Justice Hilali has also been a pioneer in promoting women’s rights in Pakistan’s legal system.

Islamabad: Justice Musarrat Hilali, the most senior judge in the Peshawar High Court (PHC), has been appointed as the first female acting chief justice by the President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi.

She will hold the position until a regular chief justice is appointed on the recommendation of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan. Justice Hilali will follow in the footsteps of Justice Tahira Safdar, who was the first female chief justice of a high court in Pakistan, serving as the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court from September 2018 to October 2019.

Moment of pride for legal community

Justice Hilali’s appointment marks a significant milestone for women in the legal profession in Pakistan. Members of the legal fraternity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have expressed enthusiasm and pride over the appointment. Shumail Butt, former advocate general of KP, said it was a proud moment for the province, which is frequently characterized as a center of patriarchal beliefs. Women lawyers said her appointment was “a milestone” and that Justice Hilali “will be an icon” for practicing and aspiring female lawyers.

In 2022, women in Pakistan have made significant strides in the legal fraternity. Justice Ayesha Malik was appointed as the first female Supreme Court judge in January. Last month, two Pakistani lawyers, Sabahat Rizvi, and Rabbiya Bajwa, made history by being elected as secretary and vice president, respectively, of Pakistan’s oldest bar association - Lahore High Court Bar Association.

Profile of Justice Hilali

Justice Hilali has a long and distinguished career in law. Born in Peshawar in August 1961, she received her law degree from Khyber Law College of the University of Peshawar. She became an advocate of district courts in 1983 and of the high court in 1988. She was later appointed as an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2006.

Justice Hilali has also been a pioneer in promoting women’s rights in Pakistan’s legal system. She was the first woman elected office-bearer on the post of secretary at the bar, the first female additional advocate general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and the first woman chairperson of the KP Environmental Protection Tribunal. She was also the first female ombudsperson for the protection against harassment of women in the workplace. She is set to retire on August 7, 2023.