The role of religion in state affairs has always been a matter of debate in Muslim societies. The employees in courts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir consider themselves fortunate to have been practising their religious duties alongside professional responsibilities.
In his first address to court staff soon after he took oath as the 12th Chief Justice of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Supreme Court, Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Ibrahim Zia had announced that the annual increment for court employees would be conditional on the regular offering of prayers, which he said will be secretly checked.
The judge also announced that the offering of prayers would be mandatory for all employees and that there would be a designated court break for prayers. The orders are similar to General Zia’s mandatory prayer instructions to the members of armed forces in late 1980s.
“There shall be two groups of employees for prayers. I will lead one group, and our regular prayer leader will lead the other group,” Justice Zia seemed to implement his religious order more fervently than court orders.
In a more traditional vein, the highest ranking judge in AJK encouraged government servants to discharge their duties with complete dedication, devotion, honesty, and sincerity.
“In the discharge of duties, all public servants should rise above their personal likes and dislikes, regional or ethnic prejudices, besides doing away with negligence, or dereliction of duty,” he added.
The ceremony was attended by AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, ministers and other notable persons. Justice Zia will continue as the Chief Justice of Azad Jammu and Kashmir until 2020.
The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Supreme Court comprises three judges, including the chief justice. Unlike elsewhere in Pakistan, judges in the AJK Supreme Court can also be appointed directly, apart from being elevated from the AJK High Court.
Judges in AJK’s superior judiciary are appointed by the AJK president on the advice of the chairman of the AJK Council, which is headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and after consultation with other chief justices.