Najam OpEd on the Women Judges of Pakistan


In a new OpEd, Dean Adil Najam of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University traces the history of women judges in the superior judiciary of Pakistan and argues that it is time for Pakistan to appoint a woman on the country’s Supreme Court.

The OpEd, published on October 25, 2015, in Pakistan’s largest English newspaper, The News International, titled “Why is there no woman on our Supreme Court? followed Najam’s earlier OpEd published in the same newspaper (September 25, 2015) on the same topic. In this second OpEd Najam argues that the absence of women from the Pakistan Supreme Court is not because there is any lack of “talented women lawyers and judges in Pakistan.” Instead, it is because an “insidious bias against women – embodied in the absurd idea that women cannot have ‘merit’ – pervades society.”

Najam argues:

It took Pakistan 47 years to appoint our first woman to the superior judiciary. But, first we had to elect a female prime minister. We then had to wait for her second term for her to muster enough political capital to be able to do so… We know that in her first term as prime minister at least one female name was sent to Benazir Bhutto… She was not appointed. 

By August 1994 Benazir Bhutto was prime minister again. This time with a government less fragile; a social agenda more emboldened. This time she got to name 40 justices in one go. As if to prove that there were enough qualified women who could make ‘merit’, she chose not one, but five.

At least three of them could have made chief justices of their high courts – the clearest path to the Supreme Court. None did.

The full Op-Ed can be read here.

Adil Najam is the Inaugural Dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and former Vice Chancellor of the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. Read his full profile here.