WHAT lines can capture the impact of the ugly scenes that played out outside the Lahore High Court on Monday? What can one say when the edifice of justice is attacked by those who are meant to uphold the law, and who have, ironically enough, been trained to present their arguments in a civilised way? Unfortunately, given the growing propensity of the legal community to resort to violence, the lawyers’ charge on the court premises was almost inevitable. There are many angles to the unfolding story. There are many who believe that the confrontation between the bar and the bench could have been better handled. There is also an opinion that had a more prominent member of the legal community been involved in the row, the action taken might have been less strict than it has been in the case of the president of the Multan bar who is the subject of contempt proceedings that have brought the confrontation to an altogether new level. The office-bearer has drawn both applause and ire for offering free tuition to those who want to avoid arrest on court orders; and yet, his role may ultimately be incidental considering the size of the conflict between the bench and the bar. Something had to give finally. There had to be someone providing the stimulus.
The focus may now be shifted from the brawl to the effort to revive a functioning relationship between the judiciary and the lawyers. This is where some brave decisions have to be taken and precedents set. The lawyers are polarised and they are prone to acting as a gang that has no qualms about intimidating members of the bench routinely, terrorising junior judicial officers and even putting pressure on the senior ones — all in pursuit of rulings of their choice. The feeling is that these lawyers could have perhaps have been helped in a more constructive way by a judiciary which does not have a history of succumbing to the politics of the day. After the dust settles, a return of the bar to old values has to coincide with a process where the judiciary is seen to be above any kind of bias and politics. The sooner the legal circles are able to initiate this process the better it will be for everyone concerned. The people are fast losing whatever hope they had been left with.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2017
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