Hot on the heels of a National Assembly bill giving legal cover of local alternative dispute resolution methods like the Jirga and Panchayat, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar unveiled new procedures for induction of judicial officers while addressing district, sessions and senior civil judges of the province at the Punjab Judicial Academy. As important as the new rules are, greater attention must be paid to the comments of the Chief Justice; for they outline the many problems afflicting the judiciary and the damning conclusions drawn from them, by the highest judge in the land no less.

It goes a long way to show the state of affairs that the Chief Justice spent the majority of his speech reminding an august house composed of the judiciary their basic duties and responsibilities. Such as the fact that they must follow the law and not rule on pure discretion, that they must keep biases out of decision making, that they must know the law better than the applicants, that their rulings are final until overturned by the Supreme Court. He was certainly not admonishing them – in fact he hoped that the justices would rise up to their duty of delivering justice – but the litany of problems presented leaves little room for praise.

When the Chief Justice is forced to admit that the “people have started losing faith in the justice system”, we know the problem is a serious one. And while the Chief Justice hoped that a committed and inspired judiciary could go a long way in restoring that trust, on its own, it will not be enough. The Chief Justice must be commended for reminding the judiciary their duty, but without structural changes this hope is misplaced.

That “faith” will return once the judiciary takes the mantle of providing timely justice firmly on its shoulders. As of now, the government, the people, and even members of the judiciary itself are more comfortable if terrorism cases are handled by the Military Courts. On the other end of the spectrum, the courts responsibility is being handed to informal gatherings by the parliament. In places like Sindh, the battle to introduce DNA evidence in rape cases is still being fought to this day and easily exploitable institutes like pre-arrest bails and compoundable crimes taint the process elsewhere.

Commitment and diligence can only go so far – what the judiciary needs is an overhaul, a significant one.