An All Pakistan Lawyers Convention has resolved that the judiciary must rise and guard its independence by shunning external pressures, rationalise its suo motu powers without overlapping the functions of the executive and play a pro-active role in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the people, missing persons and the voices of dissent, in particular.
The convention, held under the auspices of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) in partnership with the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), AGHS and the South Asia Free Media Association, also resolved unanimously to resist attacks on the media and the judiciary by a “hybrid authoritarian regime”.
The resolution demanded that in view of a statement made by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui before the Supreme Court regarding the role of the chief of an intelligence agency, influencing him on judicial matters, a high-level independent commission be constituted to inquire into the matter.
The resolution stressed that the civil-military, the executive-judiciary and the media-military relations should be in accordance with the imperatives of the Constitution, and all interference by the military and its agencies in the civil affairs must come to an end.
It said that all institutions of the state must strictly adhere to their constitutional mandate and stop interfering into the affairs of other state institutions; and the armed forces must obey the elected government within the prescribed legal framework.
“Interference in judicial functions, manipulation of juridical processes, vilification of valiant judges by the government and the powers that be must be stopped forthwith and those involved in such detestable activities must be brought to book,” the resolution said.
“All visible and invisible interference by the government and security agencies in the free functioning of media must be stopped, freedom of expression and the right to know must be respected and strengthened, access to information and free flow of information must be guaranteed.”
The resolution called for bringing an end to reverse-application of hybrid warfare against the media and the civil society, dissenting and critical voices in particular; and withdrawal of all kinds of curbs on freedom of opinion and expression.
The resolution also called for an end to attempts to subjugate media industry; interference in editorial policy, talk shows and reporting; taking off air TV/radio broadcasts for not obeying “illegitimate directives”; and halting newspapers’ circulation.
The resolution demanded restoration of most distinguished journalists, sidelined under coercion; restoration of 8,000 retrenched media workers with full back benefits, payment of journalists’ salaries on time and clearance of their arrears.
The lawyers demanded withdrawal of “black media laws”, including the proposed Ordinance of Media Development Authority, Pemra, Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and the Citizens Protection (against Online Harm) Rules 2020 to suppress social media and online journalism.
The convention endorsed the PFUJ’s 18-point charter of demands. It called for immediate implementation of the Wage Board Award-2019, end to attempts to divide various stakeholders of the media and undermining collective bargaining rights of the media professionals.
The convention, through the unanimously approved resolution called for ensuring the prompt release of all missing persons and bringing them into the purview of law; payment of reparations to the aggrieved families and bringing the abductors to justice.
Over 500 leading lawyers, working journalists, civil society activists, human rights defenders and political representatives participated in the deliberations. The speakers, on the occasion, called for the constitution of a broader front in the face of assault on the judiciary and the media.
Those who addressed the convention included former SCBA president Qalbe Hassan, PFUJ Secretary General Nasir Zaidi, Senator Tahir Bizenjo from the National Party, HRCP Chairperson Hina Jilani, former PPP senator Farhatullah Babar, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman, fromer SCBA president Ahmed Ali Kurd,, PML-N MNA Marriyum Aurangzeb, Imtiaz Alam from the Safma, former HRCP chairperson Afrasiab Khattak, MNA from Waziristan Mohsin Dawar, former senate chairman Raza Rabbani, Istiqlal Party Chairman Syed Manoor Gillani, broadcast journalists Amber Shamsi, Talat Hussain, Munizae Jahangir and Hamid Mir, Saraiki National Party President Abdul Majeed Kanju, PML-N Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, former PBC vice chairperson Abid Saqi, PBC vice chairperson Khushdil Khan, president PFUJ Shahzada Zulfiqar, and President SCBAP Lateef Afridi.Grant-in-aidMeanwhile,
PBC Vice Chairman Khush Dil Khan has condemned the move to link the provision of grant-in-aid to the bar associations to the passing of the resolution against the judges of the Supreme Court, especially Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
Khan also expressed his serious concern on the role of Law Minister Farogh Naseem – the key person and in charge of the law ministry – in view of his move against the judges. Khan added that the federal and provincial governments were bound by law to provide grant-in-aid to the bars.
He said that lawyers of the country were united and no one could create divisions in the legal fraternity. “The lawyers will protect independent judges and will go to any extent for the independence of judiciary and rule of law,” Khan said in a press release issued here on Thursday.
He directed the provincial bar councils to initiate disciplinary proceedings against office-bearers of those bar associations who passed the resolution against the judges of the superior court on the desire of the law minister.
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