ISLAMABAD: A recent spat between two senior lawyers belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has exposed the shortcomings of the legal wing of the former ruling party, a fact that insiders attribute to the ‘dormancy’ of the Insaf Lawyers Forum (ILF).

 Sher Afzal Marwat
Sher Afzal Marwat

In a detailed post on X (formerly Twitter) on Wed­nesday, Sher Afzal Khan Marwat called Shoaib Sha­­heen a traitor and ac­­cused him of entering the PTI legal team with the backing of a couple of PTI leaders. He also alleged that Mr Shaheen had leaked their legal strategies to the opposing side.

The party, however, officially distanced itself from Mr Marwat’s tweets and implicitly supported Mr Shaheen by reaffirming him as an official spokesperson of the party.

In June 2020, PTI chairman Imran Khan constituted the interim cabinet of the ILF for a period of two years and Senator Syed Ali Zafar became the chairman of the legal wing. Following the ouster of the PTI government in April 2022, the ILF interim cabinet was dissolved and Mr Khan appointed organisers for an interim period and tasked them to hold elections within 150 days.

But elections, scheduled to be held last year, could not be held for multiple reasons, such as the lack of internal party elections, the incarceration of party leaders at a mass scale and the alleged victimisation of the PTI in the wake of riots on May 9.

ILF chief organiser in Islamabad, Advocate Ali Bukhari, told Dawn that the organisers appointed by Mr Khan had completed their homework and the constitution of the body was also revised, but polls were not possible because of the crackdown on party leaders.

He further said that the body’s constitution had set a time for holding the elections of the ILF, but these elections were not likely to be held till the process of general elections was completed.

Insiders said that due to the inactivity of the ILF, other lawyers, including Sardar Latif Khosa, Shoaib Shaheen, and Sher Afzal Khan Marwat, were dominating the legal team alongside some newcomers who had also become part of the PTI core committee.

 Shoaib Shaheen
Shoaib Shaheen

Mr Shaheen is not an activist of the PTI. He has been rendering legal services for Mr Khan since 2017, whereas Mr Marwat made an entry into the legal team of the PTI following the arrest of a few leaders from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Sheharyar Afridi and Asad Qaiser, whom he represented as legal counsel.

Sources said that the differences between Mr Shaheen and Mr Marwat rose following the arrest of Mr Khan in the Toshakhana reference. Mr Shaheen, who had previously held high offices in lawyers’ bodies, including the Islamabad Bar Council and Pakistan Bar Council, was later elected as the president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association.

Mr Marwat represented the PTI chief in the Toshakhana trial. He became close to Mr Khan when he launched a tirade against trial court judge Humayun Dilawar during the proceedings of the trial and was subsequently added to the core committee.

Following the arrest of Mr Khan, Mr Marwat proposed a strategy for his early release, but the PTI core committee rejected the proposal.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2023

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