Grief, anger and resentment marked the general body meetings held by bar associations across the country on Thursday, to protest targeted killing of three Shia lawyers in Karachi a day earlier.
Lawyers gathered at Karachi Bar Association (KBA) premises and marched up to MA Jinnah road, chanting slogans against unabated violence. The KBA lawyers were joined by members of the Sindh Bar Council.
The lawyers staged a sit in, suspending traffic on the road for over 90 minutes.
Twenty-four lawyers have been killed in 2011, and the first month of 2012, but not a single killer has been arrested, said Honorary Secretary KBA Khalid Mumtaz while addressing the lawyers.
The government is indifferent to the lawyers’ ordeal and no one has contacted the KBA yet, he said.
Mumtaz announced a three-day strike until Saturday, and added that it would be extended indefinitely unless the killers are arrested.
He was seconded by president KBA, Mehmoodul Hasan, who said the bar would resort to strong protest if resulted-oriented investigations are not conducted and culprits are not brought to book.
In a show of solidarity, Iftikhar Javed Qazi, vice chairman SBC announced extending the three-day strike to bar associations across Sindh.
Judges, lawyers not safe
The atmosphere was more charged, however, at the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) where judges of the provincial High Court were also in attendance.
The judiciary cannot order deployment of guards at residences of every citizen but can order authorities concerned to fulfill their duties towards securing lives and property of citizens, said Chief Justice Sindh High Court Musheer Alam. Referring to the abduction of his nephew, who was recovered months later after paying a ransom, Justice Alam said that if judges and lawyers are not safe, how could an ordinary citizen trust the government’s security arrangements.
“The judiciary is against all forms of lawlessness and it is the prime responsibility of government to provide security to all citizens of the state,” he added.
‘Quit if you can’t protect’
President Supreme Court Bar Association Yasin Azad also lashed out at the government for being “a silent spectator to brutal killings.”
“If law-enforcement agencies are unable to protect citizens, they must quit,” Azad said.
There appears to be no other course but to resort to street power for making the administration realize its primary responsibilities, Azad said.
He gave the government three days to arrest the target killers, failing which, he said, lawyers from across Pakistan would be summoned to decide the future course of action.
Enraged black-coats held protests across the country. The legal fraternity in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Hyderabad and Sukkur observed a strike and boycotted court proceedings.
A condolence reference was held in Islamabad High Court and prayers were offered for the slain lawyers. Meanwhile, president Lahore Bar Association demanded the government pay Rs2.5 million each to the family of deceased lawyers.
A strike was also observed in Mirpurkhas, Thatta, Sanghar, Badin, Tharparker, Dadu, Jamshoro and other districts of Sindh.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2012.