ISLAMABAD: In a protest against the nomination of the Pakistan Bar Council’s office-bearers – vice chairman and executive committee chairman – from Punjab, six members of the committee staged a walkout and termed the selection against the spirit of the federation.

The meeting of the PBC – the apex regulatory body representing the legal fraternity – was held to nominate Haroonur Rasheed from Islamabad as the new vice chairman and Ahmed Raza Pasha from Rawalpindi as the executive committee chairman. Since the office of the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) is still vacant, the meeting was presided over by Additional Attorney General for Pakistan Chaudhry Aamir Rehman – an office which acts as ex-officio member of the council in the capacity of the chairman.

During the meeting, Munir Ahmed Khan Kakar raised a “principled” objection that no nomination from Sindh or Balochistan had been made for the last three years, according to a one-page statement signed by the protesting members.

The incumbent 23-member cabinet was elected in Jan 2021 for a five-year term; it is a tradition to elect each year a new vice chairman and chairman executive committee, preferably for equal representation of provinces.

Six members walkout from meeting called for nominating vice chairman

Currently, 11 PBC members belong to Punjab, six hail from Sindh, four from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and one each from Balochistan and Islamabad.

In 2021, Khushdil Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was elected as the vice chairman while Faheem Wali from KP was nominated as the chairman of the executive committee. In Jan 22, Hafeezur Rehman Chaudhry from Punjab became the vice chairman and Masood Chishti was nominated as the chairman of the executive committee.

“Now again, a member from Punjab has been nominated [for the coveted slot] which is against the spirit of the federation,” said Munir Ahmed Khan Kakar from Balochistan while talking toDawn.

“This means that the turn of Balochistan to represent PBC as its vice chairman will never come since the province has only one member in the current cabinet of the council,” regretted Mr Kakar.

A statement by the protesting lawyers said the present nomination “seriously violates the concept of federation and increases the sense of deprivation” among the Sindh and Balochistan lawyers.

“Upon this, we, the following members of the PBC walked out as a protest against this discriminatory treatment,” the statement said. The six members who staged the protest are Shafqat Mehmood Chohan, Shahab Sarki, Tahir Faraz Abbasi, Chaudhry Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan, Munir Ahmed Khan Kakar and Abid S. Zuberi, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).

Likewise, Shafqat Chohan, when contacted, said from now on, all six members would play the role of the opposition and would always object to the decisions of the majority. They simply nominated office-bearers from Islamabad because they have a majority in the body which is not conducive to the concept of federalism, he said.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Ahsan Bhoon, former SCBA president, explained that the PBC rules did not mention any provision for giving representation to all provinces. He, however, agreed that it was a tradition in which members decide to nominate a vice chairman for one year from all provinces.

This year, office-bearers from Islamabad were appointed because it is an independent entity whereas next year it may be the turn of some other province, Mr Bhoon said, questioning how a person can become the vice chairman when they did not command a majority in the council.

Soon after the meeting, PBC members, including the protesting lawyers, called on Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial.

Condolence reference

The CJP along with Justice Qazi Faez Isa and other judges attended a condolence reference organised by the SCBA to offer fateha for Abdul Latif Afridi, a former SCBA president, who was shot dead on the premises of the Peshawar High Court last week.

In his address, Justice Bandial paid tribute to the legacy, vision and valiant services of Abdul Latif Afridi for upholding the Constitution, independence of institutions, freedom of expression and protection of human rights. The CJP also extended heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathies to the members of the bereaved family to bear the irreparable loss with equanimity.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2023

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