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Pakistani Lawyers Protest Nomination Of First Female Supreme Court Judge Over Seniority

A man walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad.
A man walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad.

Hundreds of lawyers have rallied in Islamabad to protest against the nomination of a female judge to the Supreme Court as a top judicial body was meeting to consider the appointment.

If confirmed by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan, Justice Ayesha Malik would become the first woman appointed to the country’s highest court.

Malik is currently a member of the Lahore High Court and ranks fourth on the seniority list.

Protesting lawyers took to the streets of the Pakistani capital on September 9 arguing that the government violated the “principles of seniority” when it nominated Malik to the Supreme Court.

Pakistani Lawyers Protest Over Nomination Of First Female Supreme Court Judge
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Such principles suggest that the most-senior judge of the high court should be elevated to the Supreme Court, the protesters said.

If confirmed, Malik would replace a Supreme Court member who retired last month.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has welcomed Malik’s nomination, noting that Pakistan is “the only nation in South Asia to have never had a female Supreme Court judge,” which it said is “a reflection of the country’s broader failure to address gender inequality in the legal profession, and society in general.”

Only about 4 percent of Pakistan’s High Court judges are women, the New York-based human rights watchdog said in statement on September 7, adding that 17 percent of the Pakistani judges in the lower and higher courts are women.

Pakistan “desperately needs lawyers and judges who understand the hostile environment many Pakistani women face both at home and in society at large,” including “endemic” violence, widespread employment discrimination, and unequal access to education and healthcare.