PBC compelled to declare strike call against Nawaz

  • Bhoon says PBC was awaiting final JIT report

The looming elections of the Bar Associations due in October 2017 and a fear to be behind in the lawyers’ wave compelled the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) to announce a countrywide strike call to demand resignation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after what the opposition parties called a ‘significant material’ surfaced in the Panama Papers case.

Sources in the PBC informed Pakistan Today that the PBC leadership had to join the call of protest already announced by Hamid Khan group to put pressure over the prime minister in wake of the findings of the JIT report, which is rejected by the Pakistan Muslim League-N.

They said that actually Asma Jahangir group, which enjoys majority in the PBC, had been resisting demand for the prime minister’s resignation in wake of the Panama case. However, after Hamid Khan group’s demand for resignation got an ‘overwhelming’ support from the lawyers, the PBC had also decided to jump the resignation bandwagon.

However, the sources said that the Lahore High Court Bar Association, the Islamabad High Court Bar Association and the Supreme Court Bar Association sought resignation from the prime minister, the PBC had no choice but to join the move.

They said that Hamid Khan group who had won elections of all the three bar associations had influenced the decision to launch a campaign seeking resignation from the prime minister and strike call to express solidarity with the Supreme Court.

They said that before giving a call for a resignation, Ahsan Bhoon had contacted Asma Jahangir who has already been supporting the prime minister, the group leader allowed the PBC to go along with the tide among the lawyers community.

“Asma Jahangir told Ahsan Bhoon that PBC may take a decision independently as she had already taken a position. So PBC may take its own decision now,” the source said. When contacted, PBC Vice Chairman Ahsan Bhoon refuted the claim that the impending elections of the bar associations had compelled the PBC to make up its mind to give a strike call against the prime minister.

He denied the impression that the PBC had been compelled to support the resignation demand after the bars of Islamabad, Lahore and said that the Pakistan Bar Council was awaiting JIT to submit its report and there has been lots and lots of evidence in that report. However, it is pertinent to mention here that the PBC elections are due in October next and now looming elections have compelled the PBC to jump ships and exert itself.

Bhoon, who hails from Asma Jahangir-led independent group, has decided to join the ranks of SCBA, LHCBA, IHCBA and other bars in launching movement against the prime minister. Although there is general impression that Asma had given her point of view but allowed the group to take policy according to the situation. Since Hamid Khan Group, called professional group is taking lead, the independent group also has to come forward and take a suitable position.

It is pertinent to mention that the Supreme Court nominated JIT members and monitored the goings-on in it through fortnightly submission of the progress report and empowered it thoroughly in its order. “If you go back to the lawyers’ representatives convention held back on May, it was decided to refrain from organising a movement till the JIT submits its report and opted wait-and-watch approach,” said Azam Nazir Tarar, member of the Pakistan Bar Council.

However, he said that within PBC there was a minority group that was of the opinion that the court must be given time to decide on JIT’ s report before launching or becoming part of any such movement. “The other viewpoint was that now that the report has submitted, the prime minister has ‘lost’ his right to rule ‘morally’ and thus must be made to resign,” he said.

“So, the movement is in continuation of May 5 convention that was attended by representatives of 82 bar councils,” he said, adding that since the majority view has to be followed, the Pakistan Bar Council stands united.