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EDITORIAL: There isn’t much else to do, now that the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan has upheld the decision of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to ‘demolish lawyers’ chambers and all illegal buildings on the football ground in Sector F-8, Islamabad’, except to demolish said structures and dwell on the series of incidents that led to this verdict. This is a very severe indictment of the way in which much of the legal community has come to consider itself above the law and the premier representative bodies, various bar associations and councils, that backed the illegal construction and defended all the lawyers that rampaged through the IHC on 8 February 2021.

This episode gives rise to a number of very important questions that beg very urgent answers. Surely, lawyers that constructed their chambers on the ground knew very well that they were indulging in illegal construction, which is punishable by law. That they still did so, and reacted very violently when necessary action was finally taken, goes to show what little regard lawyers themselves pay to the law of the land, which incidentally they are groomed and trained to protect and practice. And the situation is made much worse by the revelation that some structures of the honourable court itself have also been erected, quite illegally it turns out, within the premises of the football ground. How could this be and why wasn’t this matter raised before the Capital Development Authority (CDA) appeared one fine night to reduce some of the illegally constructed private chambers, not the offices of the court, to rubble?

And something must also be said about the behaviour of so many advocates. The bar and bench are, after all, two wheels of the judicial cart and when one tears the law to ribbons, to the point of holding the other hostage while it vents its own anger, and the other is made to decide on it, then the two wheels are forced to move in opposite directions. It is, in fact, shameless that lawyers reacted to being caught breaking the law by breaking the law further, disrupting court proceedings for hours, and harassing the IHC chief justice. And just when it seemed that the matter could not defy logic and sensibility any further, various bar associations and councils not only came out very strongly in favour of the lawyers whose chambers were demolished and demanded immediate release of all of their colleagues who were arrested for destroying court property and disrupting court proceedings, but also called for immediate sacking of the chief secretary and reconstruction of all demolishes structured, on the illegal land, at state expense.

This trend, of lawyers turning into violent bullies whenever they are questioned, is one of the many unintended consequences of the so-called lawyers’ movement that dates back to General Musharraf’s time. And it has been growing in strength ever since only because relevant arms of the state have done nothing about it all this while. That is why it is very welcome that the honourable court noted in its judgment that “an advocate that takes the law into his or her own hands or violates the law in any manner whatsoever is not eligible to be certified by the High Court as ‘fit and proper’ to plead and appear before the august Supreme Court.” That and the IHC’s order to suspend licenses of 21 lawyers that allegedly led the storming of the judicial compound ought to finally send the right message to this bunch, even though whatever limited footage appeared of that pandemonium clearly showed a much larger number of offenders than just 21. And there isn’t much video proof because the lawyers had the presence of mind to strip all present reporters of their cameras and smartphones.

It goes without saying that nobody should be allowed to break the law, much less expect to get away with it. Yet there is considerable weight in the argument that lawyers as well as law enforcement officials commit a bigger sin than ordinary people when they cross red lines. That is because as representatives of the legal pillar of the state they are the very elements that deliver justice to the state and the people. And they know better than anybody else just when the law is violated and also the best ways of seeking justice. Hopefully, the legal community will itself take the lead in making sure that its members are not responsible for any further miscarriages of justice.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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