Asma urges lawyers to advocate for rule of law

  • Ex-SCBA president says lawyers must not act as shields to any criticism of judiciary or military

Former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president and senior lawyer Asma Jahangir has called upon her colleagues to advocate for the rule of law instead of acting as a ‘censorship board’ of the legal fraternity.

In a statement issued here on Saturday, she raised her concerns over the remarks of a group of lawyers, associated with the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC). “The (bar) council is a regulatory body for lawyers but it is not a censorship board,” she stated.

“Neither are they, through their mandate, equipped or given the responsibility to act as shields to any criticism of the judiciary or the military. They are not their protectors but must promote the cause of rule of law and must encourage diversity,” he said.

“SCBA president basically agrees that the Panama judgment contains errors and an appeal should be provided under the Article 184(3) and yet adds that criticism based on these facts does not befit a senior lawyer,” she said.

“His own past statements on the judiciary and the military, as well as their partnership in the past, are on record. He leads the Supreme Court Bar Association and lawyers have respect for its leadership. Their statements should therefore be above an individuals’ point of view and not a comment on their right to speak up at this critical period in history,” her statement concluded.

Seconding Asma, a group of lawyers also distanced themselves from the remarks of Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) and PBC members.

“I wish to distance myself from the statement issued on behalf of Pakistan Bar Council. I may not agree with all the views expressed by Asma Jahangir but will always respect her right to express herself freely as she has always done,” said Abid Saqi, a PBC member.

“She (Asma) speaks without influence and has her own point of view which she has every right to put forward. These are without fear or favour and, therefore, worthy of respect. Pakistan Bar Council cannot be a body that censors the views of the legal fraternity,” he said.

Former SCBA president Yaseen Azad also denounced the bar leaders for what he called they were trying to intimidate other lawyers from holding an independent view on the Panama judgment. “The statement made by the PBC vice chairman and the SCBAP president is most inappropriate as they are trying (to) the muffle sane voices,” he said.

“They represent the Bar but they cannot pretend to own the Bar. Senior members and former leaders have their own views on the Panama judgment and it is their right to express them,” he said, adding that the Panama judgment has several flaws and the SCBA president has also pointed these out.

“It is exceptional in many respects and the process adopted throughout the hearings, including adverse remarks, are likely to be criticised,” he said. “Neither the judiciary nor the military are above criticism, especially when they become arbiters to political wrangling. Asma Jahangir’s views are shared by a large section of lawyers,” Azad said.


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