Pakistani Lawyers- Protectors or antagonists of the law

The law keeps a society running efficiently as it serves as a means of conduct for the citizens. The guidelines of the law enable citizens and businesses to operate in a disciplined manner which can ensure successful social and economic policy outcomes. 

In strong democracies and developed countries, the rule of the law is effective as well as consolidated and does lead to a smooth operation of the country. However, in a developing country, the situation is reversed and the rule of the law is non-existing or a far fetched reality. Pakistan, a developing nation falls in the latter category. It has a well-defined constitution and laws but the implementation and reinforcement is the issue along with corruption.

The sole purpose of lawyers is to provide justice to its clients. They are and should act as the protectors of law, ensuring that they and other citizens abide by the laws laid down in the constitution. But more often than not, especially in the recent turn of events, lawyers have taken the law in their hands and carried out unjust decisions and actions that have shaken the society to its core. However, in the past, they have also proved to be protectors of law by reacting to unfair suspension of the chief justice.

Some examples to clarify the argument of Pakistani lawyers being protectors and antagonists of law is as follows:

Protectors

The Lawyer’s movement which is also popularly known as Movement of the Restoration of Democracy was a mass movement led by lawyers in 2007 against a response to the then President and army chief Pervez Musharraf. Pervez Musharraf had unconstitutionally suspended the chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry based on ‘misconduct’ and declared a state of emergency. The chief justice refused to resign and instead wanted to defend the charges. Lawyers followed by human rights activists, journalists and media came onto the streets to protest this decision of the President and demand restoration of the judiciary. Many lawyers were arrested and detained by the police.

This move by the President was a miscalculated and arrogant move that eroded him of his credibility and respect. The Lawyer’s movement lasted 2 years until 2009 when President Asif Ali Zardari reinstated Iftikhar Chaudhry for the second time.

Pervez Musharraf tested the democracy of Pakistan by not allowing lawyers to operate freely within an equal legal system. This movement went down in history and enabled the common man to believe that he has some right to justice at the hands of the Supreme Court. This empowerment was due to the lawyers who proved to be the protectors of law and the constitution during the movement.

Antagonists

Very recently, lawyers have been in the headlines for something opposite of their duties toward society. Following a viral video of a beating of a lawyer at the hands of some doctors, the lawyers had been asking for justice for 1 month. When their peaceful protests were not heard of, they took the law in their own hands and things went downhill after that. Around two hundred lawyers marched Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC). The lawyers forced their way inside and split up and attacked various departments of the hospital. The social media videos show lawyers completely out of hand, beating up doctors and hospital staff, breaking hospital equipment and even attacking the information minister of Punjab, Fayazul Hasan Chauhan. They even damaged the cars parked outside and lit fire to one of the police cars. Gunshots were also fired by the protestors.

This form of such a brutal attack, especially in a hospital, did not go well with the public or the media. The lawyers were criticized to have done the complete opposite of what their job asks them off. What they did was an act of pure terrorism.

Another recent example of bizarre behavior displayed by the court is that following the execution of the ex-President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, he be hanged for 3 days if he dies before his execution takes place. Pervez Musharaf was given the death penalty due to high treason charges from the 2007 debacle of subverting the constitution.

Pervez Musharraf was in Dubai at the time, receiving medical treatment. Legal experts have termed these instructions by the court and some lawyers as unconstitutional. The issue became a battle amongst the military and lawyers where the army chief, General Qamar Bajwa termed the execution as beyond humanity, religion or any civilization. It is also argued that Pervez Musharraf was not given a fair trial as Musharraf was tried and tested without his presence.

One may argue that lawyers have taken matters in their hands due to the failure of the state to deliver social justice. However, still, I would argue that lawyers are not a common man, they have a reputation and image to uphold and are the carriers of the law and constitution. Taking such rash decisions and causing an uproar sheds a very negative light on lawyers and does not make them our protectors at any cost.

However, all the blame and responsibility cannot be put on the lawyers. Pakistan as a country, as a constitution, should ensure that all the citizens of the country follow its constitution without raising a chaotic and aggressive stance. This can only be done when corruption is eradicated, and the government is strong enough to impose laws on the citizens which they must abide by.

 Afshan Riaz Bhayani
Afshan Riaz Bhayani

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