Following the Panama verdict, the lawyer community is attempting to launch a campaign to protest for the Prime Minister’s resignation, however, divisions are starting to appear in the community as different regulatory bodies are disagreeing over the path the community will take to organize the movement.
So far two prominent camps are in disagreement. Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) and Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on one side and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on the other.
The disagreement stems from the issue of the convention that has been announced to take place on May 5th by the PBC, supervisory body of lawyers. The convention aimed to organize the community for launching countrywide strikes to put pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign.
“We will request the PBC as well as the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) to consider postponing their conventions of May 5 and 13, respectively, instead both like others should attend SCBA’s meeting of May 20,”
But SCBA president Rasheed A. Razvi has expressed his concerns that the convention is being held in haste and without taking all of the bar associations into confidence.
Talking to reporters after a meeting between SCBA members, he said “We will request the PBC as well as the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) to consider postponing their conventions of May 5 and 13, respectively, instead both like others should attend SCBA’s meeting of May 20,” SCBA president Razvi said, also emphasizing that this would help in bringing about unanimity in the community and will result in a common resolution.
He stressed that bar councils need time to form common opinions so that when they attend the convention they would come with a concrete stance which would assist in reaching a swift resolution.
“The SCBA will not become a tool of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf”
He stated that as the mother body of all bar associations, it was the responsibility of the PBC to take everyone’s opinion into account.
Vice President of SCBA from Sindh, Shabeer Shar has taken up a contrasting stance to the President. He has stated that the SCBA will not become a tool of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, alluding to the SCBA president’s links to Hamid Khan, senior lawyer and vice president of PTI.
Shabeer Shar, who belongs to the Pakistan People’s Party, said that a majority of the SCBA had rejected the demand asking the prime minister to resign till the time six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is formed. He also stated that 15 of the 22 members of the SCBA will be attending the May 5th convention.
“SCBA has a fresh mandate of lawyers since it had been elected in 2016 whereas the PBC was elected in 2014.”
The divisions in the SCBA are superimposed on party affiliations. The current president belongs to the Hamid Khan group while the majority of the members are affiliated with the Asma Jahangir group which represents the PPP.
SCBA Secretary Aftab Bajwa has stated that the reason why the SCBA will not attend the PBC and LHCBA conventions is that both of the decisions were not made during full house meetings.
Mr. Bajwa ironically stated that the reason for the May 20th meeting was to prevent any show of division in the lawyer community.
In the past lawyers have played an integral role in protests in support for the rule of law by employing their time-tested tactics of launching strikes
Mr. Razvi stated the plan of the SCBA was to commence a contact campaign in which it would approach different bar councils and associations to convince them to attend the association’s May 20 convention.
When Mr. Razvi was reminded by reporters that the PBC was the regulatory body of lawyers his defense was that the SCBA had a fresh mandate of lawyers since it had been elected in 2016 whereas the PBC was elected in 2014.
It remains to be seen if the lawyers will reach a consensus on how to proceed with their plan to protest for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In the past lawyers have played an integral role in protests in support for the rule of law by employing their time-tested tactics of launching strikes.