Hundreds of lawyers on Monday ransacked the chamber of Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah during a protest against demolition of their illegal chambers at the Islamabad District Courts also known as the katcheri.
The Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) enforcement team and police on Sunday night demolished the illegal chambers and on Monday morning a group of rowdy lawyers entered the IHC premises, angrily chanting slogans against the judiciary and the CDA.
The mob later barged into the IHC chief justice’s chamber and started ransacking the office in which Justice Minallah was present. Groups of lawyers also forced other judges out of their courtrooms.
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The mob also restrained other lawyers and visitors from entering the IHC premises. Lawyers even misbehaved with the journalists who were trying to cover the incident.
On the occasion, IHC administrative judge Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani asked the lawyers to resolve the matter through dialogue. He even addressed the mob in the IHC premises.
Justice Kayani – who also served as a president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association in the past –told the lawyers it was regrettable that they attacked the IHC chief justice’s chamber despite the fact that he is head of the institution. IHC judge also asked the lawyers to give their demands in writing.
Representatives of lawyers, however, demanded that missing members of the bar should be recovered and all demolished chambers should be reconstructed. In the meanwhile, paramilitary Pakistan Rangers were called in to ensure safe exit of the IHC chief justice.
Later, the IHC as well as Islamabad District Courts were closed till further order. An FIR was also registered against the lawyers under several sections including the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
One representative of lawyers later claimed that Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed has called all relevant parties for a meeting. According to sources, IHC chief justice also met Justice Gulzar in the wake of the incident. However, there is no report about the outcome of his meeting with the CJ.
The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) – the apex regulatory body of lawyers – preferred to remain silent as no official statement was issued on lawyers’ misbehavior with the IHC judges.
However, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) issued a statement in favour of the lawyers. Instead of condemning the lawyers, the SCBA in its statement criticized the IHC chief justice.
Senior lawyers believe that the role of the Supreme Court will be significant in this matter. They said it is time for the top court to take stand with the IHC and take strict action against the lawyers who attacked the IHC.
In the past, the top court has stood with rowdy lawyers, whenever they have clashed with high court judges. Few years back, when lawyers went berserk in Multan, the then CJ Mian Saqib Nisar had not shown solidarity with then LHC chief justice Mansoor Ali Shah.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Additional Attorney General Tariq Mahmood Khokhar said storming of the IHC building by a mob is an attack on the judiciary. "It’s a new low for the lawyers. Not so long ago a hospital in Lahore was ransacked and its staff was beaten up. What’s next? The Supreme Court?"
He said: “Today, I am ashamed to be a member of the legal fraternity.”
"The tragedy is that there is a pattern [in the violence committed by lawyers] with impunity. However, far more is at stake than their imagined grievances. They do not see that their actions could be the catalyst/excuse for a national catastrophe," he said.
Umer Gilani advocate said the attack on the IHC judges and ransacking of the CJ's chamber is absolutely unacceptable. He urged the bar council to punish the culprits. "Whatever the causes, we will not condone ransacking of courts,” he added.
Advocate Raheel Kamran Sheikh had earlier written a letter to all bar council members to play an effective regulatory role in this regard.
“We are provoked, intimidated and mocked so we lose self-control and attack a cardiac hospital without realizing that even the most black-hearted enemies do not attack hospitals in times of war.
“Worst of all is that we shamelessly resort to a state of denial or justification for such an insane act of aggression, instead of condemning the same and apologizing to the nation. What a black day for us all,” he wrote.
The letter stated that a complete silence of the top PBC leadership shows their uncontrollable ambition for political power, which they prefer over morality.