ISLAMABAD, Oct 28: In what appears to be a blow to the perceived government plan to divide lawyers’ movement, Ali Ahmed Kurd was elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on Tuesday. The firebrand lawyer defeated the government-backed candidate and his former teacher Mohammad Zafar.

After the landslide in the 11th election of the association, Mr Kurd and his entire panel will replace the team of Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, who has been an equally aggressive and leading campaigner for the independence of judiciary and has spearheaded the lawyers’ movement throughout his tenure.

“I thank and pray to God to give me the vigour, courage and strength to lead the movement in a similar fashion like my predecessors, Munir A. Malik and Aitzaz Ahsan,” Mr Kurd told reporters in Lahore from where he clinched 540 out of 852 votes.

His rival, Mohammad Zafar, a nominee of the People’s Lawyers Forum (PLF) and backed by Attorney General Sardar Mohammad Latif Khosa, former attorney general Malik Mohammad Qayyum and the Ashraf Wahla group, could only secure 220 votes from the city.

“The overwhelming and landslide victory is reflective of the fact that people want to see Justice Iftikhar as their chief justice,” Aitzaz Ahsan said.

“In fact the elections are a referendum against the sitting government which is dragging its feet over restoration of senior judges, including deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Lawyers have spoken out their mind and thwarted the government’s move to divide the legal fraternity,” said Tariq Mehmood, a key campaigner of Mr Kurd in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and former SCBA president.

He accused the government of trying to stop voters from reaching the Supreme Court building by deploying Rangers and police on the Constitution Avenue.

Soon after the announcement of unofficial results, lawyers, led by Rawalpindi Bar Association President Sardar Asmatullah, gathered outside the residence of Justice Iftikhar to celebrate the victory. They distributed sweets and danced to the beat of drums.

In Lahore, Malik Mohammad Qayyum had to leave the venue without casting his vote after supporters of Mr Kurd started raising slogans against him. However, he later returned with supporters of the PLF to cast his vote.

Tariq Mehmood said that according to unofficial results, Mr Kurd bagged 1,052 out of 1,724 votes. Mr Zafar secured about 505 votes.

Mr Kurd clinched 144 votes from Rawalpindi and Islamabad and Mr Zafar 70. Kurd secured 45 votes in Quetta, 77 in Peshawar, 16 in Abbotabad, 138 in Karachi, 69 in Multan and 23 in Bahawalpur.

Other elected members of the Kurd panel are: Shoukat Umar Pirzada (secretary), Mohammad Ayyaz Khan Sawati (vice-president Balochistan), Saeed Akhtar Khan (vice-president NWFP), Mian Javaid Jalal (vice-president Punjab), Zulfiqar Khalid Malooka (additional secretary) and Sheikh Ahsanuddin (finance secretary).

Known for his aggressive speeches against the government of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Mr Kurd once burnt copies of the Zafar Ali Shah case of 2000 in which the Supreme Court had validated the Oct 12, 1999, military coup.

He has earlier served as president of the Balochistan High Court Bar and vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council. He was a member of the panel of lawyers defending deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in the reference filed against him by the former president.

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