Defied Musharraf, Now Ruled Against Imran Khan: Who is Pak CJP Umar Ata Bandial?

The bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, has ruled against Imran Khan forcing him to face a floor test.

3 min read

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday, 7 April, delivered a landmark judgement that seems to have sealed the fate of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, unanimously ruled that the decision taken by National Assembly deputy Speaker Qasim Suri to reject the no-confidence motion against Khan was illegal and unconstitutional.

The five-judge bench also ruled in favour of restoring the Assembly, and ordered a no-confidence vote against the Imran Khan government on 9 April.

As Khan will be forced to face troubled waters once again despite trying his hand at every possible trick in the book, such as dissolving the Assembly and calling for fresh elections, much attention has been focused on the man at the top – Justice Bandial – who delivered the all-important judgement merely two months after assuming the topmost judicial post in the country.

Who is Umar Ata Bandial? 

Bandial was sworn-in as Pakistan's Chief Justice on 2 February, 2022. He succeeded former CJP Gulzar Ahmed, who coincidentally was declared by Khan as his pick for caretaker PM after the Assembly was dissolved on 3 April.

Bandial enrolled as an advocate in the Lahore High Court in 1983 after securing a Law Tripos degree from Columbia University, and received his license to practice law from London's Lincoln Inn.

As an advocate in Lahore, Bandial dealt with matters pertaining to commerce, banking, property disputes and taxation. He was also involved in managing international financial disputes in the 1990s, and provided legal representation in several arbitration tribunals in London and Paris, as per a report by DAWN.

He was elevated to the judgeship of the Lahore High Court in 2004, and became a judge in Pakistan's Supreme Court 10 years later.

During his judgeship in the apex court, Bandial gave significant judgements on matters pertaining to public and private law, including civil and constitutional matters as well as petitions for public interest.

Refusal to Yield to Former Prez Pervez Musharraf 

Bandial's ability to speak truth to power was evident even in 2007, when he refused to retake his oath when ordered by Former Pakistan President and military chief Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf had proclaimed a state of emergency in Pakistan and suspended its constitution. Accordingly, a provisional constitutional order came into force, on the basis of which all judges in the Supreme Court and across the high courts in the country were asked to retake their oaths. If they refused to do so, Musharraf said, they would be subjected to house arrest.

Bandial had rejected the order in 2007, regardless of the consequences. He was later restored as a judge following a lawyer's movement in the country demanding the judiciary's restoration.

Bandial will serve as the CJP till 16 September, 2023, after which he will be succeeded by Justice Qazi Faez Isa on the basis of seniority.

No-Trust Vote on 9 April

Meanwhile, Khan is once again set to face his political career's biggest challenge during the tabling of the no-trust motion on Saturday, 9 April. His party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, is in a minority in the House after key allies abandoned the coalition and sided with the Opposition to oust Khan from office.

When the motion was held on 3 April, Opposition parties claimed that it had passed with 197 votes in the 342-member House.

If a similar instance is repeated during Saturday's vote, the cricketer-turned-politician will be forced to resign from the premiership of the country.

Leader of the Opposition and Pakistan Muslim League (N) chief Shehbaz Sharif is deemed to be the top-pick to replace Khan as the country's prime minister if the motion passes.

(With inputs from DAWN.)

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