Saad Rasool |
This has been a harrowing week for the legal community, particularly in Punjab.
What started off, earlier in the month, as the latest episode (in a long and painful saga) of black coat barbarianism, reached a fever pitch with lawyers pelting stones at the Lahore High Court building.
Allah Ditta, who can do none of these things, will appear in court, be held in contempt, suffer the NAB, and be jailed for the oldest crime in human history: being weak as well as poor
Simultaneously, Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his family refused to appear before NAB authorities (pursuant to the honorable Court’s order) and, instead, chose to cash-in on the simmering Fisher between the bench and (a minority segment of) the bar, with the aim of eroding judicial authority.
The facts, in regards to the ugly episode that transpired between one Mr. Sher Zaman, President of Multan Bar Association and honorable Mr. Justice Qasim Khan, culminating in a contempt notice being issued against Mr. Sher Zaman, are well known.
In its aftermath, a full Bench of the Honourable Lahore High Court issued a show-cause (contempt) notice to Mr. Sher Zaman, vide order dated 26th July 2017, directing him to appear before the said Court on 31st July. The relevant provisions of law require that the alleged contemnor must appear ‘in person’ before the Court, in order to answer/respond to the show cause notice.
Let a new Constitution divide people into income slabs, and tranches of street powers – if you have ‘X’ amount of money, you need not suffer through an accountability process
Mr. Sher Zaman refused to accept the notice and did not tender appearance on the 31st of July. Nonetheless, the Honorable Court exercised restraint and did not proceed against him on the said date, based on assurances given by senior members of the bar that “they will ensure the presence of contemnor” on the next date of hearing.
The case was then heard on 2nd August when Mr. Sher Zaman again refused to appear before the honorable Court. The Court, once again, exercised restraint and did not issue non-bailable warrants of arrest, on the assurance of President and Vice-President of LHCBA, that Mr. Sher Zaman will appear on the next date of hearing.
On the 11th August, when the case was fixed for the hearing, Mr. Sher Zaman still did not appear before the honorable Court. Instead, senior members of Pakistan Bar Council and Punjab Bar Council (including Mr. Ahsan Bhoon, Ms. Asma Jehangir, Mr. Farhad Shah and Mr. Ghulam Sarwar Nihung) appeared before the honorable Court and “unanimously undertook that if they fail to produce the contemnor before the Court on the next date of hearing, they will disassociate themselves from the contemnors and would want the Court to proceed against the contemnors in accordance with law.” Based on this assurance, the Court once again exercised restraint and did not issue warrants of arrest against Mr.
There is no reason to bow before judicial verdicts. There is no reason to appear before the courts or investigative agencies. You may curse the judges, malign the courts, and denigrate institution
Finally, on 21st August, when the case was next heard, Mr. Sher Zaman once again failed to appear before the Court. Also, no one tendered appearance on behalf of Pakistan Bar Council, Punjab Bar Council, Lahore High Court Bar Association, and Multan High Court Bar Association.
Consequently, in light of Mr. Sher Zaman’s “consistent defiance” to appear before the Court, the Honorable Court was left with no option but to, inter alia, issue non-bailable warrants. Despite the honorable Court’s exemplary restraint in the instant case, and a blatant defiance of judicial orders by Mr. Sher Zaman, for some (absolutely ridiculous) reason, supporters of Mr. Sher Zaman decided to ransack the Lahore High Court building, break down its gates, and pelt stones at Court officials and law enforcement agency personnel.
In response, the police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd, further enraging the ‘lawyers’ who had attacked the honorable Court. Around the same time, in the face of a failing battle cry of ‘revolution’, the Sharif family decided to launch its own series of attacks against a judiciary that had disqualified Mr. Nawaz Sharif.
The honorable Court and “unanimously undertook that if they fail to produce the contemnor before the Court on the next date of hearing, they will disassociate themselves
In this regard, what started off as malevolent rhetoric against “five people”, refusal to accept the authority and summons of NAB, fueling of the Sher Zama saga, and the eventual declaration of war in a convention of disgruntled lawyers in Lahore.
These episodes and a gradual uptick in the anti-judiciary sentiment are not without design. Here is what the likes of Sher Zama and Mian Nawaz Sharif wish to teach the people: If you can exercise a certain amount of street influence in Pakistan, if you can gather a group of people (lawyers or political workers), if you can block a road and pelt stones at the cathedrals of justice, there is no reason to abide by the law.
There is no reason to bow before judicial verdicts. There is no reason to appear before the courts or investigative agencies. You may curse the judges, malign the courts, denigrate institutions, vilify the law, and disparage the Constitution… because you can! Because we live in a law of the jungle (read: the law of the mafia); where the powerful and the mighty have no rules.
Where the only real relationship between two entities is that of a prey and its predator.
So, let us settle this. If Mr. Nawaz Sharif is allowed to amend our social contract, and usher in the era of a new constitutional paradigm, let that paradigm state the truth for what it is: that each individual will be deemed as guilty as he is weak.
The relevant provisions of law require that the alleged contemnor must appear ‘in person’ before the Court, in order to answer/respond to the show cause notice
Let a new legal framework proclaim, once and for all, that political strength is an antidote to law. That we will only punish those who are too feeble to escape the grasp of our law enforcement agencies. And will make heroes out of those who can either buy the law or have the muscle to simply disregard it.
Let a new Constitution divide people into income slabs, and tranches of street powers – if you have ‘X’ amount of money, you need not suffer through an accountability process.
If you can gather a thousand people in the streets, you need not go to jail.
If you can convene a hundred black-coats, you will not be held in contempt.
If you can call a lawyer’s convention, you may scandalize and ridicule the bench.
If you can get (buy?) a certain number of votes, you may steal and still not be disqualified.
You may martyr people in the street (of Model Town), and will never be made to answer.
If you live in a large enough mansion, you need not justify its means. If you own properties and iqamas abroad, you may escape this country, unscathed.
And Allah Ditta, who can do none of these things, will appear in court, be held in contempt, suffer the NAB, and be jailed for the oldest crime in human history: being weak as well as poor.
Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. This piece was first published in The Nation. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.