PBC politics: Tensions run high in wake of IHC restraining order

Allows the Hamid Khan group to continue working till further notice

Hasnaat Malik September 11, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Tensions have escalated between lawyers’ groups led by Asma Jahangir and Hamid Khan after Islamabad High Court issued a restraining order over the dissolution of Pakistan Bar Council’s 21 committees. The order has also allowed the Hamid Khan group to continue working till further notice.

After the IHC’s order, both groups have started hurling allegations against the government and the judiciary regarding their alleged intervention in bar politics. It is feared that this could severely affect the dispensation of justice.

In view of the decision, senior lawyers have been urging the judiciary to stay away from bar politics. They have also advised that the two groups should resolve their issues amicably.

Hamid Khan group, which is known as the Professional group, led the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of judges. During the time of movement, judicial interference was increased in bar politics.

After the reinstatement of judges former CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, leaders of Professional group came close to the judiciary. During this time most of the lawyers of the Professional group were also appointed as judges of the superior courts.

However, the top court led by Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took up Sindh High Court’s petition and on July 31, 2009 gave a landmark judgment. The judgment led to the ousting of more than 100 judges. They had been ousted because they were appointed on the recommendation of the de facto chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar during Musharraf’s rule.

Few ousted judges like Ahsan Bhoon, Qulb-i- Hassan, Ramzan Chaudhry, Sardar Muhammad Aslam and other joined bar politics after their removal. In 2010, all these judges were united under the leadership of the Human rights crusader Asma Jahangir. The group then became the ‘Democratic Group’. Later, with the support of anti-Iftikhar lawyers, Asma became the first female president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).

Under Asma Jahangir’s leadership a number of projects were introduced for the welfare of the lawyers.

However, Hamid Khan’s group attained majority with one member in the PBC in this year  elections. This allowed them to attain majority in all committees of the country’s top body for lawyers.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, head of the PBC executive committee Abdul Fayaz, who was associated with Hamid Khan’s group, on September 3 switched loyalties. Fayaz came out in support of Asma Jahangir’s group.

The change of loyalty enabled Asma’s group to gain majority in the body and led them to capture the chairmanship of 21 PBC standing committees.

In view of this, Hamid Khan group on Friday approached IHC against the reconstitution of PBC standing committees. The two judge bench, comprising by Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui took up the case for hearing the same day it was filed.

Upon issuing a stay order against the dissolving of the committees, the high court allowed the Professional group to continue overlooking PBC’s affairs till September 19.

However, Asma’s group has taken strongly criticised the high court’s decision and questioned that how the minority group can rule in PBC. It is expected that five previous and the incumbent president of SCBA will hold a press conference on this issue after Eid.

Ahsen Bhoon, a key member of Democratic group while talking to The Express Tribune strongly criticised the judicial interference in bar politics by the IHC.

Meanwhile, Kamran Murtaza and Azam Tarar, members of Asma group, have requested the chief justice to take suo motu notice and set aside order.

On the other hand, Shoaib Shaheen an active member of the Hamid Khan group contends that the law states that the tenure of the standing committees is five years and this cannot be reconstituted. “We hope that the Supreme Court will settle this legal issue once for all in this case” said Shaeen.

He also claimed that the government is backing Asma’s group and interfering in the affairs of PBC. He alleges that this intervention is due to the tough time being given to the government on Panama papers. “We have serious reservations over the role of Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali in bar affairs”, he stated.

Shaheen claims that they have enrolled hundreds of new lawyers as advocates of the apex court and took action against mushroom growth of law colleges in the country. He also urged the government to amend laws which would block the trend of horse trading in bar politics.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2016.


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