Washington International Law Journal


Moeen H. Cheema


The Supreme Court of Pakistan underwent a remarkable transformation in its institutional role and constitutional position during the tenure of the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry (2005–2013). This era in Pakistan’s judicial history was also marked by great controversy as the court faced charges that it had engaged in “judicial activism,” acted politically, and violated the constitutionally mandated separation of powers between institutions of the state. This article presents an in-depth analysis of the judicial review actions of the Chaudhry Court and argues that the charge of judicial activism is theoretically unsound and analytically obfuscating. The notion of judicial activism is premised on the existence of artificial distinctions between law, politics and policy and fails to provide a framework for adequately analyzing or evaluating the kind of judicial politics Pakistan has recently experienced. The Supreme Court’s role, like that of any apex court with constitutional and administrative law jurisdiction, has always been deeply and structurally political and will continue to be so in the future. As such, this article focuses on the nature and consequences of the Chaudhry Court’s judicial politics rather than addressing the issue of whether it indulged in politics at all. It analyzes the underlying causes that enabled the court to exercise an expanded judicial function and in doing so engages with the literature on the “judicialization of politics” around the world.

First Page