A Street Car Named Desire!

A Street Car Named Desire!*

*(The title of this article has been inspired from Hollywood blockbuster movie: A Street Car Named Desire.)

Ten years ago my parents strongly recommended me to neither pursue the study of law nor adopt the legal profession and urged me to continue with chartered accountancy. They told me there was nothing left in the legal profession for a young lawyer except for frustration, extreme struggle and last but not the least, perseverance. I did not listen to them as I was too obsessed with my ideals – those which are usually envisioned and pursued by law students in their years at law school – and in those years I too was inspired by the movement for the independence of judiciary that had started in 2007.

I completed my accounting and finance qualification in 2008 and took admission in Law. I started practising law in 2011 and have been doing so to date. I have now come to realize that my parents may have been right. There is not much in this profession for a young lawyer whose family may not have a privileged background in law. My parents were right in saying that pursuing the legal profession was very difficult indeed, but I chose not to follow their advice (even though my father is a lawyer himself). Instead, I decided to fulfil my desire, for which I am now facing the consequences. Every young lawyer, entering this profession has the same story – like me they have also taken the ‘street car named Desire’.

The environment prevailing in this profession in Pakistan is where judges do not listen to you unless you are the son or daughter of a recognized lawyer or judge. You do get relief, but mostly if you belong to a recognized law firm. Otherwise, at present, the honourable judges tend not to put themselves in any trouble by giving bold decisions.

There are a few judges, like the honourable Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, who tend to give relief to a genuine cause instead of giving relief to lawyers on their face value. That is why he is an inspiring figure. He is a ray of hope for me in this profession and it is due to him that I have kept myself busy in public interest litigation cases, where people normally do not pay much except for nominal expenses. I have come to terms with the reality that even if somebody does not pay me, I will still fight for his or her cause if it is genuine and for the welfare of the public. Otherwise, there was a time when I had nothing much to do except read law journals at my office and return home early in the afternoon. Public interest litigation had at least given me a reason and motivation to wake up early in the morning, reach office on time, prepare my brief, read law journals and appear before the courts. Had I been waiting for clients to pay me first and only then appearing before court on their behalf, then I might have left the profession years ago when I was also totally convinced that the legal profession was controlled by big law firms with big clientele only. These big law firms have now become a mafia. Sorry to say but every young lawyer knows it. I am even unable to express these views in front of my parents because they had already warned me years ago not to pursue this treacherous path called the legal profession, which has now become extremely ruthless.

Despite the frustrating narrative above mentioned, in the year 2016 I advocated for many public interest causes and won a number of cases: the Christian divorce case; the removal of Director General, Environmental Protection Agency and direction for the construction of central laboratory in the Environmental Protection Agency; the removal of Director General Plant Protection Department under the Food Ministry; the levy of PTV fee case; the case regarding presentation of audit reports before the Public Accounts Committee; setting aside of the ban on an Urdu feature film Maalik; the case with respect to public development funds for members of the Provincial Assembly; the case regarding rights of disabled persons; and the case regarding inquiry ordered in the malpractices of Punjab Institute of Cardiology. The readers may be surprised to know that most of the decisions given in these cases were enunciated by the honourable Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

There are many public interest cases which I am dealing with at present, some of which have been pending for a long time as some of the honourable judges seem a bit hesitant in deciding them. Maybe they have little motivation to take bold decisions and do something good for public welfare. Maybe the sole desire in their lives was to become a judge only, to dispose of matters by passing ordinary-homeopathic orders, that’s all!

In the past seven years I have come across politicians who claim to bring change but the closer you get to them, the further you reach the conclusion that all these politicians are the same, regardless of whether they belong to the status quo or are the ones challenging it, and are too caught up in their self importance, vanity and fulfillment of worldly desires, devoid of any feelings for the poor and bereft of any fire in their bellies to do something for the downtrodden.

We are all the same actually. We vow to bring change, but within ourselves we resist it. Perhaps this country or we as a society need to ride on what we say metaphorically, ‘a street car named Desire!’

*The title of this article has been inspired from Hollywood blockbuster movie: A Street Car Named Desire.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.

Sheraz Zaka

Author: Sheraz Zaka

The writer is a constitutional lawyer, human rights activist and teacher. He can be contacted at [email protected]