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Pakistan - Law and lawyers (Editorial, Dawn)

2 October 2015

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dawn.com - October 1st, 2015

Editorial

THE law in Pakistan is sometimes far from safe in the hands of lawyers.

A section of the country’s legal fraternity — notwithstanding a number of courageous and upright individuals within its midst — has evolved into a formidable pressure group and many of its members have, time and again, thought nothing of flouting even fundamental rights to achieve their objectives.

Their tactics have ranged from threats and coercion to blatant thuggery. Sometimes, aside from regular citizens, their own colleagues are the target of their ire.

At the Lahore High Court on Tuesday, for instance, a group of lawyers protested against Supreme Court advocates Dr Khalid Ranjha and Asma Jahangir for representing the MQM in a case against the media blackout of party chief Altaf Hussain ordered by the LHC last month.

The protesters, who said that the MQM was behind the murder of several lawyers in 2007 during the movement for the restoration of the judiciary, demanded that the lawyers’ licences be cancelled.

Defence by legal representation of one’s choice is constitutionally guaranteed and considered an essential pillar of the right to fair trial.

For their part, lawyers should be able to represent whomsoever they wish without fear of repercussions on a personal or professional level. Their right to do so, however, is far from sacrosanct.

When it comes to ‘crimes against religion’, for example, some lawyers themselves harbour contempt for due process.

Advocate Rashid Rehman was threatened by his own colleagues for defending a blasphemy accused, and was later murdered — the case remains unsolved.

There is also reportedly an unwritten consensus in some local bar associations that if a lawyer is party to a case, no lawyer from that bar — at the risk of severe censure — will represent the opposing side.

In the present instance, Dr Ranjha and Ms Jahangir are defending a basic tenet of democracy — freedom of speech — that everyone, including the MQM, is entitled to, regardless of their politics. The two lawyers should be commended for placing principles above narrow, parochial interests.

P.S.

The above editorial from Dawn is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use