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Pakistan confirms appointment of first female Supreme Court judge

A commission that decides on the promotion of judges on
Thursday voted to make 55-year-old Justice Ayesha Malik the first female judge
on the Supreme Court in the 75 years since the South Asian country’s
independence.

“An important & defining moment in our country as a
brilliant lawyer & decorated judge has become Pakistan’s first female SC
judge,” a legislator of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and
parliamentary secretary for law Maleeka Bokhari said on Twitter.

“To shattering glass ceilings,” she added.

Though historic, the move has been divisive. The nine-member
body that was to confirm her appointment turned down her elevation to the top
court last year, and Thursday’s repeat vote was also close – divided five votes
to four – according to sources familiar with the proceedings.

Many lawyers and even judges, in the forum and outside,
opposed the move because they say the appointment was made in contravention of
seniority lists without any set selection criteria.

Malik was not among the top three most senior judges of the
lower court from which she was elevated.

“The major is issue is not that there was ever a
question mark on Justice Ayesha Malik’s competence or the fact that she is a
good judge,” Imaan Mazari-Hazir, an Islamabad-based lawyer and vocal
rights activist, told Reuters.

“The question mark was and remains on the Judicial
Commission of Pakistan’s arbitrary and non-transparent decision making and the
process,” she said, adding that the judge’s gender was exploited.

A number of lawyers bodies have threatened to strike and
boycott court proceedings over the appointment after they say their calls for
the drawing up of fixed criteria for the nomination of Supreme Court judges
were ignored.

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