KARACHI, May 17: A lawyers convention resolved here on Saturday to continue the struggle against the Legal Framework Order (LFO) and warned the opposition parties against any compromise.
“The Order is a device to perpetuate General Pervez Musharraf in the self-assumed office of President which he has, like past military rulers, usurped through extra-constitutional means,” a resolution adopted by the convention said. The resolution described the LFO as a well-calculated attempt by Gen Musharraf to amend the Constitution to promote his ‘personal ends’.
The enhancement of the superior court judges’ retirement age, the resolution said, was nothing short of ‘political bribery’ aimed at undermining the judiciary’s independence and credibility. It has no legal validity and the retiring judges should lay down their robes on reaching the constitutionally-prescribed age of superannuation.
Through another resolution, the convention demanded of the United States and its allies to withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and let their peoples elect their rulers.
Meanwhile, a joint action committee of lawyers would decide on the future course of action next month. A ‘white paper’ on the superior judiciary covering the 1999-2003 period was ready and would be released at a convention scheduled to be held in Islamabad.
Participants of the convention marched to the Karachi Press Club to initiate a ‘direct action’ to get the LFO scrapped.
The convention was co-sponsored by the Pakistan Bar Council and the Supreme Court Bar Association. Presided over by SCBA chief Hamid Khan, it was addressed by former chief justice Saiduzzaman Siddiqui, former Supreme Court judges Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim and Wajihuddin Ahmed and Justice (r) Tariq Mahmood of Balochistan High Court.
Among other speakers were PBC vice-chairman Mian Abbas, executive committee chairman Kazim Khan and members Latif Khan Khosa, Abdul Haleem Pirzada and Qazi Anwar; vice-chairmen of the Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan bar councils Muhammad Yasin Azad, Chaudhry Mohammad Arif and Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani; presidents of Lahore, Sindh and Balochistan high court bar associations Hafiz Abdur Rehman Ansari, Muneer A. Malik and Senator Amanullah Kanrani; President of Karachi Bar Association Mohammad Ali Abbasi; and Ali Ahmed Kurd and Chaudhry Ikram from Quetta and Islamabad bar associations. The SHCBA Secretary, Yawar Farooqui, and KBA Secretary, Saathi Ishaq, conducted the proceedings.
Earlier, in his address, Justice Siddiqui said the LFO should be introduced as a bill in the parliament in accordance with the procedure prescribed by Articles 238 and 239 of the Constitution. Any attempt to ‘superimpose these amendments’, he warned, would be counter-productive and would lead to ‘further fragmentation of society’ at a juncture when the country needed harmony.
Justice Ebrahim said he was a ‘terribly worried man’ today and was deeply concerned over the state of the judiciary, which had been corrupted by successive military regimes. Referring to a publication titled ‘Supreme Court Report-2001’, he pointed out that it had 96 ‘colour photographs’ of the then chief justice. His wife told him to go to a psychiatrist when he asked her to give him about a dozen photographs for a magazine. He said Justice Irshad Hasan Khan was the real author of the LFO as it was he who conferred unsolicited powers of amending the Constitution on Gen Musharraf.
Justice Ahmed said of the six Supreme Court judges who declined to take oath under the Provisional Constitution Order in the year 2000, he was the only one who could resume the office straightaway (being less than 65). “I don’t need to be sworn in as my constitutional oath is still intact,” he added. He said if the purpose was to end ‘adventurism’ for all times, there should be no compromise on the LFO, which was self-contradictory even otherwise. The army command should not remain concentrated in one hand, he said. PPP Senator Latif Khosa assured the convention that the Constitution Committee, of which he was a member, would not strike a deal over the LFO. He said the judges’ retirement order was, in fact, promulgated on October 13, 2002, after the general election but was ante-dated to October 9, 2002, and made part of the LFO to evade the deadline for constitutional amendments.
Hamid Khan called for trial of military rulers and the superior court judges who ‘collaborated’ with them under Article 6 of the Constitution to usher in democracy and independence of judiciary.
Endorsing his demand, Justice Ahmed called for trial of ‘political collaborators’ also so that no PML-Q could be formed in future.
Hafiz Ansari warned against ‘conspiracies’ to sabotage the lawyers’ movement. He blamed Chief Justice Shaikh Riaz Ahmad for a petition filed by Dr Aslam Khaki for disqualification of the MMA parliamentarians for being non-graduates. Vice-chairman of Balochistan Bar Council Zahoor Shahwani’s demand that Karachi should be declared a part of Balochistan along with Jacobabad and Dera Ghazi Khan caused quite a rumpus in the convention. He refused to withdraw his call, saying: “It is against our traditions.” The chair had to give a ruling to pacify the protesters.