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LAHORE: In an unprecedented move, the chief justice block of the Lahore High Court (LHC) was fully cordoned off on Friday by anti-riot police to frustrate possible storming by the supporters of a lawyer from Multan facing contempt of court charges while leaders of Pakistan and Punjab bar councils succeeded in securing another opportunity from a larger bench for the appearance of the contemnor.

The police had already locked the iron-grill safety gates installed in the corridors of the CJ block when the lawyers started gathering at around 10am. Everyone was denied access to the block.

The lawyers, dozens in number, chanted slogans against Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah for issuing contempt notice to their colleagues, including High Court Bar Association-Multan President Sher Zaman Qureshi.

As decided by a general house meeting of the bar, the president did not appear before the bench seized with the contempt proceedings while other contemnor, Syed Qaiser Abbas Kazmi, attended the hearing.

Anti-riot police cordon off chief justice block

On previous hearing, the supporters of Mr Qureshi had barged into the courtroom of the chief justice and created a hostile situation for five judges of the larger bench to assemble and resume the proceedings.

This time, around hundred lawyers also gathered at the LHC to show their support for, what they said, the rule of law in response to unfortunate events when the protesting lawyers stormed the chief justice’s court.

Salman Akram Raja, Mansoor Awan, Saad Rasool, Faisal Naqvi, Ahmad Rafay Alam and Sarah Belal were prominent among the gathering.

They said their primary objective was upholding dignity of both lawyers and courts. They lauded the intervention of the bar councils and associations and senior lawyers in the matter, saying the primary responsibility to discipline lawyers must be that of the legal community itself. They intended to evolve into a larger group of lawyers committed to reforming by inviting lawyers of all courts to join the cause. Former president of Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir also joined them and condemned the incidents of hooliganism by lawyers.

She said majority of the legal fraternity did not support the conduct of the Multan’s lawyers. She said nobody even the prime minister was above the law. She said advocate Sher Zaman Qureshi must appear before the court as there was no exception.

Senior lawyers left the place peacefully to avoid any clash when supporters of advocate Qureshi came to them chanting anti-chief justice slogans. The aggressive lawyers also dispersed after staging a hour long protest show.

Earlier, PBC Vice Chairman Ahsan Bhoon, Ghulam Sarwar Nehang of Punjab Bar Council and Lahore High Court Bar Association President Ch Zulfiqar Ali joined the in-camera proceedings by the bench, headed by Chief Justice Shah.

The leaders of the bar councils undertook before the bench that disciplinary action would be taken against Mr Qureshi by Saturday (today) while they would ensure his presence in the court on next hearing.

The leaders further undertook to disassociate themselves from the issue if they failed to produce the contemnor before the court and would want the court to proceed against him in accordance with law.

The judges accepted the request, however, clarified that it was the last time they were acceding the plea of the bar’s leadership. The bench adjourned hearing till Aug 21. Justice Muhammad Anwarul Haq, Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti and Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza are the other members of the larger bench.

In an incident occurred on July 24 last, lawyers Qureshi and Kazmi with other lawyers had misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan at Multan seat and obstructed court proceedings. Mr Kazmi had joined the contempt proceedings before the larger bench at initial stage, however, Mr Qureshi is yet to comply with the contempt notice.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017