LAHORE: In a sense, you could say Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s worst nightmare came true on Saturday evening. The democratic leader of Pakistan was indeed replaced … by dancing girls.
Speaking at the annual dinner of the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) at the Alhamra Arts Council, the prime minister reiterated his determination to protect democracy against all threats. However, a rowdy crowd of young lawyers – who, sources later alleged, were backed by some judges – shouted him off stage and eventually danced to Indian film songs along with dancing girls specially hired for the event.
Gilani did, however, get some of his message across. He said that some misguided elements are trying to develop the impression that the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government does not respect institutions in the country. He denied this and also emphasised that the PPP government had restored the real constitution and urged everyone to protect it.
Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, LBA President Shehzad Hassan Sheikh and Peoples Lawyers Forum Punjab President Khurrma Latif Khan Khosa were the main organisers of the event, held in Gilani’s honour.
The hall was full of youthful lawyers, who through their slogans forced Khosa and Gilani to shorten their addresses and then eventually make a hasty exit.
When Khosa started to deliver his speech, he was greeted with critical voices. Khosa tried his best to continue his speech amid loud chants of “Chief Tere Jaan Nisar Beshumar Beshumar” (Chief [Chief Justice] you have uncountable loyalists), a reference to where the lawyers’ allegiance firmly lies.
When Khosa started to recount the lawyers’ sacrifices and his head injuries on the front line of the movement to restore the chief justice, the clamour from the lawyers forced him to leave, as they termed him a ‘black sheep in a black coat’, among other things.
The lawyers started to throw campaign cards towards the stage as they gradually approached. The organiser of the event immediately called Gilani to deliver his speech, but this only brought slogans of ‘Go Zardari Go’.
Gilani tried his best to reason with the unruly crowd. He said that such behaviour should be saved for elections. He listed previously restrained institutions which were now free under the PPP government, such as the media and judiciary. He also recalled the PPP’s contribution to the lawyers’ movement. He even mentioned the party’s founding of nuclear technology in the country. He also thanked the LBA for his invitation of chief guest.
His argument, however, was met with further shouts; some lawyers even starting dancing on their seats. The PM’s security called for back-up and signaled for him to wind up his address.
When lawyers almost reached the stairs of the stage, Gilani immediately started to announce a different package for them , sanctioning a housing society. This did not pacify the crowd, and the PM left the stage.
Sources in the legal fraternity, the PPP and in Governor House told The Express Tribune that Khosa, along with his son Khurram, sent a message to Gilani that he should address the LBA in response to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s Friday address at the Rawalpindi Bar Association.
However, as soon as a large group of young lawyers heard about the plans, they tried to invite Justice Chaudhry to the event. After this failed and Gilani showed up, they disrupted proceedings.
Some sources at Governor House even claimed that Gilani’s address was disrupted on directions of some judges.
The best – or at least most bizarre – was seemingly saved for last. Lawyers danced to songs, including the Bollywood hit ‘Sheela Ke Jawani’ along with dancing girls apparently hired by the event organisers.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2012.