The Mumtaz Qadri episode has shown how divided the lawyer community is
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” The above stated quote by Charles Dickens presents a beautifully pictured contrast between two completely different conditions/emotions i.e., positivity and negativity. Being a practising lawyer and a keen observer of court proceedings has helped me evaluate different categories of lawyers in Pakistan. It can be said that on one side of the scale, we have “good lawyers” who believe in rule of law, human rights protection, due process guarantees, contribute towards development of jurisprudence and assist the superior courts in settling law points. On the other side of the scale, we have “bad lawyers” who normally stay away from books and have nominal belief on virtues of good lawyers. All they do is set wrong ideals for rookie lawyers; they habitually insult and pressurise judges, lock court rooms, instigate unprovoked strikes and beat cops over trivial issues.
Apart from the said two categories, quite recently and especially after the Mumtaz Qadri episode, it seems like a third category of lawyers has emerged i.e., “ugly lawyers”. The term “ugly” is not being used here to describe physical characteristics of a person rather it connotes ugliness in terms of actions and behaviour. This category of lawyers suitably fits into words used by Dickens to describe condition of negativity e.g., worst, foolishness, incredulity, darkness, despair. Apart from possessing qualities of bad lawyers, the ugliest traits which this category has displayed in recent times is that it has exploited religion, obscured reason, encouraged irrationality, preached subjective morality, blatantly defied law of the land and have promoted intolerance in Pakistan. The only good thing about them is that they are few in number and don’t represent the prestigious, enlightened and courageous legal fraternity of Pakistan.
On evening of 29th February a lawyer friend from Islamabad called and asked me a very unexpected question: I have a case fixed for tomorrow in Lahore civil courts. Can you confirm whether the courts in Lahore will be open tomorrow? Such a query surprised me as prior to the phone call I didn’t hear about any strike call either from the District Bar Association (DBA) Lahore or Punjab Bar Council (PBC). To my utter shock, he informed me that Islamabad Bar Council (IBC) was observing strike on 1ST March, 2016, as a protest against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri. Left in a state of efflux and disbelief, I inquired further and found out disturbing information regarding non-professional behaviour of some lawyers in Islamabad on this particular issue. Actually, what happened was that as soon as the news of Qadri’s hanging disseminated, some lawyers in Islamabad on their own started spreading the news that District Bar Association (DBA) Islamabad will observe strike and register its protest, even though it is a settled rule that in any city the call for a strike can only be given by the relevant Bar Council for being the only regulatory body of the lawyers.
As per information provided in Dawn News, the Vice Chairman of IBC negated the fact that IBC had announced any kind of strike. Lawyers compassionate towards Qadri were willing to formally stage a strike but their obscene demand was candidly refused by responsible bar officials. A group of lawyers, some of whom were also counsels of Qadri, wanted IBC to publish an official notice announcing strike. They contacted IBC via telephone but their demand was also not entertained. However, in response they issued a notice on their own and fixed it on the notice board. They also sent text messages to other lawyers, advising them not to come or appear before courts as IBC is observing strike.
The profile of Qadri is strange and bizarre; he brutally murdered Salmaan Taseer, ex-Governor Punjab. He fired more than 35 bullets at him; the sad part is that he was his bodyguard and was under a duty to protect him. The sole reason why Qadri killed Taseer is that the slain governor vehemently opposed misuse of blasphemy laws and pointed toward defects in current blasphemy legislation. After complete trial, Qadri was sentenced to death by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in October 2011 both under the Pakistan Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
In a just and fair world, Qadri is nothing more than a terrorist and a murderer, who inhumanly assassinated an innocent man for standing against misuse of blasphemy law. Despite committing a heinous offence, all of a sudden a police security guard became a hero of various deluded fanatic minds. What disturbs me the most is that some lawyers in Islamabad in collusion with religious parties and extremist factions of our society left no stone unturned to get him acquitted by pressurising the court through wild protests and untamed demonstrations. The scenes during the trial stage of Qadri case in 2011 were very unfortunate; some lawyers in form of a noisy crowd showered him with rose petals, congratulated him, slapped him on the back and kissed his cheeks when he was escorted inside court premises.
Last year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave a landmark judgment based on sound legal reasoning, true appreciation of facts and accurate analysis of evidence presented in trial court. The Apex Court declared Qadri not only a murderer but also a terrorist, it held that Mumtaz Qadri’s counsel failed to prove through any legally admissible evidence that Salmaan Taseer had committed blasphemy within the meaning of section 295 of Code of Criminal Procedure. The great jurist and ideal of many young aspiring criminal lawyers in Pakistan, Justice Khosa audaciously observed that in democracy the nation has the right to assess and criticise any law made by the legislature. He further added that if everybody started taking the law in their own hands and especially on issues dealing with sensitive matters such as blasphemy rather than going to the courts, it would inculcate fear and trepidation in the society.
Justice Dost Muhammad Khan reaffirmed the principle of natural justice “nemo Iudex in causa sua”, illustrating thereby that no one can be given the right to be a judge of his own cause. In this case, he cannot commit murder of a person who was under his protection especially when there is no proof of him having committed blasphemy. He further observed that the impression he had gathered from appraisal of the facts of the case was that the deceased governor was talking about the flaws in the blasphemy law, which were occasionally misused for personal gains.
Apart from possessing sound legal reasoning, the judgment of the Supreme Court also passes the litmus test of public policy doctrine. The idea of allowing individuals to deal with such sensitive matters on their own is clearly repugnant to public policy and is loaded with menace, especially in a polarised society like ours where every religious sect has its own mosque. The apparatus of a state is not individuals rather a state runs on specific procedures, guidelines and methods with the sole purpose to ensure dispensation of justice. As lawyers, we are duty bound to believe in the state, in the law, in a process and discourage taking of lives by individuals who imagine themselves as judge. We are not governed by law of jungle, as lawyers our heroes should not be those who are enchanted by notion of vigilante justice and idealise death as ultimate solution, especially when it is unfairly imposed on others.
A sane mind cannot digest the fact as to why some lawyers tried to stage protest and boycott court proceedings after lawful execution of Qadri. Does it not look outlandish that the very entity whose singular objective is to ensure justice to a victim is protesting against the hanging of a murderer? If the guardians of law start taking the law in their own hands and become moral crusaders, then where would one find rule of law and credible judicial system in Pakistan? Was Qadri not provided right to fair trial and fair opportunity as provided by Article 10 A of the Constitution? Was his case dealt in an arbitrary manner thus denying him protection of law in negation of Article 4 of the Constitution? Undoubtedly, he was given everything law provides, he was not executed capriciously rather he exercised all legal opportunities available under law of the land i.e., the Constitution of Pakistan, Pakistan Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure.
The protests staged by some lawyers in Islamabad after the execution of Qadri has brought disrespect to a very noble profession. A profession which has produced great names like Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Hafeez Pirzada, Khalid Rehman, Asma Jehangir, Aitzaz Ahsan, A R Cornelius and Hamood-ur-Rehman. This whole episode is appalling and ugly; it shows irresponsibility of actions and impropriety of thoughts displayed by some of my learned brothers.
As lawyers it is our obligation to never compromise on rule of law, independence of judiciary and sanctity of judicial verdicts. Good lawyers must be our source of inspiration and guidance. Let us imagine ourselves as drivers of a very expensive car, good lawyers will show us the long road to success requiring determination and hard work, bad lawyers will compel us to take a shortcut which is in fact a wrong turn, and last but not the least, the ugly lawyers will lead us towards the dead end of a cliff and make us believe that behind the cliff lies road to overnight success and divine blessings.