ISLAMABAD: Justifying the countrywide strike by lawyers on Friday, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) explained what prompted the boycott of court proceedings was the police inaction that had also led to the incident at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Lahore.
The SCBA, through a unanimously adopted resolution, strongly rejected and condemned what it called the unlawful allegations levelled against the legal fraternity in the wake of the PIC incident on Dec 11.
In a statement issued by SCBA secretary Shamimur Rehman Malik, the apex bar association downright discarded the allegations about ‘direct’ involvement of lawyers’ community in the attack on the PIC.
It explained that members of the lawyers’ community had gathered outside the hospital building to record a peaceful protest against an unwarranted speech allegedly from the ‘goons’ who have been hiding in the ranks of the medical community.
While the root-cause of the ‘reaction’ on part of the entire legal fraternity was the earlier provocations, the lawyers who had gathered outside the hospital to lodge their peaceful protest remained disciplined until they came under attack allegedly from inside the hospital with the active involvement of the local administration, the statement alleged.
Countrywide strike against Punjab police inaction; SCBA says ‘peaceful’ protesters were attacked from hospital; LHC asks CCPO to file report
The incident was in consequence of police inaction over the Nov 24 episode in which doctors and
paramedics had tortured some lawyers, the statement said, adding that the lawyers’ community had been staging protests against the incident since then. The lawyers passed several resolutions and staged a sit-in in front of the Punjab Secretariat gate and another demonstration in front of the Inspector General of Police seeking the arrest of culprit doctors for the past many days, but in vain, the SCBA claimed.
The bar association also expressed the concern over what they called ‘unlawful’ arrest of certain lawyers and ‘torture’ during their detention and alleged ‘inhuman’ behaviour with them by the Punjab Police.
The statement questioned the Punjab government why the doctors working at the PIC had not been arrested (since Nov 24) despite the fact some of them had been involved in beating up of lawyers.
It regretted that when lawyers’ community was observing solidarity with their innocent brothers in the wake of the PIC’s compelling incident, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended the licence of IHC Bar Association Secretary Umair Baloch that increased anxiety among the legal community, thus adding fuel to the fire.
The SCBA resolution expected that the IHC would recall the suspension of Mr Baloch’s licence considering the alleged injustices done to the lawyers during the past two days and their burning concern or else the legal fraternity would announce its further course of action.
The statement explained that the lawyers’ community observed the boycott of court proceedings across Pakistan on Friday in view of the prevalent disturbing affairs.
Meanwhile, a division bench of the Lahore High Court sought a report from the Lahore police chief about cases and arrest of lawyers by Monday and advised the bar to take action against black sheep in their fraternity bringing a bad name to the profession.
The LHC bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Anwarul Haq Pannun was hearing multiple petitions challenging the cases and arrests of lawyers in the wake of PIC attack.
“How did lawyers even think of attacking a hospital? You left us with no respect. It does not happen even during wars,” Justice Najafi remarked while addressing representatives of the lawyers present in the courtroom.
“We are hearing these petitions with great pain. We can transfer it forthwith if you say,” the senior judge reminded them.
Strict security arrangements had been made at the LHC as the lawyers observed the strike and did not attend legal proceedings. Similar protests were also observed by the legal fraternity in other parts of the country.
Earlier, an anti-terrorism court remanded eight suspects, including four lawyers, in three-day police custody and also ordered their medical examination.
Amid violence on Dec 11, a group of protesting lawyers also intercepted a bus carrying students of Fatima Jinnah Memorial University on Jail Road. Some lawyers entered the bus causing harassment to the girls. But later on the instruction of their senior colleagues, the protesters allowed the bus to move away.
At the Karachi registry of Supreme Court, SCBA President Qalbe Hasan addressing a press conference condemned the PIC incident but also criticised the police for not arresting the doctors involved in thrashing a group of lawyers.
Mr Hasan said the doctors had beaten up some advocates weeks before the PIC incident. He said the lawyers had lodged an FIR of the Nov 24 incident, but the Punjab police did not make any arrest. However, he said, the police arrested over 100 lawyers after the PIC protest and treated the suspected lawyers as terrorists. He demanded that a committee with a senior judge of the high court as its member be constituted to hold a probe into the entire episode, fix responsibility and hold those found involved in it accountable.
At City Courts in Karachi, the leadership of Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA), Sindh Bar Council and Karachi Bar Association (KBA) addressed a joint meeting of the bar associations during which a resolution was adopted to seek judicial probe into the incident and also demanded release of the detained advocates.
Hundreds of cases fixed at the city courts and district courts in Malir could not be taken up for hearing due to non-production of undertrial prisoners in courts amid the strike on the call given by the Pakistan Bar Council against what it called “partial and biased” conduct of the Lahore police and the Punjab authorities against the lawyers.
Legal work also remained partly disturbed at the SHC as some SHCBA representatives asked other lawyers, litigations and the provincial and federal law officers at the main entrances of the SHC building to stay away from the courts during the strike.
Wajih Ahmad Sheikh from Lahore and Ishaq Tanoli from Karachi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019