Pakistan’s Lawyers: Unaccountable Lawless Brigade?

Legal experts Raja Amir Abbas, Dr. Farooq Bajwa, Hassan Aslam Shad, Barrister Faisal Khan Toru, give their views on Pakistan's black coats aggressive behavior against other state institutions; Why have Pakistan's Lawyers become an unaccountable Lawless Brigade, what is behind it, and where is it headed.

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We bore witness to a Pakistani supermodel apprehended red-handed for heavy money laundering by the law enforcement agencies – who instead of facing a criminal trial, was recently found tweeting about purchasing her dream car, a Rolls Royce; a convicted former prime minister, instead of serving his ten years of rigorous imprisonment behind the bars enjoying a luxurious life in the extravagant London apartments obtained through looting and plundering the nation.

A major political party head and former president is internationally known for his corruption, facing serious cases of money laundering and kickbacks being acknowledged as a super kingmaker; and uniform personnel working in the line of duty, instead of collecting Gallantry Medals amassing and accumulating billions.

Also, how can we overlook instances where a judge instead of fearing God acts like one (Firaun) himself; a civil servant instead of serving the people becomes a personal service provider of his masters, and a religious leader instead of preaching the commandments of God indulges in acts strictly prohibited by the religion?

Read More: Jinnah, the role model for young lawyers 

In such a gloomy, rotten, and deplorable state of affairs, hooliganism on the part of lawyers is just another shade of curse and menace, which is being injected and promoted in our society and political system as a planned and well-thought-out part of Fifth Generation Warfare by our enemies.

After examining the evils and problems of our legal system, it can be safely said that it started with the introduction of the “Rule of Necessity” by our apex judiciary. This compromising attitude started the downfall and deterioration of the entire legal system. Thereafter, the criteria for induction in the upper judiciary changed; instead of integrity and competence, induction was made on personal likes, submissiveness, chamber inductions and nominees of bar associations, etc.

This resulted in the formation of two sets of lawyers, the good lawyers, and the successful lawyers. The good lawyers knew the law, whereas the successful lawyers knew the judges. This noble profession was further exploited when different bar associations and bodies headed by mafias started blackmailing the Bench by showing force and exerting pressure on the weak judges.

Read More: How rogue lawyers are destroying courts?

Hence, the practice of giving extraordinary relief to such groups commenced. Young lawyers entering the already saturated profession became the ideal victims, instead of guiding them to become professional lawyers, the bar leadership encouraged and molded them to become involved in bar politics in order to achieve their nefarious goals.

Judges succumbed to their pressures, and it was revealed that some chambers, groups, and bodies were given undue relief because of their incompetence, weak characters, and to some extent corruption. Bar and Bench, hands in glove, started indulging in purely political and executive matters and decisions that were never within the ambit of their constitutional jurisdiction and scope.

In return, a token of these lawyers was obliged with heavy amounts in the shape of legal fees, and judges were obliged by obtaining lucrative posts after retirement. In such a deplorable and worrisome state of affairs – of all the institutions of our country – the sanctity of Black Coat cannot be questioned and blamed in isolation, rather it’s high time to revamp and figure out why the entire system is not delivering.

Read More: Time to teach Law to Lawyers

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Just as one thinks that the black-suited lawyers cannot shock you any longer after the December 2019 attack on a Lahore hospital, they manage to do so again. The attack on the judges, government property, and public opinion following the recovery of CDA land two days ago does nothing to raise the prestige of the profession or the morale of those less violently minded.

How a body of men (and it is pretty much exclusively men) after years of legal study and in some cases, legal work turn into a large violent mob (when did doctors or teachers engage in similar behavior?). The answer is not simple or obvious but being a member of the Lahore High Court Bar I can attest to the feeling that you belong to a tightly knit group who will look out for each other.

Read More: Lawyer’s Movement: How it transformed Pakistani politics and society

With the possible exception to the Supreme Court, judges are now intimidated by those who come to plead in their courts. Junior judges are openly threatened and bullied. This feeling of invulnerability for lawyers coupled with a history of facing no consequences for their actions is only encouraging the next incident. What, you have to wonder, is too far to shock the next time?

Pakistan's Lawyers

Lawyers, as the guardians of Pakistan’s legal system, are supposed to be setting an example for others. The lawyers’ vandalism of the Islamabad High Court on February 8 shows a mafia having emerged in their ranks.

This mafia, which comprises a small section of the lawyers has, however, led to the unfortunate label of ‘goons’ being affixed on all lawyers (a majority of whom are otherwise hardworking and wish the better for their country).

Read More: Why Bar Associations need to be reformed?

This has also cast a pall on Pakistan’s image before the world. Several reasons can be attributed to this unfortunate chain of events. First, there is a genuine lack of interest by the state in enhancing the quality of legal education.

Those who end up being lawyers is largely because of the distilling down factor when unemployable from other segments of society end up being lawyers by ‘accident’. Law isn’t made to appear as a ‘sexy’ profession (this is unlike the developed world where ‘law’ is seen as a prestige symbol and lawyers as the harbingers of positive change).

Those who make it to the ranks thus follow the rote learning model to get a degree and become employable. Slavish adherence to the ‘rule’ and no critical thinking has made legal minds (across the board) rigid and fixated.

Read More: Learning rule of law from the jungle

The state needs to rethink the importance of legal education in its overall hierarchy of responsibilities. Lawyers are not just advocates; they are negotiators, planners, enablers with an impact (good or bad) on the entire national ecosystem. Unless they are carefully chosen, given the right set of tools, made to use those tools constructively, the rot that we see setting in will ultimately permeate down even further.

Second, the state should re-think the role of national, local, and regional bar councils. In other words, it is time to ‘rethink’ the relationship between the bar and the courts and society as a whole.

Read More: Lawyer Movement: What it was, what it wasn’t? Reflections twelve years on

This should not be a ‘knee-jerk reaction but a concerted and well-thought-through effort and one in which proposals for reform are invited from the entire legal fraternity. Only a holistic approach towards reform can have any hope of ending this malaise. Third, together with, but not independent of, the above two, the state must flex its muscles and stop getting bullied by a few who are taking it for a ride.

Laws that are not backed by sanctions end up getting ridiculed, which is pretty much the case with ‘selective accountability’ in Pakistan. Through a thorough investigation and prosecution, those responsible for these acts must face the consequences.

Pakistan's Lawyers

Hooliganism and violence of lawyers is going unpunished primarily due to a lack of accountability by the regulators of the legal profession (I.e. the concerned bar councils) who, being elected representatives, mostly adopt a policy of voter appeasement, rather than choosing to exercise the disciplinary powers vested in them by law.

The criminal justice system is also ineffective in criminal complaints involving lawyers, as judges are pressurized by bar groups and threatened of dire consequences in the event adverse orders are made against them.

Read More: Op-ed: Analysing Pakistan’s criminal justice system

I feel that the laws governing bar councils need amendment, to introduce, amongst others, reforms relating to the appointment of the members of the bar councils, introducing greater check and balance on the governing body themselves, providing more effective legal remedies against decisions of bar councils.

Secondly, lawyers must not be given preferential status when pursuing or defending cases in which they are parties themselves. Unless the law of the land is enforced against all and sundry alike, one cannot have an egalitarian society, and justice will only be the privilege of a few.

Read More: A look into Pakistan’s justice system

There is, however, an increasingly large segment of lawyers who believe in upholding the rule of law and have expressed their concerns over the fast losing credibility of this noble profession, due to the illegal actions of a few. Dissent within the ranks is the first step towards accountability.

Finally, all other segments of society also have to play their part and raise their voices against illegal actions, whether it affects them or not. In the words of Benjamin Franklin:  “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”.

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