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Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed administers the oath to Justice Ayesha Malik of Lahore Court as judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad on January 24, 2022. Image Credit: PID

Islamabad: Justice Ayesha Malik made history on Monday when she was sworn in as Pakistan Supreme Court judge in the country’s 74-year history. She will now serve on the bench alongside 16 male colleagues at the top court.

She was sworn in by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed in a ceremony held at the ceremonial hall of the Supreme Court. After the oath-taking ceremony, the chief justice said that Justice Malik was “competent enough to become a Supreme Court judge” and that no one else but her deserved credit for her elevation,

‘Proud moment for Pakistan’

Social media in Pakistan has been brimming with praise for her elevation to the apex court, with politicians, celebrities and activists calling it a “historic moment” and “step forward for women’s rights” in the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Justice Ayesha Malik on becoming the first woman judge of the Supreme Court and wished her all the best in a Twitter post.

Pakistan’s human rights minister Shireen Mazari described it as a “historical moment” for the country’s judiciary. The information minister Fawad Chaudhary applauded the development saying that the development symbolised “women empowerment in Pakistan.”

‘Historic day for judiciary’

Justice Malik’s appointment was hailed by lawyers and activists who described it as a “historic win” for the country’s judiciary and legal profession which largely remains male-dominated. Women represent only about 5.3 per cent of the senior judiciary at the high court level and only 2 per cent of women are represented in the provincial bar councils, according to Women In Law initiative.

Powerful message

Justice Ayesha Malik’s appointment is an important step towards achieving equal participation in the legal profession which would encourage more women to join the profession. “Having a woman as a judge in the highest court sends an important message. It shows that women can rise to the highest positions,” according to Khwaja Ahmad Hosain, Supreme Court advocate.

Hurdles in the way

However, the path to Justice Malik’s nomination was not smooth as she faced bitter opposition from a large section of the country’s male-dominated legal community as some of them threatened to go on strike against Malik’s nomination citing “seniority issues.” However, legal organisations said argued that there was no such requirement of seniority in the country’s constitution and law. On January 6, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) approved the elevation of Lahore High Court Justice Ayesha A. Malik to the Supreme Court, paving the way towards an inclusive and diverse apex judiciary.

Profile of Ayesha Malik

Justice Malik was educated at Harvard Law School and served as a high court judge in Lahore for the past two decades. She became one of the first women to be elevated to the Lahore High Court in 2012. Last year, her judgement helped ban the two-finger virginity tests in rape examinations. She is also engaged in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment in Pakistan. The 55-year-old judge has served as pro bono counsel for non-profit organisations and NGOs working on poverty alleviation, microfinance programmes and skills development programmes.