As the tenure of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry nears its completion on December 11, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani will take oath as the new Chief Justice of Pakistan on December 12 according to the court’s principles decreed by the judgment in 1996’s Al Jihad Trust case. Justice Jillani is the incumbent chief election commissioner, and is known to be critical of judicial intervention in executive affairs – something that is seen as a stark contrast to the incumbent Chief Justice’s record.

In retrospect, Justice Chaudhry’s tenure is a saga of unforgettable support from the civil society and lawyers after Musharraf’s suspension of the judiciary and imposition of emergency rule in November 2007, an event that raised Mr Chaudhry to the status of an icon. In Justice Chaudhry’s tenure, suo motos became a routine matter in Pakistan – often over perceived offences of governance and charges of corruption. While undoubtedly successful in addressing citizens’ concerns and demands, Justice Chaudhry’s interest in prodding for better governance also caused resentment among political parties, which, in turn, attracted the court’s ire. Most notably, an elected Prime Minister was dismissed by Mr Chaudhry. Lack of dissent among the judges at the highest bench often attracted criticism from top activists and lawyers, including Asma Jahangir.

With Justice Jillani ready to don Justice Chaudhry’s robe, observers believe that the former will pursue a steadier and less activist course compared to his predecessor. The smooth transition bears positive impact on the otherwise volatile judiciary in Pakistan; ours is a history prone to extensions every now and then. It is anticipated that while Justice Jillani will maintain the judiciary’s fierce independence, he may, in all probability, also encourage a healthy difference of opinion.