ISLAMABAD, Dec 29: The general elections are still some time away but the lawyers in the twin cities are gearing up for their own brand of politics.
Both the Islamabad bar with its 1,950 members and the Rawalpindi district bar, which has 3,000 strong members, are going to elect their leadership on January 12, 2013 and as D-day approaches, unlikely alliances are taking shape and friends are becoming foe.
Lawyers affiliated with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are supporting those backed by the rival party and in Islamabad at least, the pro-government might just beat the pro-judiciary lawyers in the district bar elections — for the first time since 2007.
On the other hand, in Rawalpindi, the pro-government and pro-judiciary lines are no longer the important ideological divide.
In Islamabad bar, Zahid Mehmood Raja and Syed Mohammad Anwar are contesting for the slot of president while Israr Malik and Basharatullah Khan are competing to head the district bar.
Since 2007 when the lawyers came together to launch the movement for the restoration of judiciary, the advocates who were at forefront of the movement have dominated bar politics, especially in Islamabad and Pindi.
During that period, the candidates who contested the elections against the pro-judiciary lawyers tried to get support from the pro-PPP lawyers and other likeminded groups of lawyers but for no gain.
In the Supreme Court bar elections the activists of lawyers’ movement led by Hamid Khan had recently faced third consecutive defeat.
In 2012 elections of Islamabad High Court bar association the divide between the pro-judiciary lawyers led to an easy victory for Syed Nayyab Hassan Gardezi, a pro-government lawyer.
But the overall votes secured by the candidates backed by the activists of lawyers movement were more than that of Mr Gardezi.
This time around, in Rawalpindi, the decisive factor for the winning candidate is not the role he played from 2007-2009 but other more traditional factors such as personal preferences, said Basharatullah Khan who is vying for the Rawalpindi bar.
This is because on both sides are pro-judiciary candidates.
According to Khan, both the presidential candidates of the Rawalpindibar had taken part in the lawyers’ movement so they counting on the support of the lawyers from PPP, PML-N, Jamat–i-Islami and other political groups to win the elections.
Khan explained that both he and his opponent enjoyed the support of lawyers who took part in the lawyers’ movement – Khan is being supported by Sardar Ishaq and his opponent Israr Malik is being backed by Sardar Asmatullah.
Sardar Asmatullah, a twice elected president of the Lahore High Court bar Rawalpindi division, told Dawn that in the past the personal relationships of a candidate and his professionalism decided his success.
“Even today, these factors are of paramount importance,” he added.
However, in Islamabad the pro-government versus the pro-judiciary factor is still important though the latter side is showing cracks.
The pro-government lawyers are supporting Syed Mohammad Anwar who also enjoys the support of the chambers of Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari (a PPP Senator) and other senior PPP lawyers.
But what is surprising is that Anwar also enjoys the support of some PML-N lawyers who are known as the pro-judiciary lawyers.
Advocate Sajjad Afzal Cheema a former president of Islamabad High Court (IHC) bar who also represented PMLN in the parliament, told Dawn that he decided to support Mr Anwar after he (Anwar) joined the PML-N lawyers’ wing some three months back.
On the other hand, Chaudhry Mohammad Ashraf Gujjar, another former president of IHC bar and a PMLN activist, is supporting Zahid Mehmood Raja.
Senior lawyers are of the view that the spilt in the PML-N/pro-judiciary lawyers will benefit the pro government lawyers in the bar politics.
According to them, the reason for the divide between the PML-N lawyers was that advocate Ashraf Gujjar who had joined the PML-N in 2011 wants a ticket for the general elections of 2013.
According to some senior lawyers of PML-N, the quest of advocate Gujjar for securing the party ticket in the forthcoming general elections without consulting the fellow colleagues was the reason for their divide. Subsequently, the former allies would sit in the rival camps in the upcoming bar elections.