ISLAMABAD: In a major upset, MQM Senator Dr Mohammad Farogh Naseem has been elected Vice Chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the highest supervisory body of lawyers in the country. His victory marks the resurgence of the Hamid Khan group in bar politics after a gap of nearly eight years.

Barrister Naseem bagged 12 votes against the 11 secured by his opponent, Syed Amjad Shah — a little known lawyer from Abbottabad who was fielded by the traditionally-strong Asma Jahangir group. The elections were presided over by Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt, who heads the council as its ex-officio chairman.

Dr Naseem, who replaces Azam Nazir Tarar of the Asma Jahangir group, will now lead the council for a year. The PBC exercises general control and supervision over the provincial bar councils and regulates the entry of lawyers into the legal profession.

Abdul Fayaz will be the chairman of the PBC Executive Committee, another powerful office.

Though the Hamid Khan group continued to enjoy the confidence and majority of lawyers in the 23-member council from 1995 to 2008, its influence was eclipsed by the Asma Jahangir group, which had bagged all the elections: PBC, provincial bars or the Supreme Court Bar Association, since then.

Talking to reporters soon after his election, Barrister Naseem rejected a perception that the politics of the bar would now be dictated by “90”, as the MQM secretariat in Karachi is known.

“There are no two opinions over the fact that I belong to MQM, but to politicise my credentials over my membership of a particular party is unfortunate,” he said, adding that he was not merely the Hamid Khan group’s candidate, but had been assured of unconditional support from the other camp too. In his statement before the media, Dr Naseem gave the impression that the decision to run for office was not his alone.

“There is a difference between being a senator of a political party and acting in the capacity of a PBC member,” he said.

He explained that he would endeavour to make Pakistan a corruption-free society and try to ensure that the administration of justice is beneficial to the litigant public.

“Ridding society of rampant corruption does not mean living in a utopia, but curtailing the menace will be our top priority,” he emphasised.

He regretted that corruption had also seeped into the legal profession as in other sections of society, adding that since PBC had also a role in the appointment of the judiciary, the council would make it a point that the future appointments to the superior judiciary “are made strictly on merit, all biases and prejudices aside”.

However, not everyone was optimistic about his victory. Former SCBA president Kamran Murtaza, who is also currently a member of the PBC, expressed the fear that the council will be run on the dictates of “90”.

He alleged that judicial influence was used as a tool in the PBC elections, adding that some sitting judges and a retired judge had played a key role in swinging the elections.

However, senior lawyer Hamid Khan emphasised that political parties had no role in the politics of the bar, where members only channelled their energies for policies that would benefit lawyers.

Soon after the elections, the new body of the council held a meeting and, apart from appointing a seven-member executive committee, also constituted 20 committees on: legal education, finance, law reforms, rules, free legal aid, human rights, co-ordination, internal relations, library, privilege, appeal committee of four provinces, a disciplinary committee, an enrolment committee and a disciplinary tribunal.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2016

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