LAHORE - Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar Saturday once again promised to protect democracy in the country, observing they will be answerable to the people if they failed to live up to their commitment.

“We (judges) will not let democracy be destroyed. This is our promise... You can hold me answerable if I turn back [on this],” he swore, while addressing a seminar on bench-and-bar relationship at Alhamra Hall.

Since his disqualification by the Supreme Court, ex-PM Nawaz Sharif and his party has been accusing the top court of colluding with establishment in a conspiracy against the democratic system, forcing the top judge of the country to consistently give assurances on defending democracy.

The CJP addressed the gathering a few hours before Nawaz addressed a public meeting in Haripur, where the ousted prime minister once again alleged the judges of being biased against him.

Nawaz Sharif claimed he was punished for doing no wrong while his staunch opponent Imran Khan was still let off by the judges despite his admitting to owning an offshore company. “I salute those judges who termed him [PTI chief] sadiq and amen,” he said sarcastically.

But the CJP in his address said the judiciary was independent and everyone should be proud of it. The judiciary, he said, never took into account what other people were saying.

He was all praise for the judges who were being consistently attacked by the PML-N leaders for their verdict against the three-time premier. He lauded Justice Gulzar Ahmad, Justice Ejaz Afzal, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and others for their meritorious services.

“The Supreme Court is incomplete without Justice Asif Saeed Khosa,” he said about the head of the Panama case bench which disqualified Nawaz on July 28 last year. “The captain of the team always depends upon his entire team,” he remarked.

“People criticise the judiciary, but we seldom try them,” Justice Saqib said, and designated Justice Khosa as the head of the bench hearing case of PML-N leader Nehal Hashmi – who invited top court’s wrath for going too far in bashing the judiciary after Nawaz Sharif’s ouster.

The CJP announced that hearing of Hashmi’s case would start soon, and Justice Ejaz Afzal and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed would also be the part of the bench.

Talking about protection of citizen’s rights, the chief justice said, “When a state becomes powerful, it starts interfering in the rights of the people and only the institution of judiciary is left which protects people’s rights.”

He pointed out the challenges hampering national progress, but advised the audience to be steadfast. “I admit the challenges are multiple, but don’t be pessimistic,” he remarked.

The CJP asked the judges of the lower judiciary to give judicious judgments by applying their full judicial mind. He also told them they were answerable for the work they were doing.

“Becoming a judge is not a paid vacation; those who think so should think again. Every judge is responsible to deliver justice under the law and not as per his own wishes,” the chief justice remarked.

Justice Saqib noted that education, leadership and judicial system always played a key role in making nations great. “Fair and honest leadership can steer a nation out of difficult times and change the people’s fate,” he averred.

He urged the audience to give him a year of uprightness in their actions and see the results for themselves. “Develop uprightness in your life and it would become your habit which you would like [to retain for the rest of your life],” he said.

The CJP regretted the judges faced problems in getting pension on their retirement. He said they needed ‘sifarish’ to draw pension from the institution after serving the nation throughout their lives. “It’s injustice as many don’t get pension and a society can’t live with injustice prevailing in it,” he remarked.

About relations of the bench and the bar – the subject of the seminar – Justice Nisar said both were indispensable to each other’s functioning; making either of the two disable paralysis the whole institution.

The chief justice congratulated the newly elected president of Lahore Bar Association, Malik Muhammad Arshad, and said he appeared to be a popular leader as he received a big applause when his name was pronounced.

At the same time, Justice Saqib urged the presidents and other office bearers of all the bars to minimise booking of cases and avoid going to courts in groups to press the judges.

CJP Nisar also directed all the judges of the lower judiciary to give him the number of cases in which stays were granted under the pressure of bars’ office bearers. “I’ll personally monitor it,” he averred.

He said he was not humiliating the lawyers or demeaning their profession; [but] it was the thing about how the office bearers earned money.

At the end of his speech, the chief justice recited some couplets he had received in a message from his fellow judge Justice Omar Ata Bandial, showing love for the country.

The Lahore High Court judges, representatives of Punjab Bar Council and Pakistan Bar Council, office bearers of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Lahore Bar Association and a large number of lawyers attended the seminar.