Where are they, now?

Published: October 15, 2011
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore [email protected]

The former Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, has volunteered to represent Mumtaz Qadri. Ordinarily, a lawyer representing a client is an unremarkable phenomenon, even those accused of heinous crimes. The lowest of low amongst the criminals deserves a fair trial and adequate legal representation. The views and motivations of the client cannot and should not be attributed to that of the attorney. After all, a lawyer is just making a living. This is true ordinarily, but this particular case is anything but ordinary.

The former Chief Justice is not merely making a living by offering to spearhead Mumtaz Qadri’s defence, and if I were to speculate he is probably doing it pro bono. Justice (r) Sharif has decided to pander to his perceived constituency, i.e. the radical, reactionary religious right. At a feebly more principled level, he might even have delusions of grandeur and perceive himself as following in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who decided to represent “Ghazi Illam Din” in an appellate court. I am sure Mr Jinnah would have had better days in court than this singular example. In any event, the argument for the permissibility of Justice (r) Sharif representing Mumtaz Qadri is rather simple; as long as there is no conflict of interest (or any other relevant prohibition in the Bar Council Rules) an attorney can choose to represent anyone who he wishes to. So Justice (r) Sharif had the right to defend anyone he wants to, the question now remains, should he have chosen to defend this particular client? The answer to this question can only be given by the former Chief Justice. My prerogative is that I now think less of Justice (r) Sharif than what I already did (mind you there was very little room). Yet, the symbolism in throwing the weight of a former Chief Justice and according to some of the lawyers’ movement behind Mumtaz Qadri leads to the logical question of where did the lawyers’ movement go wrong?

The lawyers’ movement in 2007 started as one of the most principled revolutionary movements that this country has ever witnessed. The primary reason for its initial success was the organisational structure of the district Bar associations. Hence it was possible to mobilise the lawyers in most cities in the country, almost simultaneously. The realisation that a movement restricted to lawyers is unlikely to culminate into a movement of the masses in the true sense resulted in accepting assistance from anyone who was willing to offer it. The religious right was the first to see an opening and seize the opportunity. Initially, it was the religious political parties like the Jamaat-i-Islami but this degenerated into the appearance of members of the Sipah-i-Sahaba and other banned outfits at protests. It was an unhappy mix to see lawyers, who bragged about their ‘leftist Marxist’ credentials in private, sharing the stage, and at times the rhetoric, with theocratic fascists. The not-so-subtle irony here was that groups that did not believe a constitutional form of government to be permissible and longed for “Sharia” rule were cheering on for the restoration of the Chief Justice. It was the classic example of not being ‘Hub-e-Ali’ (‘love for Ali’) but ‘Bugz-e-Muawiya’ (‘opposition to Muawiya’) and the enemy of the enemy being a friend etc.

The protests presented a comical situation in a dark, sardonic way. The Amir of the Jamaat-i-Islami addressing congregations of lawyers about how western imperial forces were conspiring to spread ‘kufr’ in Pakistan through Pervez Musharraf and how the sacking of the superior judiciary was a step in that direction. This would be followed by recitation of poems by leftist lawyers, mentioning Che Guevara. I am certain that the leadership of the lawyers’ movement smugly believed that the rational utilitarian choice at that moment was to garner support from whatever quarter it emanates to pursue the immediate objective of the restoration of the judiciary and of kicking out Musharraf. While both these aims were not only honourable but desirable, nevertheless there was definitely myopia displayed by the leadership of the lawyers’ movement. Faustian bargains once made cannot be undone. General Charles de Gaulle was once asked about his reluctance to recognise Communist rule in Eastern Europe as permanent and he glibly quoted Althusser and said, “Parce-que l’avenir dure longtemps” (‘The future lasts for a long time’). The top echelon of the lawyers’ movement failed to recognise that in certain battles the fight is more important than the outcome.

Whereas the religious rightist component of the lawyers’ movement is almost obscenely visible, there has been a curious reluctance by the liberal, elite leadership to comment on the murder of Salmaan Taseer. A phrase that I have used in the past to describe the reaction of our champions of liberalism and restrain myself from overusing is Habib Jalib’s: “Jinn ko tha zabaan pay naaz, chup hain who zabaan daraaz” (‘Those who took pride in their voice, today they stand silent’). It is only appropriate that one of the top guns now stands up to the occasion and publicly volunteers to represent the complainant and assist the prosecution. This should have no effect on the conviction, which I dearly hope remains clear in view of the confession, nonetheless it would send a very strong and much-needed message to the nation that not all lawyers are a group of Mumtaz Qadri fan club or sympathisers. Having said that, it is highly unlikely that someone will, since most of them are extremely busy these days attempting to recover financially (and presumably doing it quite well) for the time lost in the lawyers’ movement.

As far as the innate desire of the lawyers now to protest, well there is a lot going on to feed them. Exhibit ‘A’ is the news that ten Ahmadi students and an Ahmadi teacher were expelled from a school in Hafizabad for the unpardonable offence of being Ahmadis. I never expected Justice (r) Sharif to volunteer legal representation in this case but I still have a very faint hope that a liberal leader of the lawyers’ movement will step forward, and fainter still of a suo motu.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (35)

  • Oct 15, 2011 - 11:18PM

    Unfortunately, everything in Pakistan is based on the premise that the “ends justify the means”. How unbelievably shortsighted, yet over and over again the same cycle continues, and those that can shout the largest, make the most noise, damage the most public property, give the bigger threats, always come out ahead.


  • John B
    Oct 15, 2011 - 11:34PM

    And no one stepped forward for Aasia Bibi now or for the Ahmadis in the past when second amendment to the constitution was enacted either.

    I am reminded of the following passage in the writings of a philosopher from India.

    Liberty of thought and action is the only condition of life, of growth and well-being. Where it does not exist, the man, the race, the nation must go.” -Vivekananda

    Wake up PAK. Building a nation takes two generations.


  • Oct 15, 2011 - 11:41PM

    A living example of hypocrisy, timidness and of double standards Khwaja Sharif has shown to the world. Talibans would spare your life dude, whatever you do to keep them happy..!!!


  • MA
    Oct 15, 2011 - 11:50PM

    Very well said. I still can’t digest that a former Chief Justice is now appearing for Mumtaz Qadri. Using my prerogative as well, I now think of J. (R) Sharif in the same terms as you do.


  • Parvez
    Oct 15, 2011 - 11:52PM

    Agree with you all the way. Extremely depressing to read but then someone has to call it like it is.


  • Arim
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:27AM

    Personally I don’t support Mumta’z action, but it doesn’t mean that I have right to malign those who want to support it.

    If people want to have a free society, they need to respect what others say and believe. “Liberal brigade” is as dangerous to society as is “Mullah brigade”.


  • Sadia Mahmood
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:33AM

    Looking at where the majority of lawyers come from and where they are educated in Pakistan, it is absurd to set high expectations from them. Their role in the lawyers movement was only to get the CJ freed and restored. There is no doubt that many lawyers participated without understanding the spirit of the movement hence all the credit goes to the leaders who organized such a large scale protest. But yes, I agree with John B’s post and add that lawyers who think that murdering ST was a crime and that Asia bb is unjustly held, they should also come out to prove their point. I do not mean that they take to roads but I mean that it is about time that a fruitful , logical legal battle be fought against an issue which has long haunted Pakistani society!


  • Raza
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:38AM

    Brilliant article.


  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:40AM

    Every person can act as an attorney for any person he wants to defend. Its his choice, and he should be free to do so. Why didnt the writer criticize the lawyer who defended the actions of Raymond Davis in court!?

    The second Amendment was correct, both on political and religious grounds. Let that remain a closed chapter. And the blasphemy law has been validated both by Parliament and Supreme Court. The death sentence should remain, but the implementation of the law should be improved, and no one, even the Jamaat-e-Islami, disagreed with it.

    As far as taseer is concerned, his stance was itself flawed. His fiery remarks about the ulema, as well as his pugnacious demeanour and “muscular liberalism” was incorrect. Likewise, he should have NOT tried to bypass the courts in order to have a presidential pardon for that woman.


  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:41AM

    I correct myself, its a “lawyer” not every person, who can be an attorney for his client.


  • Arim
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:43AM

    Though Mumtaz Qadri is not my hero, yet I feel that this article is biased.

    If one want free society, he has to respect what others say and believe. One is free to act but re-action is “out of reach”.

    Give respect, have respect. “liberal brigade” is as condemnable as “Mullah brigade”.

    We are still in need of “sensible” people.


  • syed
    Oct 16, 2011 - 1:18AM


    Unfortunately, Punjab is infested with terrorist sympathizers. We need to ‘drone out’ our mess.


  • Oct 16, 2011 - 1:29AM

    Once again an extremely well written article. The hijacking of the lawyers’ movement by the far-right and the myopic vision of its leaders has been brought out brilliantly. It is indeed a shame that J.(r) Sharif has agreed to take the case. The only plausible explanation is the imagined grandeur that you have very rightly mentioned.
    I still wonder how is it possible for a former chief justice to appear before the court he once headed. My understanding is that he can not. Or has the ethical bar too been lowered?


  • Javed
    Oct 16, 2011 - 2:02AM

    I agree with your article except one thing. You have asked where the lawyer’s movement went wrong. I believe that it was always the same. It’s just that people refused to see it as the prime aim was getting rid of Musharaf not the independence of judiciary. We were creating another monster and succeeded brilliantly. The results are there for all to see.


  • Amjad Cheema
    Oct 16, 2011 - 2:52AM

    very true Saroop!


  • TightChuddi
    Oct 16, 2011 - 6:59AM

    Wow seems like a lot of ET readers are Qadri supporters and justify murder of a governor. Not much hope in Pakistan now.


  • muhammad asif
    Oct 16, 2011 - 9:12AM

    it’s a real shame that these islamic fanatics have support at the highest levels of our judiciary.this bodes ill for pakistan’s future.by seeing such a high ranking official come out in support of qadri sends the wrong signal to other fanatics who are emboldened now and their belief that they are right is further reinforced by his taking up qadri’s case.


  • Mir
    Oct 16, 2011 - 9:12AM

    the point missed out here is what it will signal, the emotions overcome rationality, and sadly justice sharif is sending this message strongly to society where only 50% people are literate(if it is true), maintaining civic sense and law abiding in every person is signaled by literate and responsible citizens, if they will openly accept the murderer as hero, then a common man will accept that as truth and will sometime commit any crime and will be perceived as hero, see whats happening people are legitimizing punishing dacoits on spots in faisalabad and multan and consider this act as their right. This thinking will cause lawlessness in society and justice sharif is sending this message strong. Rationality must prevail in any case.


  • Liberal Fascist
    Oct 16, 2011 - 10:27AM

    V good article. And for the ppl commenting above please let us know the last time that the liberal brigade killed someone.


  • Rafi
    Oct 16, 2011 - 11:35AM

    Your well written analysis and commentary makes one believe that as long as something can be explained, it can be tolerated because it may be able to be “fixed” at some later point.
    We live in hope that some sort of sanity will prevail.


  • zaka
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:00PM

    Sincere people already knew about fate of lawer movement. Time has proved that the movement was to remove Musharraf, not for the rule of law. Musharraf’s was honest and sincere to the country, which to the looters could not be acceptable.


  • RealityCheck
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:17PM

    I was part of the lawyers movement and unfortunately I witnessed the movement split into two camps after the judiciary’s restoration. Group 1: were the ‘liberal’ lawyers and the civil society NGO’s that were the face of the movement, who after replacing Musharraf threw their weight behind another new corrupt government under the facade of civilian democracy. Not only did I find the group extremely arrogant, and out of touch with the common man’s reality, they were also extremely hypocritical. They refused to question their own types, pay heed to the rampant corruption and nepotism among their ranks and promoted questionable prophets. And the best example of this is Salman Taseer who imposed Governor rule in Punjab inorder to stifle Lawyers movement and counter the protests, yet the likes of the author and others celebrate him without questioning Taseer’s hypocrisy and shady past. Group 2 is similar to the one the author mentions, the Non-Elite lawyer’s group, that instead of being honest to their cause, became politicized and joined camps whether the PML-N or the PPP camp, and the purpose of the law instead of upholding rights was used to manipulate the system to one’s advantage. I have frequented associated with lawyers of both groups, and its a sad situation, the status quo in courts and politics has gone back to what it was before the movement. However there are some new upcoming good lawyers and that gives me hope.


  • Naveed
    Oct 16, 2011 - 12:49PM

    Well,you’re a lawyer and a liberal to boot.So go ahead and represent the Ahmadis in court!


  • observer
    Oct 16, 2011 - 3:28PM

    @Naushad Shafkat

    I still wonder how is it possible for a former chief justice to appear before the court he once headed. My understanding is that he can not. Or has the ethical bar too been lowered?

    Completely agree with you. In fact in India, article 220 of the constitution lays down that a justice of a high court can not practice in the same court.
    But then why do any thing that the Indians do?


  • Javed
    Oct 16, 2011 - 6:44PM

    You have mentioned the Liberal lawyers and the lawyers who joined PML-N & PPP. You are silent about the THIRD kind who have been thrashing people on the streets and throwing out Judges who gave rulings that went against their wishes (Lahore High Court), and finally those who have been garlanding Qadri. You have failed to find any arrogance or hypocrisy in them. The reason is that you are one of them.


  • Deb
    Oct 17, 2011 - 1:38AM

    @ All the anti liberals, anti secularists

    Liberal facist is an oxymoron.Find a better word if you must.


  • csmann
    Oct 17, 2011 - 5:02AM

    i am surprised at some of the reasons given to justify taseer’s murder;that he did this and did that in the past;but what is the justification of killing him in cold-blood,in most cowardly way.(shooting an opponent while his back is towards you).

    what does this cheap justice want to bring in as an argument;if it was a case where it was felt that an injustice was being done,it would have been laudable,perhaps.But this is a clear-cut case of a confessed cold-blooded killing of a govenment official.It sure does send a wrong signal to a society which is already very violent.


  • Oct 17, 2011 - 6:56AM

    Pakistan is heading towards its own destruction, need urgent remedy of separating state and religion. Violence against ahmadiya muslim will bring more wrath of AllahRecommend

  • Peter
    Oct 17, 2011 - 8:17AM

    Did Jinnah not represent Ilm Din in the appeal process, why no voices were raised against him then and even now? Jinnah was not hurting for money and perhaps never charged any money to Ilm Din for representing him. A lawyer is a lawyer and Qadri, no matter how heinous a crime he has committed is entitled to be represented by an attorney. That attorney could be a supreme court judge in his professional career at some point of time, is moot.


  • Oct 17, 2011 - 9:27AM


    What an argument. We are free to kill people on the basis of religion and beleives and yet we have right to be defended by the lawyers. This is your free society. It is realy chiotic.Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 17, 2011 - 1:14PM

    The liberal brigade doesn’t kill people.


  • Raziya
    Oct 17, 2011 - 3:03PM

    Assalamu alaikum! I believe in this freedom, too, though in the case of Pakistan and it’s Mullahs and even including it’s government, it is very one sided, don’t you think?

    Why is it that Ahmadis, especially, are not included in this so-called ‘freedom loving society’? And like NB says above, these Mullahs and their fanatics are ‘free’ to kill and maim innocents like the Ahmadis who have not raised a hand or weapon to defend themselves. The only thing they do in their defense, is pray to Allah. Why does this irk them, so? Does this ‘freedom’ have a conscience? Or a brain to think with? Or a sense of justice which applies to ALL not just to themselves?

    Do these Mullahs realize that they are exporting their hate campaign all over the world? I suppose they take great pleasure about the extent of their ‘power’. These so-called ‘ulemas’!


  • realkid
    Oct 17, 2011 - 8:25PM

    Point of information, Althusser was fond of quoting De Gaulle, not the other way around.


  • GUY
    Oct 25, 2011 - 3:57AM

    It is a tragedy Pakistan is in a real sorry state. This country was created for the Muslims to practice their Faith = Islam and worship without hindrance. Now no one enjoys this freedom for which the Qaid I Azam returned from England, where he was in Self-exile to secure for the then Muslims of India. Christians are given the worst treatment in this so called Islamic Republic. Ahmadi Muslims are peace loving people who inhabit majority of the countries of the world. This is a fact which the Mullahs of Pakistan are unaware of. They have caused Ahmadi Muslims to migrate en masse to many countries of all of the continents worldwide. In fact, in a way they have enhanced the message of Ahmadiyyat or True Islam to be spread further abroad. In the meantime Taliban and talibanism is making Pakistan one of the most miserable countries in the world.


  • Rana Khalil
    Nov 18, 2011 - 1:00AM

    CJ is becoming a hero because of his so calld justice.He should open his both eyes and should take action against St case,Asia bb case.Also should be taken action against the so calld Ulemas whome were involved in Ahmadies Mosques murders in Lahore.These are the stans for justice,,,Otherwise, GOD wl ask the responsable authorities in HIS own stile…..


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