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EDITORIAL: Instead of upholding the dignity of their profession lawyers in this country have taken to act like violent street ruffians, abusing judges of the subordinate judiciary, and beating up police officers within court premises. In one instance, they even ransacked a cardiology hospital in Lahore and roughed up the staff. If that is not outrageous enough, their elected associations have been coming out to defend them. Emboldened by that support on Monday some 400 black coats, protesting against the demolition by the Capital Development Authority of their illegally constructed offices on a football ground, arrived at the Islamabad High Court (IHC). There they stormed the chambers of Chief Justice Athar Minallah, broke windows and doors of his chambers and offices of his staff, beat up the Superintendent of Police deployed at the Chief Justice Block, and hurled abuses at judges. This went on for three long hours. Finally, the Rangers and police reinforcements had to be called in to take control of the situation. Under the circumstance, the court deemed it necessary to order shutdown of its business.

The Bench and the Bar being like two wheels of a chariot, members of the bar are expected to assist courts in the administration of justice. Sadly, in this case they behaved no different from thugs. Before the Rangers and police came to save the situation, the judges tried to calm down the invaders by holding negotiations with their representatives, albeit without success. They were presented with unreasonable demands such as rebuilding of the demolished structures at government expense, removal of the Deputy Commissioner, release of the lawyers detained during CDA’s anti-encroachment operation, and that the IHC Chief Justice Minallah announce acceptance before the protesting lawyers inside the bar room. Predictably, these demands, except the release of detainees, were rejected by the judges. All this comes across like a hostage drama rather than something happening in one of the country’s highest judicial forums. The incident should have been deeply embarrassing for the lawyers unions and denounced as such. Unfortunately, however, they reacted equally disgracefully, lending full support to the hoodlums who had laid siege to the IHC. The Supreme Court Bar Association, Islamabad Bar Council, Islamabad High Court Bar Association, and the District Bar Association issued a joint call for strike. They also slammed the closure of the IHC, demanding that the Chief Justice of Pakistan hold a judiciary inquiry. These associations have tarnished their own image in the public eye by supporting two flagrant wrongs: one, storming of a court which constitutes an attack on independence of the judiciary; and second, seeking an exception for illegal constructions by their professional colleagues in utter disregard for the rule of law.

All culprits must be held to account of their shameful actions. The police have registered FIRs against 21 lawyers under various sections of the PPC as well as the Anti-Terrorism Act - the second law though needs to be applied more cautiously. The lawyers associations must also learn to uphold better traditions of their profession rather than blindly backing any and every transgression of the black coats in anticipation of getting their votes at the next elections of these bodies.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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