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Jheenga la law

July 27, 2012


People have strange occupations. One of them is writing stuff intended to impress, and to be quoted by others. People come up with lots of smart sounding phrases like ‘smaller is bigger’, ‘pious acts result in riots’, ‘life is a pirated copy of Bollywood’s B grade films’ etc. There’s this smart dude who says whatever kind of work you can think of, falls in one of the three categories: humans working with machines; humans working with ideas; and humans working with other humans and animals.

It is my intention to prove that the above-mentioned dude is not half as smart as he claims credit for. That it is possible for someone to earn a living without working with machines, ideas or people. And for this purpose I’ll use the example of Pakistan – a country created as a laboratory in modern times, in which failed experiments from the entire history of mankind are repeated. In the process, we may not have reinvented the wheel, but guess who reinvented puncture-mending? Thank you. We were able to excel in this art by observing the hitherto unfulfilled needs of the wheel owner. We found that if you insert a sharp object into the wheel, the owner then needs to have the puncture mended. Today, a team of two half-wits is enough to run a successful puncture-mending business in which one goes round puncturing, the other mending.

Pakistanis have successfully applied this model to all our entrepreneurial pursuits. Take for instance the justice system. It consists of both public sector duds and the enterprising self-employed lawyer. Since we have already agreed that the public servant all over the world is well within his or her rights to earn a salary and perks for life, without being responsible for anything, much less having to do anything, let’s just focus on the private sector professional, the lawyer.

No one goes to a lawyer unless they have a problem or complaint. From their spouses and friends to neighbours and strangers, everyone comes to pour scorn, fear, hatred, or helplessness into his or her ears. Having absorbed all this negativity year after year, and not having a friend or lover to share innocently pleasurable moments, the lawyer becomes cynical, suspicious and senile. The only times you’ll find them hospitable is during the visits before you sign the letter of engagement. You could tell them any problem in the world and they’ll tell you, after the briefest reflection, the exact amount you will have to fork out for the solution, and the minimum amount you’ll pay before the lawyer lifts a finger to point towards the possible solution or the absence of any.

Having signed on the dotted line and having received the advance fee however, the lawyer becomes your new best friend, often for life, because the litigation that binds you together will likely go on till the end of your or the lawyer’s life, whichever comes first. This does not happen by default though. The lawyer works hard to ensure every relationship they build is for life. Yes, the justice system is thankfully slow and unsteady, but there are always risks of a hurried judge passing the verdict within a short span of 10-15 years or an overzealous judge scheduling the next hearing after only a month’s gap, or the two parties or their second or third generations settling the dispute out of court.

To anticipate these situations the lawyer carefully works out the pace each of his cases must proceed with. He exercises control by attending to a case only once a year. The rest of the times his munshi informs the court that the lawyer could not present himself because he is traveling abroad/diagnosed as full blown AIDS patient/at the death bed of a parent etc.

The other call is made by the lawyer to the client to inform them that the hearing went well and that his arguments all but demolished the opponents and earned the praise of the sitting judge.

Forget the unauthorised absence and tardiness of school going kids coming from dysfunctional families, forget the doctors who leave their patients to die while they march in the streets chanting slogans for their own rights, forget the ministers who hardly ever show up in the parliament … the lawyer rules the roost when it comes to skipping work. Every day, every court room in every city is unable to proceed with more than half the cases on its cause list because one or both lawyers fail to show up. A good number of those who do, show up only to request for more time. And no such request is ever contested by the opposing lawyer.

Ever since the lawyers’ movement of 2007, they have found another, more viable tool to show their contempt for courts, their proceedings, the clients, their problems, and the law itself: it’s called ‘boycott of courts’. So a judge censures a lawyer for picking his nose and wiping his finger on the desk in front of the judge, and the lawyers strike. A lawyer attempts murder and is caught in the act by police, the lawyers strike. A lawyer is caught selling pornography at his own shop, the lawyers strike … And every strike automatically means boycotting courts. So eager are they to skip work that the news of a fellow lawyer gunned down or roughed up is greeted like Zia Ul Haq’s plane crash – one less undesirable person in the world, and one more welcome holiday from work.

When they can’t find a reason to strike, they boycott courts to show solidarity with Kashmiris or Palestinians, or to celebrate the Mumtaz Qadri Day (for those with mushy memories, the said Mr. Qadri is a self-confessed, widely witnessed, and convicted murderer who was garlanded by lawyers).

Now Mr. Smart Dude, where do you fit Pakistani lawyer in your three categories?


Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.