In the annals of Pakistan’s legal history, Justice Qazi Faez Isa emerges as a trailblazing figure poised to bring a wave of positive changes to the country’s judiciary. As he takes the helm as the 29th Chief Justice of Pakistan, his journey is marked not only by admiration but also by a transformative vision that promises to leave an indelible mark on the nation’s legal landscape. Justice Isa’s life story unfolds against a backdrop of privilege and a rich political legacy. Born into a Sunni family with deep roots in Pakistan’s political fabric, his father’s prominent role in the All-India Muslim League and subsequent service as Pakistan’s ambassador, alongside his mother’s active engagement in various social organizations, set the stage for a life dedicated to public service and the pursuit of justice.
Educated at prestigious institutions like the Karachi Grammar School and the Court School of Law in London (now known as City Law School), Justice Isa’s academic journey laid the solid foundation upon which his future legal career would be built. Upon his return to Pakistan, he embarked on a career in the legal profession, eventually rising to become a partner at RIAA, one of the country’s most prominent and high-earning law firms. Notably, Justice Ayesha Malik, the first female Supreme Court justice, also counted herself as a partner at RIAA. This corporate legal practice, centered primarily in Karachi, set him on a different trajectory from many of his colleagues who predominantly engaged in litigation.
In a surprising move, Justice Isa was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court (BHC) in 2009. This appointment came in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision declaring General Pervez Musharraf’s actions on November 3, 2007, as unconstitutional and illegal. What makes this appointment truly remarkable is Justice Isa’s relatively limited prior connection to the province of Balochistan. His upbringing, schooling, and legal practice had centered primarily in Karachi and abroad. This direct elevation to the position of a province’s chief justice was unconventional, to say the least. During his tenure in Balochistan, Justice Isa presided over a multitude of cases that enabled him to further develop his judicial philosophy. This valuable experience prepared him for his subsequent elevation to the Supreme Court in September 2014, where he would continue to make significant contributions to jurisprudence in Pakistan.
Over the years, Justice Isa has garnered both attention and controversy in his roles as an inquiry commissioner in various high-profile incidents. His commitment to uncovering the truth, even when it puts him at odds with powerful figures, exemplifies his dedication to the principles of justice and accountability. Leading the Memogate Commission, Justice Isa delved into the scandal that surfaced in 2011 when Mansoor Ijaz revealed a secret memo allegedly authored by Hussain Haqqani, the then-US ambassador. The memo sought US intervention to prevent a potential military coup against the civilian government. Justice Isa’s commission submitted a report accusing Haqqani of treason and disloyalty—a move seen by many as an attempt to undermine the elected government’s authority. Justice Isa also spearheaded the inquiry commission investigating a plot against Justice Khawaja Sharif, the chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC), in 2010. The commission’s findings revealed that the plot was fabricated by individuals, including Dr. Tauqir Shah, who later served as the principal secretary to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Justice Isa’s unflinching condemnation of Dr. Shah as an “incorrigible liar” and a “man of little character and credibility” remains a testament to his commitment to integrity and accountability.
In the aftermath of the tragic events of August 2016 when a suicide bomber targeted lawyers in Quetta, Justice Isa led the investigation. His report candidly highlighted the failures of the security establishment and government agencies in combating terrorism. Justice Isa emphasized the critical importance of enforcing existing laws to ensure justice and security for all Pakistanis. As the head of the Audio Leaks Commission, Justice Isa’s leadership has been characterized by his readiness to address contentious issues. Formed by the PDM-led government, the commission was tasked with investigating audio recordings allegedly involving judicial figures. Despite facing legal challenges, including a constitutional petition, Justice Isa continued the proceedings, underscoring his commitment to transparency and accountability.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s tenure as Pakistan’s Chief Justice promises to be a period of transformation, marked by an unwavering commitment to justice, accountability, and constitutional principles. His legacy is already etched in the annals of Pakistan’s legal history, and his vision for a fair and transparent judiciary holds the potential to shape the nation’s future in profound ways. As he opens the doors to live broadcasts of court proceedings, Justice Isa embarks on a journey towards greater transparency and accessibility in Pakistan’s judicial system—a journey that may redefine the course of justice in the country.