Four years ago, under Chief Justice Lahore High Court Sheikh Azmat Saeed, there was an urgent need for judges as case ratio per judge was 979 in the Punjab as compared to 235 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 242 in Sindh. Since then this number has only gone up while the number of judges has remained the same. By the end of this year the problem is expected to worsen.

Five posts of judges are lying vacant in Lahore High Court with two more going retiring this year, thus taking the shortfall to seven by 2017. Furthermore, the Senate has approved an increase of Supreme Court Judges from 17 to 26, which will be drawn from existing High Court judges, exasperating an already dire vacuum in the judiciary. Such a reshuffle would be a small matter for most Bar Councils; junior judges or senior lawyers would be elevated to the vacant positions. Yet in Pakistan the method of promotion has become contested and fraught with accusations of favoritism. The Judicial Commission on Appointment of judges and the Pakistan Bar Council are becoming increasingly confrontational, a situation that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

The lawyers bodies demand’s - a standardised promotion system and lowering of appointment age from 45 to 40 – are moderate, rational ones. There is no reason for the Judicial Commission to resist this, and if there is they have yet to come forward and present a reason for this. It would be in the best interest of both the judiciary and the legal profession if the appointment procedure is made transparent – if not completely than at least to the satisfaction of all parties involved. The longer the standoff continues, the greater the backlog of cases becomes. Both parties in this conflict need to realise their first duty is to justice and not themselves.