Islamabad, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, has expressed concern over the cases brought under the blasphemy law, that judges have been coerced to decide against the accused even without supporting evidence.
Knaul is on a visit to Pakistan from May 19 to 29, to gather first-hand information and identify general trends in respect of the independence of judges and lawyers in the country.
“I am especially concerned about cases brought under the ”so-called blasphemy law” as it was reported to me that judges have been coerced into deciding against the accused even without supporting evidence; as for the lawyers, in addition to their reluctance to take up such cases, they are targeted and forced not to represent their clients properly,” the Daily Times quoted Knaul, as saying.
She also observed that judges, prosecutors and lawyers working on cases related to terrorist acts and organised crime are also often the target of serious threats and attacks from various actors, including non-state actors.
“I would like to commend the use of inherent powers of the Supreme Court in recent cases related to gross human rights violations, for instance in the case of forced disappearance referred to as ”missing persons” in Balochistan,” she stated.
Referring to the Federal Shariat Court, she said, “I believe that the existence of two superior courts in the constitution is problematic and leaves space for interpretations which might be contradicting.”
She also observed that an independent judicial system should be free from political or any other pressure.
“The Supreme Court itself has declared on several occasions that ”jirgas” and ”panchayats” are unlawful assemblies and that their decision have no legal validity. Such fora for judicial-looking adjudication, which often are more accessible, inexpensive and speedy, as compared to formal first instance courts, should be effectively discouraged and combated in practice,” she said.
She said the government should consider setting up a special system of protection for judges in consultation with professional bodies and other associations of judges.