Whether one agrees with Saqib Nisar or not, it must be admitted that the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) is definitely self-aware, for good or for worse. The CJP’s comments at the National Judicial Policy-making Committee (NJPC) show that he has been carefully listening to criticism and is now responding.

While many were suspicious of his judicial activism, the CJP has made some fair and welcomed points in his speech. His acceptance of the dark past of the judiciary, rejection of the doctrine of necessity and reassurance that such a thing will not happen again is a breath of relief, since the judiciary’s precedent of reaffirming dictators has always been a looming shadow over every judicial activist action. This statement was also an effective answer to Nawaz Sharif’s claims of calling out the judiciary and warnings of the dangers of giving powers to the court. Though we may never get back what we lost from the perpetual of the doctrine of necessity, every time the judiciary now condemns it is a good step.

Moreover, the CJP’s advice to the lower and superior judges was a much-needed one, since the CJP finally shed a light upon his own institution, rather than into commenting on the spheres of others. He reminded the judges of their duty to the state and to democracy; a needed reassurance in the days of overburdened courts and violent lawyers.

Though it was a good speech, it showed that the CJP was well-aware of the criticisms and potential danger of an overly active and peering SC. This why he must be utmost careful to not become political, in order to not taint his vision. The SC must stay away from involving itself in political disputes and must avoid becoming a party in political score-settling.

To prevent his agenda of reform from becoming just another political controversy, the CJP must also stay away populist comments and try to develop an elucidated criterion for the use of the Suo-moto powers, and must use them judiciously too. His admission that our justice system is built on outdated models is crucial, and while his lament that the parliament has not rectified it is correct, we would love to see some effort from the judiciary itself to start the reform process.

To truly make a legacy, the CJP should look into true ground reform, and steer away from performatory and often sensationalist political statements.