The black coats are at it, yet again; they deride the sanctity of courtrooms; ransack the nameplates and belongings of judges upon whom they would otherwise grace nobility; vandalize the rostrum – a turn at for which they usually scuffle amongst themselves, and lock down hallways that they once strode. Undeterred they are in their attempts to bask in all the notoriety and glory, bestowed upon them by their law-abiding brethren. Tomorrow will come, and so will they pacing the very same hallways, willfully excluding, any remorse for their grave deeds. They berate all talk of culpability, realizing, in the process, that they tarnish the institution whose flags they bear – the rule of law. Then again, what’s the point of a system you can’t manipulate and take advantage of?
On the 24th of July, the elected president of the Multan High Court Bar Association (the equivalent of a politicized union of lawyers), along with a few others obstructed judicial proceedings, taking place before a judge of the Multan Bench (High Court), by tearing down the court-room premises. Regardless of whose conduct was blameworthy, hindering judicial process and taking the law into one’s own hands is reprehensible, and in no way justifiable. Having to subsequently face charges of contempt, for his actions, before a full bench of the Lahore High Court (Lahore Bench), the President of the MHCBA, presumably willfully, failed to turn up for his hearing; the judges left with no other option, issued warrants for the President of the MHCBA’s arrest and production before the court, which resulted into mayhem after the black coats, and bar associations called for nation-wide strikes, sit-in protests, which eventually led to clashes with the police and law enforcement (ironically) personnel, and resultantly a complete halt in all judicial proceedings. If they are held accountable under the law, they wreak havoc, chant slogans against this unfamiliar form of “discrimination”, and draw caricatures of the “injustices” inflicted upon them by this foreign process of accountability. The bannermen of this profession, who are obligated to ensure the protection and rule of law is administered, are unfortunately the ones bent on tearing it down.
The unfortunate victims of this power struggle, between the judiciary and politicized bar associations are those who have, for example, been wrongfully charged for a crime they did not commit; the retired government employee whose pension has been outstanding for the previous three months, the victim of a land-grabbing mafia, and the list can go on. Bar associations must acknowledge the dire consequences of their actions upon the general masses, whose fates oscillate in rhythm to this tug-of-war; an adjournment in one’s case hearing can prolong the securing of justice to at least a month. A legal maxim goes by “justice delayed is justice denied”; after all, legal redress not forthcoming in a timely fashion is, in effect, equivalent to not having justice at all.
We must be careful not to forget that this black coat holds the honour to belong to the likes of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal, and Liaquat Ali Khan. Wuklagardi has blemished the profession. Stereotypes have arisen owing to which parents no longer wish for their children to become lawyers, owing to which people are hesitant in transacting routine business with lawyers, owing to which people despise and label the bannermen of this profession as deceitful, and untrustworthy; the common man does not seem to recall that it was the art of advocacy, and the crafty positing of an idea – a nation independent from pre-partition India – before the negotiating table that led to the inception of Pakistan.
Lawyers have always been and will continue to be the focal point of any political or revolutionary movement in Pakistan, but let us all be amongst the first to lay the weapons down, embrace answerability, and assert solidarity with the valiant men enforcing the mandate of the law. Disqualifying and de-seating a prime minister was just a small step in a lengthy journey. Undoubtedly, we have moved on and should move a little more in the same direction.
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