THE recent episode of violence by a group of lawyers at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) was a criminal act which should be dealt with with sternly. There is no question of inviting such lawyers even for discussions.
The demands by lawyers that they should be allowed to occupy a hockey ground in F-8 sector meant for local public and the illegal constructions or the lawfully demolished offices be compensated by the state are ridiculous and unworthy of listening to.
The lawyers call themselves ‘officers of the court’ and enjoy privileges of grade 17/18 officers in local government hospitals, which are not available even for doctors. Also, they get plots of land and funds.
The IHC has no restaurant or library for public and that too is under the control of IHC bar and the litigant public is shunted out. The fact is that the lawyers’ offices are in such proximity to district courts that the judges are themselves unsafe from a sudden surge of violent protesting lawyers.
The fate of the lawyers who attacked the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, Lahore, and subsequent favour and sympathy by bar associations not with the victims but with the attacking lawyers has proved correct the statement by a former law minister that lawyers consider themselves above the law.
Whenever any chief justice or judge follows the book, he is surrounded by unruly lawyers. If this can occur in Islamabad, the seat of power, then it is really time for serious judicial reforms. Those who offer the proverbial fig-leaf in the form of discussions to such hooligans should be summoned themselves by even higher competent forums of legal system. Rot from the inside is a dangerous rot.
LAWYERS’ hooliganism has unfortunately become an all-too-familiar phenomenon in the country. Lawyers turn violent frequently without much of a reason, and more often than not public officials at lower rungs bear the brunt of their unwarranted wrath. State institutions each time beat a hasty retreat in the face of lawyers’ high-handedness.
The policy of appeasement on the part of administration and judiciary has only emboldened these elements and it finally culminated into the horrific incident at the Islamabad High Court (IHC). To settle their score with the Islamabad administration over the demolition of illegal chambers built on the premises of Islamabad district courts, a mob of lawyers ransacked the IHC building. Security officials took to their heels to save their lives, while the unruly lawyers bullied and roughed up media persons who were busy capturing the scenes for live telecast.
The issue of lawyers’ hooliganism has not developed overnight. In fact, its genesis can be traced in the outright immunity this community has been enjoying ever since the lawyers’ movement back in 2008. A decade down the road, many incidents took place where lawyers resorted to violent tactics to achieve their targets, and, sadly, not even a single precedent can be quoted where these elements were taken to task. The Punjab Institute of Cardiology incident is a classic example in this regard. Had the culprits been shown the iron fist then, the IHC incident would not have happened.
This horrible trend needs to be checked. State institutions must accept this gruesome incident as a challenge and leave no stone unturned in bringing the culprits to the book. This should be made a test case and must be taken to its logical end in order to stop lawyers’ violence. If people involved in the latest episode are punished as per law, this would serve as deterrence in the future.
Right now, in the land of pure, rule of ‘lawyers’, not the rule of law, prevails.
THE state exists to protect and secure the constitutional rights of the people, and for that it has three pillars, each working within its confined constitutional framework, to serve the citizens. One such pillar is an independent judiciary to protect the legal rights of individuals, while the other two are parliament and executive.
The attack on Islamabad High Court (IHC) by unruly men and women wearing black coats is an attack on the very independence of the judiciary. If the IHC chief justice can be harassed and abused and judges can be forced to seek refuge from hooligans, this essential constitutional requirement of independence stands compromised.
The lawyers are there to represent the people and have no other role except to defend litigants who secure their services to protect their legal rights. If the lawyers themselves get involved in irregularities, such as construction on amenity plots or land which does not belong to them, then they are guilty of criminal offences and must be dealt with in accordance with laws and not through compromising legal injunctions.
Crime nourishes, states collapse and mafias thrive when laws become hostage to the whims of a few. The IHC judges and all others have taken an oath to defend the constitution and must work strictly within their jurisdiction to interpret the laws in existence. The courts cannot become hostage to the dictates of lawyers’ representatives. If the lawyers are not willing to submit to law, then citizens must be given the right to represent themselves before the judges.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan, a country created through constitutional political struggle, the power of the people and their right to choose those who may exercise the power to govern in accordance with laws and constitution, was usurped by a few and since then the country has been suffering abuse from within and outside.
THIS refers to your editorial ‘Lawyers run amok’ (Feb 10). As a senior citizen, I wholeheartedly support the condemnation of the ever rising trend of hooliganism by the legal fraternity, commonly known as ‘black coats’.
Total disregard of law and such display of lawlessness put us to shame. To add insult to injury, the bar councils, instead of taking serious corrective disciplinary measures, lend support to illegal encroachments of open public spaces, footpaths and roads.
Attacking hospitals, manhandling judges, insulting judiciary to settle personal scores have become a matter of routine for the lawyers, and, to my surprise, civil society and social activists find it convenient to look the other way.
A Senior Citizen
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2021