LAHORE: A convention organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) on Saturday to press the demand for the prime minister’s resignation in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case was cut short after a group of lawyers affiliated with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) barged into the conference room and roughed up the SCBA leaders.
The host bar associations managed to eventually resume control of the stage and after a short deliberation announced a nationwide campaign against the prime minister if he does not tender his resignation by May 27.
The ruckus began when the SCBA and LHCBA leaders were welcoming delegates from various cities. A group of lawyers, led by members of the PML-N lawyers’ forum, barged into the newly-constructed Javed Iqbal Auditorium of the LHCBA and tried to shut down the event.
Several federal and provincial law officers were among the saboteurs who smashed the windowpanes of the auditorium and occupied the stage. The lawyers locked up SCBA president Rasheed A. Razvi and secretary Aftab Ahmad Bajwa in the library room of the high court bar association. They were let out after some time by the LHCBA members. Following the commotion, a heavy contingent of police and anti-riot force were deployed in front of the high court premises.
PML-N members, who lock up SCBA president and secretary, insist PBC convention rejected demand for Sharif’s resignation
Members of the bar associations then gathered in the auditorium where they shouted slogans against the lawyers supporting the PML-N. The sloganeering went on for an hour after which the SCBA and LHCBA lawyers regained control of the stage and resumed the convention proceedings.
Following a short deliberation, the convention participants issued a declaration and staged a sit-in at GPO Chowk. They held up placards with anti-government slogans written on them and blocked traffic on The Mall for half an hour.
The LHCBA was the first lawyers’ body to demand the resignation of the prime minister following the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case last month. The bar had given the PM a seven-day ultimatum to step down or face a movement similar to the one in 2007, for the restoration of the judiciary deposed by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.
The declaration issued at the convention on Saturday said the lawyers would launch a comprehensive campaign to demand accountability of all public officials involved in financial misappropriation and corruption.
It said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must resign immediately from his office to facilitate a fair and independent inquiry against him by the Joint Investigation Team.
“In case he fails to resign within the next seven days (by May 27), then lawyers throughout Pakistan will launch a nationwide campaign and movement to ensure his resignation,” it said, adding that all bar associations across the country would hoist black flags and set up protest camps on their premises every Thursday during Ramazan.
The declaration demanded the resignation of the National Accountability Bureau chairman and the Federal Investigation Agency director general.
The participants in the convention decided to form a National Action Committee to be headed by SCBA president Razvi. The committee will convene its meeting immediately after Ramazan to announce the steps and measures for the lawyers’ movement against corruption.
They said that their convention had been disrupted at the behest of the attorney general for Pakistan, the advocate general and the prosecutor general of Punjab. The attack was similar to the one carried out on the Supreme Court building by goons affiliated with the PML-N in 1997, they said. The participants demanded immediate criminal prosecution against the lawyers involved in the attack.
Members of the PML-N lawyers forum said the leaders of the SCBA and LHCBA did not represent the true will of the whole legal fraternity. They accused both bar associations of serving the agenda of some political parties. They insisted that the May 5 convention hosted by the Pakistan Bar Council was a true representation of lawyers, which rejected the demand for the PM’s immediate resignation.
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2017