Pakistan’s new chief justice has taken his oath of office after his outspoken predecessor retired, ending an eight-year turbulent and at times controversial era.
Mamnoon Hussain, president of Pakistan swore in Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani on Thursday, after Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry stepped down a day earlier.
Nicknamed “the gentleman judge” for his mild manner, Jillani is expected to maintain the court’s focus on rights but steer clear of intervening in government policy.
If the courts fail to maintain this delicate balance, none else but people's confidence in the judiciary would be the worst victim.
Nasir Aslam Zahid, a retired Supreme Court judge said Jillani was the opposite of his predecessor.
“He’s very mild, he hears all sides,” Zahid said.
“He does not lose his temper.”
Chaudhry, appointed in 2005 during the military rule of Pervez Musharraf and who came to be one of the architects of the former general’s downfall, has divided opinion.
Some have praised him for fearlessly taking on politicians and security agencies, while others have criticised him for exceeding the proper authority of the chief justice and interfering in political matters.
He chaired a Supreme Court bench that sacked Yousuf Raza Gilani, then-prime minister, in June last year after convicting him of contempt of court.
The move, likened by some observers to a “judicial coup”, marked the culmination of a long-running tussle between the judiciary and the government, led by the Pakistan People’s Party, over corruption allegations against the then-president Asif Ali Zardari.
Chaudhry has also taken on Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, which are often seen as untouchable, demanding they explain the fate of missing persons believed to have disappeared in their custody.
Legal circles see the 64-year-old Jillani to be a far quieter presence.
Jillani has been a Supreme Court judge since 2004 and, like Chaudhry, was sacked when Musharraf imposed emergency rule in November 2007.
Faced with growing protests led by lawyers furious at the treatment of the judges, Musharraf stepped down as army chief later the same month and lost a general election in February 2008.
Jillani, a dapper lover of poetry, antiques and films, is related to the new Pakistani ambassador to the US and a former prime minister who Chaudhry forced to step down last year.
He has largely avoided the high-profile political cases that Chaudhry has revelled in and he has called for judicial vigilance to be tempered with restraint.
“If the courts fail to maintain this delicate balance, none else but people’s confidence in the judiciary would be
the worst victim,” Jillani wrote in a recent ruling.
Confidants say Jillani often refers to a warning from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that constant judicial intervention had weighed on an already stagnating economy.
When staff of a privatised bank challenged redundancies, Jillani ruled it was “for the bank management to decide
about the usefulness of the employees” – an unusual ruling in a court known for its populist judgements.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhry and other top government officials including ministers attended the ceremony.