In a historic moment, Justice Musarrat Hilali has become the first woman chief justice of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) in Pakistan. She took the oath of office in a ceremony held at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor House on Saturday. The oath was administered by KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali, who conveyed his best wishes to Justice Hilali.
Justice Hilali, who is currently the senior-most judge of the high court after Justice Rooh-ul-Amin Khan, will serve as the chief justice until the appointment of a regular top judge by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan. The previous PHC chief justice, Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan, retired on Thursday.
If appointed as regular chief justice, Justice Hilali would be the second female judge to serve in that capacity in any of the high courts. In 2018, Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar was appointed as the chief justice of Balochistan High Court.
The oath-taking ceremony was attended by senior judicial and government officials, including PHC judges, lawyers, KP police chief Akhtar Hayat Khan, KP Law Secretary Masood Ahmad, Special Assistant to caretaker Chief Minister Pir Haroon Shah, and other caretaker cabinet members.
Justice Hilali was born in Peshawar in 1961 and received her law degree from Khyber Law College, University of Peshawar. She has had a remarkable career and is known as an outspoken human rights activist. She has been an office-bearer of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, served as the first woman additional advocate general, and chaired the KP Environmental Protection Tribunal.
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In 2010, Justice Hilali became the first provincial ombudsperson appointed under the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010. She was elevated to the bench as an additional judge on March 26, 2013, and was confirmed as a judge of the high court on March 13, 2014. Justice Hilali also played a pivotal role in the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement and stood alongside the male-majority legal fraternity during police raids, which resulted in one of her legs being fractured.
Justice Hilali’s appointment as the first woman chief justice of the Peshawar High Court is a significant milestone for women’s rights in Pakistan. She will retire on August 7, 2023, and until then, will serve as a trailblazer and inspiration for other women to follow in her footsteps.