

Women in rural Pakistan have always reared animals, taking care of nutrition, milking and vaccinations and keeping their barns and sheds clean. But when the time comes for them to be sold, women are excluded. Taking the animals to market is considered a man’s job.

Mustafa’s 65-year-old mother, Rehmat, who accompanied her to the market with Mustafa’s brother, says that when she was younger “it was unthinkable for a woman to come to the market and sell; it was a man’s job”.

“I think this change is in the right direction. If women can rear, women can buy and sell, like men. What is so complicated about it?”

The market is busy. Children run between the animal enclosures and stalls selling homemade ghee (clarified butter), eggs, chickens, animal fodder and ornaments. Other stalls sell food, tea and hand-embroidered women’s clothing. The local government has a stall showcasing veterinary medicines.

Perween Panhwar has just bought her first goat for 19,000 PKR (£80) to start her livestock farm. “When I heard there was a women-led livestock market, I wanted the first animal I buy for the farm to be from this market,” she says.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s first #woman #SupremeCourt #judge #AyeshaMalik sworn in. Harvard-educated Malik, 55, now sits on the bench alongside 16 male colleagues at the country’s highest court. #gender #equality #female via @AJEnglish

Pakistan has sworn in Ayesha Malik as its first female Supreme Court judge, a landmark occasion in a nation where activists say the law is often wielded against women.

Malik, 55, attended a ceremony in the capital Islamabad where she now sits on the bench alongside 16 male colleagues at Pakistan’s highest court.

“It’s a huge step forward,” lawyer and women’s rights activist Nighat Dad told the AFP news agency. “It is history in the making for Pakistan’s judiciary.”

Malik was educated at Harvard University and served as a high court judge in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore for the past two decades.

She has been credited with rolling back patriarchal legal mores in her Punjab province jurisdiction.

Last year, she outlawed a deeply invasive and medically discredited virginity test used on women who reported being raped or sexually assaulted.

Women in Pakistan struggle for justice in rape and sexual assault cases and the test was seen as a way for investigating authorities to discredit victims by casting aspersion on their character.

Malik’s elevation to the apex court of Pakistan may clear the way for more women to enter the historically conservative and male-dominated judiciary of the Muslim-majority republic.

“She has broken all barriers in the judicial system and it will allow other women in the system to move forward,” said lawyer and women’s rights activist Khadija Siddiqi.

“I hope this will lead to more women-centric decisions by the judiciary in the future.”

But her appointment has been mired in controversy for the past four months, with claims she jumped a queue of more senior male candidates qualified for the post.

Earlier this month, the Pakistan Bar Council staged a strike to protest against Malik’s nomination.