Pakistan chief justice sparks debate over ‘judicial activism’

Pakistan chief justice Saqib Nisar. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 01 April 2018
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Pakistan chief justice sparks debate over ‘judicial activism’

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani chief justice’s statement on Saturday about why he is intervening in the executive domain has triggered a debate about whether "judicial activism" is a step toward providing speedy justice in the country.
Saqib Nisar said he did not intend to intervene in the work of the executive, but “was compelled to do so due to the poor state of affairs.”
Sen. Mushahidullah Khan of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said the Supreme Court should focus on clearing its backlog of more than 3 million cases instead of interfering in the executive domain by taking suo motu notices on petty issues.
“The Supreme Court is custodian of the constitution, which doesn’t allow it to try to address issues pertaining to governance in the center and the provinces,” he told Arab News.
The apex court should focus on dispensing timely justice to the people, as this will increase its integrity and respect within society, he added.
“We don’t want to undermine the authority of any institution, including the Supreme Court, but we can’t allow it to usurp executive powers under the garb of judicial activism,” he said.
Khan acknowledged flaws in governance, but said Pakistan’s judiciary is full of “weaknesses.”
He added: “Instead of trying to correct each other, every institution should perform within the parameters of the constitution for the betterment of the country.”
He vowed to introduce judicial reforms to address all these issues if his party retains power following the upcoming general elections.
Habibullah Khan, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, expressed support for its intervention in the work of the executive, saying: “Politicians and Parliament have failed to respond to problems of the common man.”
If all institutions were working to address issues faced by the public, the judiciary would not have been burdened with tens of thousands of cases, he added.
“The Supreme Court’s interference in the work of the executive should be a wakeup call for elected representatives of the people,” he said. “If the executive does not do its job, then other institutions will try to fill the vacuum.”
The constitution also allows the court to take notice of matters that come directly under the ambit of fundamental human rights, Habibullah added.
“Under the constitution, the superior courts can also interfere in public-interest litigation for the provision of speedy justice,” he said.
Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a well-known political analyst, said superior courts worldwide take notice of public issues when governments fail to address them.
“The Supreme Court is not doing anything unusual,” he said. “It is the duty of the court to protect the fundamental rights of the people, and direct the executive to do what is necessary.”
A state cannot survive if both Parliament and the apex court fail to address genuine public grievances, Rais said.
“There should not be a power struggle between the institutions. Rather, they should cooperate with each other to improve the state of affairs,” he added.
Tahir Malik, a public university professor and political analyst, said the government should strengthen institutions, including Parliament, by introducing reforms, which is the only way to address complaints regarding judicial activism.
“Mere political statements and rhetoric for public consumption regarding judicial overreach are going to make no difference,” he said.
“The federal and provincial governments need to improve their governance to counter interference in their work by other institutions.”


World’s 26 richest own same as poorest half of humanity: Oxfam

People are seen in a congress center ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 20, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 min 24 sec ago
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World’s 26 richest own same as poorest half of humanity: Oxfam

  • Oxfam warned that governments were exacerbating inequality by increasingly underfunding public services like health care and education at the same time as they consistently under-tax the wealthy

DAVOS, Switzerland: The world’s 26 richest people own the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity, Oxfam said Monday, urging governments to hike taxes on the wealthy to fight soaring inequality.
A new report from the charity, published ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, also found that billionaires around the world saw their combined fortunes grow by $2.5 billion each day in 2018.
The world’s richest man, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saw his fortune increase to $112 billion last year, Oxfam said, pointing out that just one percent of his wealth was the equivalent to the entire health budget of Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.
The 3.8 billion people at the bottom of the scale meanwhile saw their wealth decline by 11 percent last year, Oxfam said, stressing that the growing gap between rich and poor was undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fueling public anger.
“People across the globe are angry and frustrated,” warned Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima in a statement.
The numbers are stark: Between 1980 and 2016, the poorest half of humanity pocketed just 12 cents on each dollar of global income growth, compared with the 27 cents captured by the top one percent, the report found.

Oxfam warned that governments were exacerbating inequality by increasingly underfunding public services like health care and education at the same time as they consistently under-tax the wealthy.
Calls for hiking rates on the wealthy have multiplied amid growing popular outrage in a number of countries over swelling inequality.
In the United States, new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines earlier this month by proposing to tax the ultra-rich up to 70 percent.
The self-described Democratic Socialist’s proposal came after President Donald Trump’s sweeping tax reforms cut the top rate last year from 39.6 percent to 37 percent.
And in Europe, the “yellow vest” movement that has been rocking France with anti-government protests since November is demanding that President Emmanuel Macron repeal controversial cuts to wealth taxes on high earners.
“The super-rich and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades,” the Oxfam report said, pointing out that “the human costs — children without teachers, clinics without medicines — are huge.”
“Piecemeal private services punish poor people and privilege elites,” it said, stressing that every day, some 10,000 people die due to lacking access to affordable health care.
The report, released as the world’s rich, famous and influential began arriving for the plush annual gathering at the luxury Swiss ski resort town, urged governments to “stop the race to the bottom” in taxing rich individuals and big corporations.
Oxfam found that asking the richest to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth “could raise more money than it would cost to educate all 262 million children out of school and provide health care that would save the lives of 3.3 million people.”