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LAHORE: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on Friday plunged into an in-house rift on the demand of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation in wake of the Panamagate verdict as executive committee of the bar suspended Secretary Aftab Ahmad Bajwa allegedly for acting beyond his mandate and gross misconduct.

With a majority decision of 12 to nine, the committee in its meeting also resolved not to participate in an ‘all Pakistan lawyer’s representative’s convention’ hosted by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) on Saturday (today) to discuss strategy on the demand of the PM’s resignation.

Explore: Resign or face lawyers' movement bigger than 2007: LHCBA to PM

A statement signed by twelve members of committee states that SCBA secretary Aftab Bajwa indulged into activities unbecoming of a learned office bearer of the apex association. “He has not only acted beyond his mandate but also committed gross misconduct by misbehaving with learned members,” the statement says.

Bar secretary suspended for acting beyond mandate

“Therefore, while invoking Rule 37 of the Supreme Court Bar Association rules, the Committee by majority votes suspended him to function as SCBA Secretary and co-opted as per Rule 10 of SCBA rules Mr Badar Munir to function in his place,” it adds. The committee referred the matter to Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the regulating body, for further action.

It further said the misconceived announcement that the SCBA was a co-host of the May 20 convention was also a misstatement as the committee in its meeting on May 2 had not decided in this regard.

However, SCBA President Rasheed A. Rizvi at a joint press conference along with leaders of the LHCBA termed the decision of the executive committee illegal and without lawful authority. Mr Bajwa was still secretary of the bar, he said adding “We are going to take part in the May 20 convention at any cost.”

LHCBA President Ch Zulfiqar Ali, Vice President Rashid Lodhi and Secretary Amir Saeed Rawn were present at the conference.

Mr Rizvi claimed that eight members of PBC had supported the demand of the prime minister’s resignation at the May 5 Islamabad convention. However, he said, the council misled the legal fraternity and changed the declaration of the convention. He said the PBC had been trying to divide the lawyers at the behest of government.

Speaking on the occasion, SCBA Secretary Bajwa said only a handful of the executive committee members had been toeing the government’s agenda and demanding his (Bajwa) resignation.

He alleged that the PBC wanted to sell loyalty of the legal fraternity but every such conspiracy would be foiled. He said the executive committee’s decision to suspend him as secretary was unlawful and without jurisdiction.

LHCBA President Ali accused Punjab governor Rafiq Rajwana of attempting to divide the lawyers by promising benefits. He asked the governor to mend his ways. He maintained that the convention would be held in any case.

Secretary Rawn said the May 20 convention would prove that the legal fraternity was united on the demand of the PM’s resignation.

The LHCBA was the first bar association to put the demand of the prime minister’s immediate resignation after the Supreme Court delivered verdict in the Panama Papers case on April 20 last.

Later SCBA also joined its demand, however, a representative convention hosted by the PBC in Islamabad rejected the demand of immediate resignation of the PM terming it premature.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2017