Echoes of a contest between the government and the judiciary surfaced again as ballots were cast for the Supreme Court Bar Association’s elections on Saturday.
Two pavilions for the contesting panels were set up side by side in front of the old annexe of the Sindh High Court building that had to serve as the polling station. Men and women in black coats started to gather as early as 9am to campaign for their candidates. But they were disciplined, there were none of the traditional rallying cries that were seen during the movement for the restoration of the judiciary.
The voting had to kick off at the same time the lawyers gathered but it took half an hour more to finalise the lists of voters by crossing out the names of those who passed away over the year. At the first floor of the annexe, six polling booths were fashioned out of the room of the Sindh Bar Council’s vice president where presiding officer Akhtar Ali Mehmood had taken charge.
Sindh Prosecutor General Shahadat Awan cast the very first of the total of 331 votes at 9:33am. Ballots were cast at a snail’s pace till noon. After just 20 votes were cast in 30 minutes, Advocate Sarwar Muhamamd Khan, who was serving as the polling agent for Rasheed A Razvi’s panel, announced: “One panel is representing lawyers and the other is representing the establishment.” These words made the polling agent for Muhammad Yaseen Azad’s panel, Advocate Abdul Rasheed, clench his teeth.
Advocate Shafaat Hussain, who was contesting the election for the seat of provincial vice president from Azad’s panel, agreed that certain impressions were being created. “An impression is being given that one panel is the judges’ panel while the other is the government’s panel,” he said. “However I haven’t seen the government supporting us anywhere.”
However, the contestant for the member provincial executive committee seat, Advocate Sardar Ajaz Khan, alleged there had been government influence. “At present, the governors of three provinces are working hard to defeat the Razvi’s panel,” he claimed.
Outside the booth, busy welcoming the lawyers were Sindh High Court Bar Association members Mustafa Lakhani and Muhammad Mushaffy Ahmed of the Azad panel and Karachi Bar Association president Muhamamd Aqil along with veteran advocate Khawaja Sultan and Razvi’s son Tahmasp Razvi.
Among those who cast their votes was Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim. “Lawyers know each other, they are educated, they wear black coats, why can’t we make a correct choice?” he said, adding that he hoped that the unnecessary involvement of the establishment in the affairs of judiciary would be shunned by the lawyers.
Eighty-one-year-old round-shouldered Barrister Syed Iqbal Ahmed arrived to cast his vote as well. With his experience of more than 50 years, he calmly said, “Of the panel members, everybody knows who is the ‘government ka aadmi’ though it’s not formally proclaimed. This has been happening for ages.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2011.
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