A senior advocate in the Supreme Court, Aitzaz Ahsan is one of the most respected lawyers in Pakistan. He has also been a counsel for a number of high profile personalities, bringing appreciation as well as criticism his way.
Born on September 27, 1945 in Murree, he received his early education from Aitchison College and Government College, Lahore. He later studied law at Cambridge University.
Equipped with his education in law and jurisprudence, Ahsan appeared in Pakistan’s prestigious Central Superior Services (CSS) examination. However, he did not join government service in defiance of Ayub Khan’s military rule.
Apart from being a lawyer, Ahsan is also a human rights activist, politician and former federal minister with the portfolios of law and justice, interior and narcotics control and education. He is married to Bushra Aitzaz and has authored the book the Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan.
An active member of Pakistan Peoples Party, Ahsan started his political career in the 1970s. He was elected unopposed in the by-election of a Punjab Assembly seat after the 1975 killing of Anwar Samma, a PPP MPA from Gujrat. Following his election, Ahsan was inducted in the provincial cabinet and was given the portfolio of information, planning and development.
Ahsan left PPP after the 1977 poll-rigging fiasco. He resigned from the provincial cabinet and was subsequently expelled by the party. After this falling out, Ahsan joined Asghar Khan’s Tehrik-i-Istaqlal but returned to PPP many years later when PPP chief Benazir Bhutto came to power in 1988. He was also an active leader in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) during Ziaul Haq’s military rule and was jailed several times in this respect.
From the then NA-93, Aitzaz Ahsan won for two consecutive terms in 1988 and 1990 and lost the 1993 election to Humayun Akhtar after a very tough fight. In 1994, Ahsan was elected to the Senate. He also won from NA-124 and NA-187 in the 2002 election and eventually decided to retain his Lahore seat. He however did not contest the 2008 election due to his involvement in the movement for the reinstatement of deposed judges. Ahsan was elected Senator in the 2012 election of the Parliament’s Upper House.
Ahsan made legal history by representing three prime ministers – Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Yousuf Raza Gilani – in various cases. He was also part of a panel representing Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry before the Supreme Judicial Council in the reference filed against Pakistan’s top judge by former president Pervez Musharraf. The SJC reinstated the chief justice who was later again deposed by the then president in the wake of the November 3, 2007 emergency. Ahsan remained true to the movement for the judges’ reinstatement until the end.
— Research and text by Saher Baloch