The Chief Justice of Pakistan has expressed his displeasure at the Sindh government’s inability to recover Owais Ali Shah, the son of the Sindh Chief Justice, Sajjad Ali Shah. His concern is not misplaced, considering that protecting the lives of judges and their families is essential to keep the judiciary fair and impartial. The seriousness of the Chief Justice’s demand can be evidenced by the fact that he met the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, IG Police, DG Rangers Sindh and other investigating officers separately in a bid to speed up the process of his recovery.

But the simple fact that the Chief Justice had to summon everyone to the registry in a bid to get some answers is perturbing. The investigation has so far not gleaned any information; no one even seems to know what the kidnappers want at this point. The lack of any calls or demands made from their end is even more problematic for the judiciary as a whole. Technically, every case being overseen by the Chief Justice, and by extension the Sindh High Court and every other district court in the province is compromised because human biases are likely to affect one if their son has been kidnapped. This is not to question the character of the Chief Justice, but in an unlikely situation such as this, the parents are forgivably not in their regular state of mind.

The entire judiciary of Sindh is in upheaval, with the lawyers threatening to take to the streets unless Justice Sajjad Ali Shah is returned to the family safe and sound. The lawyers are justifiably distraught, but that does not mean that taking time off from work and protesting is really the best decision at this moment. The third arm of the state must function, and that too without hiccups, or those that have kidnapped Owais Ali Shah have already achieved what they wanted to.

The government once considered how best to protect the judiciary in 2013, with the Prime Minister even proposing that judges wear masks and allow video link trials for their own safety. But sadly this was all but forgotten, and the country moved on to other issues. But with the fight against militancy still continuing, some measures have to be taken to ensure that after being caught, terrorists are sentenced and the judges and lawyers that made it possible do not risk their lives in the process. A line has to be drawn somewhere. But before that, finding Owais Ali Shah remains paramount.