September 7, 2023
Lawyers’ launch campaign against Pakistan Army
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Amid continued flouting of Pakistan Supreme Court and High Court orders by the army-backed government, lawyers of Pakistan have launched a campaign against the Army.
Just two examples:
Pakistan Supreme Court had ordered on March 1 that elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwah provinces should be held within 90 days. The two assemblies were dissolved in January. But its order was ignored and not implemented.
One September 1, while releasing the former Chief Minister of Punjab, Parvez Elahi, Lahore High Court ordered that that no intelligence agency, state institution or other authority should arrest him. However, Parvez Elahi was arrested before he could reach home from the court.
In this situation, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) Thursday called a convention to address the prevailing constitutional crisis.
The speakers, one after another, emphasized that currently there is no rule of law in the country as the constitution has been suspended practically. The speakers pointed out that in the past the military rulers have formally suspended the constitution, however, the present army Chief of Staff, General Asim Munir, has in practice suspended the constitution without declaring so.
The speakers pointed out that it was the lawyers’ community which challenged the military rulers in the past and they will continue their struggle to restore the rule of law in the country.
Several speakers also bitterly criticized the army for its role in politics and seizing economic resources of the country.
Rabia Bajwa Advocate in her speech at the conference said Pakistan is now a garrison states.
She was of the view that in the past Army Generals have called traitors all those leaders, including Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who represented the peoples’ aspirations.
“Generals called Prime Minister Hussain Shaheed Suhurwardy a traitor. Imran Khan, who challenged the status quo, is called a traitor.”
Rabia Bajwa Advocate said our struggle is against the establishment (meaning army). “Lawyers’ community is the only community which can challenge the Army.”
Prominent lawyers Sardar Latif Khosa and Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan expressed deep concern about the current state of the country. They argued that the country was descending to a level where it could be justifiably depicted as a nation without a constitution.
They cited recent incidents such as the disappearance of anchorperson and journalist Imran Riaz Khan, the daylight kidnapping of former Punjab CM Chaudhry Pervez Elahi by unidentified individuals believed to be affiliated with the Islamabad police, and the arrest of political workers.
Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) Secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir on Thursday announced that all bar associations across the country will observe strike on September 14 to "defend and uphold the Constitution, rule of law and human rights".
"That all the Bar Associations across the Country, on coming Thursday, i.e. (14.09.2023) shall observe countrywide strike and will demonstrate peaceful protests in their respective Bar Associations in shape of rallies and marches to defend and uphold the constitution, rule of law and human rights,” he said in a statement.
According to a statement issued by the PBC, the convention considered the matters of prevailing and current constitutional crisis in the country, raids on houses of lawyers and registration of FIRs against them, holding of general elections, price hikes including exorbitant increases in electricity bills as well as petrol prices.
“The general elections are required to be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies and the Election Commission of Pakistan and all other institutions are required to act in aid of the ECP….Every institution in Pakistan is under the Constitution and cannot make even the slightest deviation from it,” the statement added.
The convention laid emphasis on the importance of civilian supremacy, adherence to the constitution, the rule of law and the independence and integrity of the constitutional institutions as the fundamental pillars of democracy.
Arguing that no caretaker government could go beyond 90 days and become unconstitutional and illegal after that, the convention lamented that the caretaker governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had already become unconstitutional and were liable to be removed.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com
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