Fractured unity

The lawyers’ movement for restoration of judiciary began on 9th March 2007 in response to the former President and Army Chief Pervez Musharraf’s illegal actions

As a result of the Lawyer’s Movement, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was reinstated as the Chief Justice of Pakistan on 17th March 2009

Bar Associations and Bar Councils played an important role in raising awareness about the need for rule of law and independence of judiciary with the general public

They educated the masses by holding rallies and press conferences

Bar leaders and representatives vigorously debated on the importance of an independent judiciary and the rule of law

Finally on 18th August 2008, before the commencement of impeachment proceedings against him, in a televised address Pervaiz Mushrarraf announced that he would resign and soon after went into exile

Unfortunately, he had already issued an NRO which granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, embezzlement and money laundering in October 2007

I believe the reason behind the huge success of this lawyers’ movement was the unity amongst the legal fraternity which prevailed from the smallest bar association to the Supreme Court Bar Association and even the Pakistan Bar Council

It was this unity that was subsequently targeted by political parties and agencies as they soon realised that as long as this fraternity stays divided, such effective stands would be impossible in the future and they will not be able to stand up against anyone

The same formula was also applied to the judiciary

The agencies and political parties have successfully infiltrated the ranks and divided them

Today the superior courts are not just divided on legal and political issues but also have personal issues to resolve

Once a judiciary, which was bi-partisan and above their own biases, is now enslaved thereunder

Somewhat similar judicial crisis occurred when Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was appointed as CJP in preference to three of his senior colleagues

Justice Sajjad had recommended five judges for elevation to the Supreme Court

There was strong resistance by the executive and in order to defeat the recommendations the government notified a reduction in the number of judges of the Supreme Court to twelve from seventeen

Justice Sajjad suspended the notification which was later withdrawn by the government

Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, subsequently ordered notification of appointment of these judges

Later the Fourteenth Amendment was suspended by the Chief Justice

A strong reaction by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif saw contempt proceedings initiated against him in Supreme Court

By November 1997 the confrontation had spread and the battle lines were drawn between the Executive and the Parliament on the one hand and the president and the CJP on the other

In this situation, a delegation of Bar representatives belonging to the PBC, SCBA Lahore HCBA and the Punjab BC went to Supreme Court to make a final effort to save the Court from complete dissipation and humiliation

They initially faced a lot of resistance but were eventually able to bring together all seventeen judges of the Supreme Court in the same room

The delegation requested all the judges to sort out their differences and save the image of the judiciary from being tarnished

Although the Bar might not have been successful in bringing both factions of judges together, they at least tried

Back then the bar was united and most importantly understood its role

It was imperative for them to save the image of the institution

Unfortunately today we are witnessing a fractured bar

Today the bar stands divided on political principles and affiliations

Rule of law and independence of the judiciary cease to be their priority

There were political affiliations before as well, but when it came to the independence of judiciary and the rule of law, all political alliances were kept aside

The lawyers stood up to be the bulwark of the judiciary

Fracturing the unity of the bar is a major achievement for the ruling establishment, political parties and intelligence agencies who had always dreamt of this ideal fracture

The great black coats of this country who once removed the strongest military dictator and forced him in self-exile today are unable to even fight and protect their own institutions

Bar rooms were once places from where political awareness spread to the masses

Today, with regret they have become a place for non-political events

We can only blame ourselves for this deterioration

We have spent too much time glorifying our past that we have forgotten to pave our future

The bars must unite now and not just fight to save its institutions but also save itself from further humiliation

This year the country will witness another general election and a new CJP

The bar must unite and fight for law reforms and stability in the courts

We must not forget that the dignity of the black coat is in unity and in its independence

Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2023

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Date:16-Apr-2023 Reference:View Original Link