There are, and will remain, many reasons why the Supreme Court should practice restraint in its judicial activism. As things stand however, for better or worse, the honourable court is squarely in the middle of the country’s political processes. While the debate on its power’s exact ambit and propriety will rage on unabated, many people hope nonetheless, that all this activism will produce some visible good. In Karachi, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) has the opportunity to deliver on that hope, as here; at long last, he confronts the burning issue of missing persons.

From the menial – such as directing hospital authorities that medicine be provided free to an ailing woman – to the national – such as directing the government to solve the water crisis – to the unnecessary – arbitrating between Hamza Shahbaz and Ayesha Ahad in his chambers – the honourable CJP has used his powers across a wide variety of affairs.

Yet, if there ever was an issue where the Supreme Court’s ability to cut through red tape, summon powerful officials, and employ an inquisitorial style was necessary, it is this one. The plight of the family members of the missing persons is exactly what the framers of the constitution had in mind when the drafted the court’s powers; namely, when a great injustice is being visited upon the people in contravention to the constitution, no other state institution is providing relief to the victims, and all options are exhausted, the Supreme Court can step in.

There is a sense in the scenes around the Karachi Supreme Court Registry that is more real and immediate than the people petitioning to have their mobile phone services taxed less. Pakistani citizens are missing, families have been torn asunder and the hostility these actions have generated is palpable. Here is where the court can truly serve its purpose; hold the state itself accountable – not politicians, not petty officials.

The families of the missing have certainly put the last vestiges of their hope in the laps of the CJP, how he deals with them is up to him.

Alas, while one could have hoped for a searing inquisition, it already seems that the honorable judge has made up his mind, even before listening to the petitions or conducting a proper inquiry. Responding to the allegations on security agencies, Justice Saqib Nisar said he was “certain the authorities were not behind the abductions”, a statement that prompted much protest from the bereaving families.