ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during a meeting with Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday vowed full support for the public interest initiatives undertaken by the latter.

In an unprecedented move, Abbasi arrived at the Supreme Court at 7pm without his protocol to meet the chief justice – who himself received the premier.

The one-on-one meeting, arranged on PM’s request through Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali, lasted for around two hours and ended at 8:54pm.

During the meeting PM Abbasi assured that he will take all steps to materialise the vision of the chief justice with respect to provision of free education, health facilities and clean drinking water to the people.

He also told the chief justice that he will support his efforts for improvement in the state of public hospitals and revamping of medical education - especially at the private medical colleges.

According to a press statement issued after the meeting, PM Abbasi also expressed keen interest in providing all possible assistance in revamping the judicial system as visualised by the chief justice.

According to the spokesperson of Supreme Court, the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere in the Chambers of Chief Justice Saqib Nisar.

It is believed that the purpose of the meeting was to smooth the relations between judiciary and government in the backdrop of political tensions.

During the unexpected meeting, the prime minister told the chief justice that the government will provide all resources to the judiciary for provision of easy, speedy and inexpensive justice.

Abbasi also informed the CJP that the Council of Common Interests had approved the national water policy which will help in fruition of chief justice’s efforts for provision of clean water to the masses.

However, the PM highlighted the difficulties of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Tax Department on account of pendency of litigation involving revenue in different courts.

Justice Saqib assured the premier that he will look into the matter and such litigation shall be fast tracked.

“Judiciary will continue to perform its constitutional duties independently, fairly, transparently, without fear or favour and strictly in accordance with law,” the chief justice was quoted as saying.

Change of mind?

Earlier, PM Abbasi had been critical of “judicial activism” and he termed it interference in government affairs.

In February, a meeting of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s Parliamentary Party was convened to deliberate on whether or not to discuss the judges’ conduct on the assembly floor.

PM Abbasi presided that meeting and he criticised the judiciary for taking suo motu notices on every matter and alleged it of meddling in governmental affairs, which he said was adversely affecting the functioning of his government.

He said that the role and limits of every institution were defined in the constitution and “they will have to remain within them”.

The chief justice had then responded, during the hearing of a case, that parliament was supreme but the constitution was above it.

Hopes of some dashed

The official statement dampened expectations of some who were hoping conflagration of political differences as a result of the meeting.

Former Pakistan Bar Council vice-chairman Ahsan Bhoon was of the opinion that there was no harm in meeting between heads of the Executive and the Judiciary. He said that chief justice was independent and nobody can even think to influence him.

“We meet chief justice as members of bar and also appear before him in courtrooms to plead our clients cases but judges decide the cases on merit,” he said.

Political players reaction

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz welcomed the PM-CJP meeting but the opposition parties expressed a mixed reaction.

Leader of Opposition in National Assembly told a TV channel that there was nothing extraordinary about the meeting except its timing, as he said the circumstances in which the meeting has been held were bound to fuel speculation about its real purpose.

“Similar meetings had taken place between the prime minster and chief justice during our [Pakistan Peoples Party’s] tenure as well. The timing of the meeting however is unusual and will fuel speculation and doubts. There are many ongoing cases against the government,” said the PPP leader.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf dubbed the happening ‘unusual’ and said there was no precedent of such meetings between the heads of the executive and the judiciary.

“The PM and his party criticised the judiciary day in day out. Let’s see if there will be a change of heart,” said PTI Information Secretary Fawad Chaudhry.

But Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Musadik Malik defended the PM’s act and insisted that such meetings had been held in the past also. He welcomed the meeting, saying it would increase dignity of the judiciary.

Talking to a private news channel, he said the PM-CJP meeting was an appreciable step to promote harmony among the state institutions.

Malik said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family were facing corruption cases but nothing proved against them so far. He added that the PML-N was in favour of accountability process; it should be across the board, and free and fair.