Anti-Musharraf lawyers throw stones towards supporters of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who is the head of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML). -Photo by Reuters
RAMPAGING lawyers are back in the news. Over the past few days members of the legal fraternity have featured in a number of violent attacks. A melee erupted outside the Rawalpindi district courts on Tuesday when some black coats clashed with supporters of Pervez Musharraf. Both groups came well-prepared as they attacked each other with rods and projectiles. Some lawyers have made it a point to protest — often violently — when-ever the retired general, or his counsel, makes a court appearance. On Saturday, a number of lawyers had given supporters of Gen Musharraf a hiding in Islamabad. Meanwhile, the beginning of the week saw lawyers in Lahore scuffle with an income tax official. In fact, policemen, political workers and journalists have all tasted the wrath of the lawyers, some of whom have been accused of threatening witnesses and obstructing justice. Not even fellow legal practitioners and members of the judiciary have been spared, with reports of judges being mishandled and locked up in their chambers. Evidently, the success of the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the judiciary has gone to the black coats’ heads, and many members of the legal fraternity now resort to violence at the slightest provocation.
Meanwhile, it is unfortunate that this tendency is hardly criticised by a society that has become inured to violence and condones thuggish beha-viour in general. Bar councils have taken action, but their efforts have been a drop in the ocean. Apparently, senior lawyers and bar councils do not take serious note of the antics of their more violent colleagues due to reasons of bar room politics; often it is the same hotheads who are most effective in rallying support when bar elections come around. It is high time the higher judiciary and the bar councils took steps to end this hooliganism. With the faces of lawyers clearly visible in video footage and photographs, it should be fairly easy to identify at least some of the errant black coats who must be made to answer for their violent tendencies.