In a significant development for gender equality in Pakistan’s judiciary, Justice Mussarat Hilali was sworn in as a Supreme Court judge on Friday. She becomes only the second woman in the country’s history to be elevated to the apex court since Pakistan’s independence. Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial administered the oath to Justice Hilali in a ceremony attended by esteemed Supreme Court judges, Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan, and members of the legal fraternity. With this appointment, the Supreme Court now has a total of 16 judges, with one vacancy remaining.
Justice Hilali’s Career and Achievements
Justice Mussarat Hilali, born on August 8, 1961, in Peshawar, has a distinguished legal career. She earned her law degree from Khyber Law College, Peshawar University, and began her legal journey as an Advocate of District Courts in 1983. Over the years, she excelled in her profession and became an Advocate of the High Court in 1988 and an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2006.
Throughout her career, Justice Hilali achieved numerous milestones as a woman in the legal profession. She became the first female office-bearer to hold the position of secretary at the bar from 1988 to 1989. Additionally, she served as the Vice President of the bar twice, from 1992 to 1994. She also held the esteemed position of General Secretary from 1997 to 1998. Justice Hilali’s dedication and competence were recognized further when she became the first female elected as an executive member of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) for two terms, from 2007 to 2008 and 2008 to 2009.
Furthermore, Justice Hilali made history as the first female Additional Advocate General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from November 2001 to March 2004. Her contributions extended to the realm of environmental protection, where she served as the first female Chairperson of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Environmental Protection Tribunal. Additionally, she played a pivotal role as the first female ombudsman for the protection against the harassment of women in the workplace.
Justice Hilali’s journey to the judiciary began when she was appointed as an additional judge on March 26, 2013. Her remarkable performance and commitment to justice led to her confirmation as a permanent judge of the Peshawar High Court on March 13, 2014. Notably, on April 1, 2023, she took oath as the acting Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court, and on May 12, 2023, she was confirmed as the Chief Justice, becoming the first woman to hold this esteemed position in any high court in the country.
With her recent appointment as a Supreme Court judge, Justice Mussarat Hilali has created history once again. She now joins the ranks of Justice Ayesha A Malik, who became the first woman to be elevated to the apex court in 2022. This achievement marks a significant milestone for women in Pakistan’s judiciary and reflects the nation’s progress towards gender equality in the legal profession.
The appointment of Justice Mussarat Hilali as the second woman judge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan represents a landmark moment in the country’s legal history. Her exemplary career, dedication to justice, and remarkable achievements have paved the way for other women in the legal profession. Justice Hilali’s elevation to the apex court serves as a source of inspiration and demonstrates Pakistan’s commitment to fostering gender inclusivity within its judiciary.