Lawless lawyers - Ardeshir Cowasjee - October 24, 2010

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MOHAMMAD Ali Jinnah, founder and maker of what is now known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (whether he would have approved is highly debatable), started his career as a barrister called from Lincoln`s Inn. He practised with a great deal of recognition in Bombay and then transferred himself to the Inner Temple and set up a practice in England in the early 1930s.

At all times during his legal career, he upheld the finest traditions of his profession, carrying himself as should a man of the law, embracing the principles that are recognised as the finest qualities of a highly qualified lawyer — hardworking, consistent, honest, intelligent, with the greatest respect for the law, and above all committed to his clients.

His portrait adorns every courtroom in this country he gave us, he has sat behind every judge and faced every lawyer Pakistan has produced. Vukla gardi, hai hai

So, with great assurance it can be said that right now, far more than ever before, he would have been aghast at the behaviour and bearing of his brethren in the country he left behind for them. Would he too be muttering to himself, as do many of us, “ ?

Since the birth of Pakistan, our judiciary and members of the legal profession have played a major role in all directions the country has taken. The leading lights of the legal profession, the eagles who often do not soar, have advised martial law regimes which have sought the legitimacy of law, they have tendered advice to what is known here erroneously as `democratically elected governments` who have twisted and turned to find ways to legitimise their ill-gotten gains. The men of law have effectively played their part in the misery that is today`s Pakistan.

All our military governments have come in with judges and lawyers giving whatever general a five-star stamp of approval, as happened with our last military adventurer who proved to be anything but a dictator.

Had he been one, with the opportunities afforded him when he held absolute power, he could have changed the entire landscape and put us on a path that would have taken us forward. But he chose to pussyfoot and play political games.

His relationship with the men of law initially turned sour when he tried to force through the sale of the steel mill, and then fell apart completely when he took on the chief justice of Pakistan and removed him from office on that fateful day in March 2007.

This falling out led to a social change that may influence the country for many years to come — the self-anointed lawyers` movement.

At that point in time, the bar associations across the country, under the leadership of Muneer Malik, stood galvanised as a block against the Pervez Musharraf government, adamant that the CJP should be reinstated. Many members spent time in jail (the one major prerequisite required in this strange land to be hailed as a `leader`).

Sadly, these men of the law, totally throwing to the winds Jinnah`s initial exhortation to his countrymen that law and order is an absolute must, adopted the behaviour common to all `leaders` of this land — violence as their right, abdicating responsibility, and above all transforming themselves into purchasable items.

Thus they managed to sustain their movement for a lengthy period.

Now, the reinstatement having taken place, let`s look at the aftermath. Not a week goes by when we do not read of the indiscretions of far too many members of the Black Coat Brigade. Lawyers have slapped judges, advocates have protested against incarcerations of colleagues, they have dealt violently with fellow members of their profession who they felt did not cooperate, and finally they have succeeded in forcing the removal of a district judge in Lahore. Basically, there is little difference between their action and that of Musharraf in 2007.

What is the root cause? Well, it would seem to be that the bar councils, rather than attempting to regulate effectively the standards of their profession (which they desperately need to do), at the whim and behest of their fellow lawyers prefer to enrol into their fold all and sundry who have purchased or scraped through an LLB degree so that they can secure vote banks.

Our more enlightened legal men who have made their mark, rather than trying to control this situation, seem to welcome the disparity as it ensures their abilities will remain superior to those of the less blessed learned friends.

What is dangerous is the toleration extended by the judiciary to this outrageous carrying on. The position of a judge cannot be subjected to any pressure, whether generated by a lawyers` movement, a civilian government, or a military regime. Bad precedents have been set and such tactics will surely be used in the future, the legal tacticians becoming increasingly confident of success.

Should not the Supreme Court of Pakistan recognise this escalating threat and take action against the lawyers who seem to have got away with their violent demands?

Should its honourable members not fear that at some future stage one or more of their brothers on the bench may possibly be subjected to such ugly acts? And why not halt the slide by actively engaging with the bar councils to ensure that only advocates practising actively in the courts are retained on the rolls of the court, which will ensure that lawyers are actually doing what they are paid to do — pleading cases in our courts?

The one thing the run-up to the reinstatement of the CJP and its repercussions have done is to contribute a new phrase to the Pakistani idiom — Vukla gardi hai hai “.

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