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Leading lawyer Sharifuddin Pirzada passes away

Updated June 02, 2017
Sharifuddin Pirzada  one of the lawyer of Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, leaving the special court after his case hearing in Islamabad in 2014.   ─AFP
Sharifuddin Pirzada one of the lawyer of Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, leaving the special court after his case hearing in Islamabad in 2014. ─AFP

Leading lawyer Sharifuddin Pirzada passed away in Karachi on Friday after a protracted illness.

The Sindh High Court temporarily suspended all legal proceedings after Pirzada's death to honour his memory.

Pirzada began his legal career in the Bombay High Court before moving to the newly created Pakistan. He had once been secretary to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, employed in his service in the 1940s.

Later, for more than half a century, Pirzada provided legal cover for a succession of the country's military rulers.

He served as attorney general for former president Yahya Khan and his predecessor Ayub Khan, Pakistan's first military ruler, whom he also served as foreign minister.

In 2014, he was the head of former president Pervez Musharraf's defence team as the military ruler faced treason charges relating to his imposition of a state of emergency in 2007.

Pirzada himself wrote the legal order for Musharraf's emergency rule, updating a similar one he prepared for Gen Ziaul Haq after his 1977 coup.

He also wrote oaths for judges sworn in by Gen Ziaul Haq and Musharraf that omitted the commitment to protect the Constitution, and drew up documents based on the so-called “doctrine of necessity” to legalise both rulers' coups.

Some decried the anti-democratic values to which Pirzada lent his support.

“He's a very skilful lawyer and we have no better authority on constitutional law. People could have been very good architects but built something for Hitler,” Asma Jahangir, a top human rights lawyer and leading Pakistani liberal, once said about the lawyer.

However, Pirzada said he drew a clear distinction between political support and the exercise of legal expertise.

During an interview in 2014, Pirzada, beaming with professional pride, spoke about the Supreme Court judgement that had validated Zia's rule.

“That was a very nice judgement and has been appreciated elsewhere,” he said, adding: “Not that I supported (Zia) or anything like that. I supported the legal position.”