The decision to make 55-year-old Justice Ayesha Malik the first female judge on the Supreme Court since the country’s independence was thanks to the commission that decides the promotion of judges. Their choice, though historic, has been divisive.
Last year, the commission, which is made up of nine members, turned down her elevation to the top court last year. Last week’s repeat vote, according to sources familiar with the proceedings, was far from unanimous—five votes to four.
Much of the division is due to the fact that Malik was not among the top three most senior judges of the lower court from which she was promoted.
“The major issue is not that there was ever a question mark on Justice Ayesha Malik’s competence or the fact that she is a good judge,” explained Imaan Mzari-Hazir, an Islamabad-based lawyer and vocal rights activist, to Reuters. “The question mark was and remains on the Judicial Commission of Pakistan’s arbitrary and non-transparent decision making and the process,” she added.
Still, many stand behind the commission’s selection and see it as a step towards closing the gender gap. Maleeka Bokhari, a legislator of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and parliamentary secretary for law, published her thoughts on Twitter, saying: “An important & defining moment in our country as a brilliant lawyer & decorated judge has become Pakistan’s first female SC judge,” finishing her statement with an additional tweet: “to shattering glass ceilings.”