As Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali was sworn as the 24th Chief Justice of Pakistan on September 10th, the challenges he faced were myriad. The previous active Chief Justice, Nisar-ul-Mulk, oversaw a sensitive period, where the Supreme Court was called upon to decide matters of highest constitutional importance – a task that he dealt with deftly and admirably, if not exceptionally. He oversaw a commission that dealt with the question of rigging in the 2013 election, dealt with petitions on the 18th and 21st amendment, gave approval to the military courts under the constitution, and persistently hounded the Punjab and Sindh government to hold LG elections. His efforts must be appreciated, yet the inevitable by-product of such dealing with such hefty matters was the side-lining of the apex court’s other responsibilities – namely acting as the highest appellate court in the country.

On Monday, addressing a ceremony marking the beginning of the new judicial year, the Chief Justice revealed the number of pending cases before the court, a number that extends into tens of thousands. He also revealed that the average time it takes for a case to reach the highest court is 25 years – a shameful figure. The Supreme Court has been acting as a high functioning mediation body of sorts for the nation’s most vexing problems, now it must return to being what it is supposed to be. Most importantly, it must fix a broken arm of the state, the judiciary.

Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali has quite admirably reiterated this desire, but bringing change won’t be as easy as expected. To truly bring change, the cooperation of the legislature is required. The Chief Justice’s first task will be to bring his own profession under control; lawyers are behaving like goons, thrashing judges, clashing with the police and beating petitioners. Unless these errant lawyers can be held accountable the rest of the judiciary cannot be fixed. Even now, apex bodies of lawyers – Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association – boycotted different ceremonies, arranged in the interim Chief Justice, Justice Khawaja’s honour, who also stressed the need to rein in the black suited hooligans.

Another important step taken by the new Chief Justice is the activation of the Supreme Judicial Commission, which hears complaints against high-ranking government official. While this move will bring accountability, the immediate political aspect of the move is to give Imran Khan a forum to plead his case against the ECP. Whatever the commission decides, the nation can breathe a sigh of relief that it will be spared another sit-in.