On November 20-21, the 3rd Asma Jahangir Conference (AJCONF) took place. This year’s topic is “Challenges to Human Dignity.” Due to Covid-19, the conference could not be organized in 2020. This conference’s goal is to bring attention to major national and worldwide concerns.
This year, the spotlight is on the Afghan issue. Three to four-panel discussions on the Afghan crisis and its consequences are planned. Another major topic that was discussed at the conference is freedom of expression. On the occasion, Pakistani journalists who have been removed off the airwaves will speak, as will Indian journalists.
The Role of the Judiciary in Protecting Human Rights and Strengthening Democracy will be the topic of the first session. Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed is one of the speakers. Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, chief justice of Lahore High Court, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Ahsan Bhoon, president of Supreme Court Bar Association, Khushdil Khan, vice chairman of Pakistan Bar Council, Latif Afridi, former president of Supreme Court Bar Association, Ali Ahmed Kurd, former president of Supreme Court Bar Association, HE Androulla Kaminara, ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan, HE Wouter Plomp, ambassador of the Netherlands to Pakistan, HE Wendy Gilmour, Canadian high commissioner to Pakistan, Dr. Philipp Diechmann, deputy of ambassador of Germany to Pakistan, HE Christian Turner, British high commissioner to Pakistan, Dr. Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, and Knut Ostby, resident representative of UNDP Pakistan.
The second session focused on the Kashmir conflict: bypassing Kashmiris. Iftikhar Gilani, Nasim Zehra, host of Nasim Zehra@8 on 24 News HD, Mohammad Rafiq Dar, primary spokesperson of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Naila Altaf Kayani, journalist and anchor of Kashmir Time on AJK Television, and Dr. Ather Zia will all speak.
First Day of Conference
While making a comment on the conference’s theme, “Role of Judiciary in Protecting Human Rights and Strengthening Democracy” — Kurd had directed a barrage of criticism towards the judiciary.
“One general is dominating a country of 220 million people. This same general has sent the judiciary down to number 126 [in rankings],” he said, possibly referring to World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2021, on which Pakistan ranks 126th in the category of fundamental rights.Ali Ahmad Kurd (Former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association).
Audience reaction over Ali Ahmed Kurd’s charging speech
In his response to Kurd later in the conference, Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar said he “absolutely did not agree” with the assessment made by the senior lawyer. He rubbished the allegation that “our courts are not free” and that “we are working under someone’s pressure or of the institutions.”
CJP Gulzar reiterated that no one interfered with his work and that he ruled on his cases according to “my understanding and conscience”, adding that “I have never listened, seen, understood or felt anyone’s dictation to me,” he added.
Chief Justice of Islamabad Highcourt Athar Minallah endorses the speech of Advocate Ali Ahmed Kurd (Former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association).
Second Day of Conference
Another speech on NAB by Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed who is an elected President of the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA).