ISLAMABAD: Amid growing pressure from lawyers over a reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court, Law Minister Dr Farogh Nasim on Thursday distributed Rs175 million of taxpayers money among 133 bar associations to win over their support.
The reference against Justice Isa is due for hearing by the Supreme Judicial Council(SJC) on July 2 when the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) plans to observe a “black day” across the country.
SCBA president Amanullah Kanrani has given a call to representatives of different bar councils and bar associations to observe a black day on July 2 when the five-member SJC will sit to hear the references against Justice Isa and Justice K. K. Agha of the Sindh High Court (SHC).
On Wednesday, the law minister held a meeting with Lahore District Bar Association president Asim Cheema who was accompanied by the newly elected legal adviser of the Capital Development Authority, Shahid Gondal.
In the past the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government through its law minister Dr Babar Awan had disbursed Rs776.4 million among 132 district bar associations when they had been facing tough judicial oversight throughout its term for not implementing the court’s orders on cases related to the National Reconciliation Ordinance and the reopening of the Swiss case against the then president Asif Ali Zardari.
The office of the Auditor General had raised objection over the payment which had been cleared by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) led by Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah of the PPP in 2016.
The Lahore District Bar Association announced lifetime membership for Mr Nasim and also invited him to visit the bar on July 10.
It may be mentioned that following the filing of the references against the judges the Karachi Bar Association had suspended the membership of Mr Nasim.
The lawyers’ bodies of Islamabad get a major chunk from Thursday’s disbursement. The law ministry issued Rs5 million to the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) and Rs2.5 million to the District Bar Association of Islamabad.
The bar associations had been demanding funds from the federal government for the past several months.
According to the Islamabad Bar Association secretary, they raised the demand for funding a couple of months ago and the ministry had issued them a cheque on Thursday.
Regarding the SCBA’s call for observing the black day on July 2, he said the district bar would decide its course of action about it in its upcoming meeting.
The law ministry claimed that the funding to different bar associations had been made in a transparent manner while keeping in view their needs and requirements.
The law minister while addressing representatives of different bar associations said that lawyers’ welfare was among the top priorities of the incumbent government.
He said the caretaker government had raised certain restrictions over funding to the bar associations but the incumbent government believed that it was necessary to maintain the independence of lawyers’ bodies to empower them financially.
He recalled that “in previous the government being a representative of the bar I struggled a lot to empower lawyers financially, but unfortunately my proposal was rejected”.
The lawyers’ community was not accommodated in the past; however the current government despite financial crises was distributing funds to the community transparently, the minister maintained. He criticised the opposition for creating hurdles in the welfare schemes and said that the opposition was a gigantic barrier to making legislation for public welfare in the parliament.
The minister said, “The opposition outside the Parliament and in the committees assure the masses of protecting the rights of people, but when we present any bill for people’s betterment in the house, they do not let it pass”.
He said that an increase in the number of judges in the Islamabad High Court was just for the welfare of the masses, but the opposition even after giving an assurance to the government rejected the bill in the Senate.
Mr Nasim said that the incumbent government distributed funds among the district bar associations and district bar councils without any political discrimination.
Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2019