LAHORE: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), on Saturday, passed a unanimous resolution demanding that the government refrain from making any changes to blasphemy laws or pardoning Aasia Bibi.
Aasia is a Christian woman who was sentenced to death after being convicted by a lower court. She is currently being held at the Sheikhupura jail.
The SCBA body, in the resolution, called alleged government initiaives to amend or repeal the blasphemy laws “a shameful effort being made under a foreign agenda, which is strongly condemnable”. The text of the resolution read, “In no circumstances, any amendment encouraging or creating any effort to defile the sacred name and personality of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) can be brought in the statute book.”
The committee, through a unanimous vote, warned the government and members of the Parliament to refrain from implementing any such proposal.
The SCBA and the legal fraternity will never accept any such pardon or amendment and would resist them, the resolution carried by the SCBA body added. The members also expressed concern over Punjab governor’s attempts to get a presidential pardon for Aasia while an appeal is pending before the high court.
The resolution was passed in a meeting chaired by the SCBA president and former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jahangir. Sanaullah Zahid, the SCBA Finance secretary moved the resolution.
When Zahid moved the resolution, the president pointed out that it was not on the agenda to which Zahid said, “There have been times when you have moved resolutions not on the agenda”. Jahangir was then told by the finance secretary that she had the right to dissent “though it will be carried by the majority”. The president chose not to exercise the right.
The meeting was attended by SCBA secretary, Qamar Zaman Qureshi; Sindh vice president (VP), KA Wahab; Punjab VP, Zubair Khalid; Balochistan VP, Jahanzeb Khan Jadoon; finance secretary, Sanaullah Zahid; additional secretary, Muhammad Saleheen; and 16 members of its executive committee.
The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) has already carried a similar resolution. A group of LHCBA members is also holding daily protests in front of the Lahore High Court building against any moves to amend the blasphemy laws.
Later, addressing a press conference, Asma Jahangir said that judges of superior judiciary should not intervene in bar associations’ elections. She said, “I have received a lot of complaints from all corners of the country about the judiciary’s interference in bar elections.” The SCBA president particularly referred to the upcoming elections of the Pakistan Bar Council and said that there were judges who “want their favourites to win”. “This is not a good tradition and must be stopped, “Asma added.
Ruling out a confrontation with the courts, she said that she could only make efforts to improve things. “SCBA’s independence will not be compromised. Its relationship with the Supreme Court will only be that of an independent bar,” the SCBA president stated.
Asma Jahangir said “meaningless meetings with the judiciary” were as damaging for the bar as “meaningless meetings with the executive are for the judiciary”. Jahangir also criticised the government’s performance and its failure to enunciate clear a policy on key issues.
While talking about independence of the judiciary, she said, “We still have a long way to go. The goal can only be achieved if all judges act independently.
Responding to a question, she reaffirmed that chief justices of the high courts could not take suo motu action under Article 199 of the constitution. “I have brought this fact to the attention of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP),” she added.
Jahangir said that it was a lawyer’s right to criticise Supreme Court’s (SC) decisions and added that the bar should always keep a vigilant eye on the performance of the SC. Expressing reservations about the National Judicial Policy (NJP), Jahangir warned against the ‘murder of justice’ in the name of a good disposal rate.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2010.