In a significant milestone for gender representation in the judiciary, Justice Mussarat Hilali has taken oath as the second female judge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The ceremony, held at the ceremonial hall of the Supreme Court, saw Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial administer the oath to Justice Hilali, who previously served as the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court (PHC).
The event was attended by Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan, senior judges, and lawyers, marking the importance of this momentous occasion. With Justice Hilali’s elevation, the Supreme Court now has 16 judges out of a total sanctioned strength of 17.
President Dr. Arif Alvi formally appointed Justice Hilali as an apex court judge following unanimous approval by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) on June 14. The Parliamentary Committee on Judges’ Appointments had also given its nod to this appointment, leading to her subsequent elevation.
Justice Hilali’s esteemed career includes her previous role as the first female Chief Justice of the PHC, assuming the position after Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan’s retirement. Prior to this, she served as the Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court from September 2018 to October 2019, becoming the second female judge to hold such a position in a high court in Pakistan after Justice Tahira Safdar.
Born in Peshawar on August 8, 1961, Justice Hilali obtained her law degree from Khyber Law College, University of Peshawar. She was enrolled as an advocate of district courts in 1983 and subsequently became an advocate of the high court in 1988, and the Supreme Court in 2006.
Throughout her career, Justice Hilali has made notable contributions as a civil society activist, member of the bar, and now as a judge. She is recognized as a vocal human rights activist, having been associated with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and leading its KP chapter on multiple occasions.
Justice Hilali’s involvement in legal associations includes serving as the first female secretary, vice president, and general secretary of the PHC Bar Association. She was also elected as an executive member of the Supreme Court Bar Association for two terms: 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.
Her achievements extend beyond the legal sphere. Justice Hilali served as the first woman Additional Advocate General from November 2001 to March 2004 and chaired the KP Environmental Protection Tribunal. She was also appointed as the first provincial ombudsperson in 2010 under the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010.
Justice Hilali’s dedication to justice and her commitment to the legal profession were demonstrated during the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement, where she stood alongside her colleagues during a challenging time for the legal fraternity. Her unwavering support for the cause led to her sustaining an injury when police raided her residence during the movement.
With Justice Mussarat Hilali taking her place in the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s judiciary takes another step towards gender equality and diversity. Her appointment represents an important milestone in the country’s legal history and serves as an inspiration for future generations of female lawyers and judges.