The Express Tribune Editorial 3 June 2021

Female judges


Pakistan is the only country in South Asia which has not appointed a woman as a judge of the Supreme Court. Now there are less than 10 female judges of the high courts. The Lahore High Court has only two female judges. The Parliamentary Committee on Judges’ Appointment has taken notice of the gender imbalance in the superior judiciary and asked the Judicial Commission of Pakistan to help rectify the situation by nominating females for appointment as judges in the higher judiciary. In a communication sent to the JCP, it says a proper representation of women and minority communities, who are vulnerable sections of society, in the superior courts should be ensured. The attorney general for Pakistan has also emphasised the need to appoint a proportionate number of females as judges in the superior judiciary as at present they have a poor representation in the bench. This is not because there are not many qualified women to fill these positions. The AGP is taking measures to rectify the situation. He has nominated female lawyers and also those from the minority communities for appointment as law officers in his office.
Under the Constitution of Pakistan, there is no bar on the appointment of females as judges in the superior judiciary. Article 25 states that “All citizens are equal before the law…that there shall be discrimination on the basis of sex.” A report of the Human Rights of Commission of Pakistan says that a mere 5.3% judges of the country’s high courts are women, the lowest in the region. Women working in the legal profession are in no way inferior to their male counterparts but their working conditions and the reported lack of equal opportunities act as obstacles in the way of progress. It has been observed that in cases regarding divorce, custody and other issues affecting women outcomes give confidence to the weaker sex if such cases are fought by female lawyers. A proper gender balance in the higher judiciary would further ensure women’s rights.



PakVac rollout


In a bid to inoculate a significant portion of the population amid a lethal, third wave of the pandemic, Pakistan has begun rolling out its first locally-processed coronavirus vaccine. This PakVac vaccine has been developed with considerable help from China’s state-run pharmaceutical company CanSino. Their CanSino Bio vaccine is being imported in a concentrated form — and formulated, sterilised and packaged as PakVac at the National Institute of Health in Islamabad. Health officials claim that the vaccine, which was one of the first to undergo clinical trials in Pakistan, has a 74.8% efficacy at preventing symptomatic cases and 100% at preventing severe disease.
While the initiative is laudable, this is nowhere close to a “revolution” from any stretch of the imagination. Politicians, as usual, seem to be gloating excessively about it without mentioning a single significant reason as to how this would help with the overall vaccination drive — will it help produce more vaccines in a shorter period of time or will it cost us considerably less? Regardless, the vaccination drive, which has now opened up to all above the age of 18, is going rather well as 1.99 million people have been fully vaccinated. Citizens are surprisingly impressed and quite satisfied with the whole process that is seamlessly being carried out across the country. If somehow PakVac can add to this then all the more appreciable.
However, while we must be steadfast in our goal at achieving herd immunity, we must not lose the overarching plot. The raging pandemic has unveiled the true nature of our healthcare sector and more importantly who has access to it. We should thank our lucky stars that what unfolded in India has not yet happened here. There is tremendous hope that things may go back to normal in the coming years but we seriously need to learn from what has happened. Just like they have with the inoculation drive, the authorities soon need to focus on rebuilding the tattered healthcare system.




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