PBC’s silence on chambers demolition hurts lawyers

Published May 11, 2021
In March, the Islamabad High Court had suspended the licences of a number of lawyers over charges that they had ransacked Chief Justice Athar Minallah’s offices. — AFP/File
In March, the Islamabad High Court had suspended the licences of a number of lawyers over charges that they had ransacked Chief Justice Athar Minallah’s offices. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakis­tan Bar Council (PBC), the regulatory body of the legal profession, seems to have reached a deadlock when it met on May 7 to sort out two issues — the demolition of lawyers’ chambers in a posh area of the federal capital as well as the suspension of licences.

No formal resolution was adopted at the meeting over the launch of a countrywide campaign since most of the participants opposed the proposal, an informed source confided to Dawn.

Although the issue was not on the agenda, two members raised the matter in their speeches, lamenting that the highest body of lawyers had deserted their brethren from Islamabad at a time when they need “our support the most”.

That explains why a resolution adopted at the meeting dwelt on a number of issues, but remained silent on the matter of lawyers’ chambers.

Islamabad lawyers willing to vacate chambers on district court premises once new complex on IHC premises is ready

“The lawyers from Islamabad are in extreme pain and agony, but we have become silent spectators,” a source quoted one of the speakers as saying. He stressed that the PBC should send out a strong message in favour of Islamabad-based lawyers who were facing cases in different courts, including in anti-terrorism courts.

“It is time for the PBC to take a lead,” suggested the other.

In March, the Islamabad High Court had suspended the licences of a number of lawyers over charges that they had ransacked Chief Justice Athar Minallah’s offices and hurled threats to burn down a police station during a protest against demolition of the lawyers’ chambers.

The licences were suspended after a group of protesting lawyers barged into the chambers of the IHC chief justice in February, chanting slogans against the judiciary as well as the Capital Development Authority over the demolition of their chambers. They also forced several judges out of their courtrooms.

During the May 7 PBC meeting, one of the members bemoaned that despite assurances, the council had not even called a convention where lawyers could have aired their concerns over the football ground episode.

“The Pakistan Bar Council and associations have left Islamabad’s lawyers in the lurch,” a speaker regretted.

A majority of participants were not in favour of adopting any resolution on the matter. Some of them observed that the Islamabad Bar Association (IBA) itself was divided on the question of launching a campaign against the judiciary.

The IBA was engaged in negotiations with the capital administration in order to dissuade it from carrying out its decision to demolish lawyers’ chambers at the District Court premises.

“We will support them only if they take a lead and spearhead a campaign,” they said, reminding the gathering that the matter was sub judice.

The Islamabad Bar Association had moved a review petition before the Supreme Court to seek reversal of the apex court’s March 2 directive allowing the Capital Development Authority to demolish lawyers’ chambers on the football ground in Sector F-8 if they were not vacated within two months.

The petition was moved on the grounds that the order contained errors “floating on the surface” of the record since it failed to notice an Aug 24, 2007, order by a larger bench of the Supreme Court which had stayed shifting of the District Court from Sector F-8 to G-10.

Lawyers’ version

Fareed Hussain Kaif, who heads the Islamabad Bar Association, said the lawyers were ready to vacate their chambers on the District Court premises the moment the new complex at the IHC premises was ready.

“We are even ready to contribute from our side for an early completion of the project,” he said.

Mr Kaif deplored the ransacking of the IHC chief justice’s chambers, saying the IBA was ready to enter into negotiations for working out a solution.

“We have no sympathy with elements that stormed the high court, but we want that some solution must be found since the lawyers community of the capital has become a spectacle in the eyes of the nation.”

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021

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