The constant variables

What was there to celebrate? That once again might triumphed over what was right?

Aatekah Mir-khan October 19, 2010

The more things change, the more they remain the same. I never realised until Tuesday how depressing that can be. The District and Sessions Judge Zawar Ahmed Sheikh was sent on a 4-month leave, removing the biggest bone of contention between the bar and the bench. But it is still far from over.

The lawyers say that they want all their demands met, which includes that the Lahore High Court (LHC) chief justice accept the resignations of all the judges who resigned in protest and that the police officials who beat the lawyers up be suspended. It is unlikely, even if the lawyers continue to protest, that things will get as ugly over the rest of the lawyers’ demands now that Zawar Sheikh is out of the picture.

The 4-month leave is as good as a transfer. Another judge has been appointed in Mr Sheikh’s place. The lawyers seem to have prevailed. There was bhangra and there were hugs but it was all wrong.

What was there to celebrate? That once again might triumphed over what was right? That by sending Mr Sheikh on a leave, the wrong decision was made because instead of pacifying the lawyers and ending a saga that started rearing its head about three months ago, it would just add to the already swollen ego of the lawyers? That now they will think that they can do anything and get their demands met by following the same plan of action that they did in this case?

It seems to be an open secret that the lawyers, at least those of the lower courts, are ghundas in their own way. The way that they talk to the judges and their manhandling of judges has made it to the media a few times. Lower courts’ judges are afraid of the lawyers, most of them any way. And the one judge who refused to do what they asked was the one who became the villain in the story.

All this started, according to some accounts, when Mr Sheikh refused to induct people from whom lawyers of the Lahore Bar Association had allegedly taken money after promising them jobs. The lawyers were outraged and wanted him to be transferred. The LHC CJ thought the dust would settle if Mr Sheikh went on leave for a few weeks. But he was wrong. As soon as Mr Shiekh returned, the lawyers were up again, prompting the CJ to tell Mr Sheikh to discharge his duties while sitting at the LHC instead of the DS&J court. That was not enough for the lawyers. They wanted what they wanted and so they attacked the CJ’s court and vandalised it. The rest we all know.

What I don’t understand is that for the lawyers Iftikhar Chaudhary was a hero when he ‘stood up’ to Musharraf. Mr Chaudhary’s past was controversial to say the least but the lawyers decided to overlook all that and stuck by him. And though Mr Sheikh has not been accused of ever misusing his authority, the lawyers were against him because he ‘dared’ to challenge them? Mr Kurd, a famous firebrand of the lawyers’ movement said during his speech that the lawyers were being told that Mr Sheikh was an honest judge. “We never thought there was a need for such testimonies certifying a judge’s honesty”. What about all the testimonies that you and hundreds of other lawyers gave about the CJP Mr Kurd?

The disillusionment is growing. How many times do you say that an injustice has occurred? How many times do you tolerate wrong decisions that are being made to take the easy way out? All the people deciding such things forget that the reverberations will last for years to come.

One of our weaknesses as a people is that once someone is our hero, we become so starry-eyed that we insist that they can do no wrong.

It would have been better had the LHC CJ not accepted the lawyers’ dictation about Mr Sheikh. Now they are demanding that the IGP be transferred and Justice Sharif resign. Will the CJ do just that to appease them? Had the judges backed Mr Sheikh and the media informed the people that the lawyers were in the wrong this time; the lawyers’ gloating over their invincibility could have been avoided.

Yes, the faces may change from time to time, but nothing really changes. And that is heart breaking.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2010.

Aatekah Mir Khan A graduate of the London School of Economics and a Daniel Pearl fellow, the writer is a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune in Lahore.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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