- Pattoki incident is one of many
As if Pakistan’s judicial system did not already have a plethora of deep-rooted systemic issues, violent and abusive lawyers terrorizing judicial officers has become commonplace, adding to the inefficiency and unreliability of the judicial system. The recent incident in Pattoki, where all judicial officers of tehsil courts stopped working and applied for a 10-day leave in protest at the president of the local bar association hurling unmentionable abuses at their colleagues, is shameful. This is not an isolated incident, with various judges from lower courts across Punjab, many of them female, complaining of similar abusive behaviour by lawyers in their courtrooms. What is more, letters written to the Lahore High Court (LHC) registrar either are lost in the mail or simply ignored, as no meaningful action is taken against those responsible. Almost a year ago, members of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA), in what can only be described as a depraved inhumane act of hooliganism and vandalism, ransacked a hospital resulting in the deaths of three patients, over a feud with the Young Doctors Association (YDA). The fact that this despicable incident went largely unpunished, with mostly slaps on the wrists of junior members of the LHCBA, is exactly why lawyers continue to act in such a manner with impunity. The over politicization of bar associations across the country has also contributed to this behaviour, making them powerful representative bodies for lawyers that are more interested in strengthening their position in the judicial food chain rather than carrying out their primary duty of providing a good and honest legal defence to their clients.
It is unfortunate that the superior judiciary has not stepped up to the challenge to address this increasing presence of uncouth lawyers in the legal fraternity. Chief Justices of the high courts and the CJP must take note of these incidents and direct bodies such as the Lahore Bar Council and others to reprimand its members. In the absence of proper disciplinary action such as disbarment, there will be no reduction in the frequency of legal practitioners running amuck.