Dark Justice

7 Oct

Two years ago when determined men and women, clad in black coats, marched down the streets of Pakistan in the face of police brutality, they stirred up the long dead hope that a new era where the rule of law held supreme was dawning. With this movement, the belief that a positive societal transformation had started, began to take root. Pakistanis’ proudly claimed that this struggle had transformed lawyers into champions of the rule of law instead of the rule of personal or group whim, which has dominated and destroyed Pakistani institutions for decades.

Two years later, the same lawyers are marching down the same roads but for different reasons; to demand the transfer of a civil judge. They are no longer reminiscent of the valiant flag bearers of the civil society force that marched for the rule of law. As they attack judicial officers, police and media people performing their duties, the flag bearers of the rule of law movement seem to have thrown down their standards and turned back the progress made by the earlier struggle.

While most people have focused attention on the violent confrontation between the police, lawyers and media persons, little attention has been given to the legitimacy of the initial demand that escalated into institutional confrontation. Demanding en-masse, marching in the streets or attacking the offices of judges does not constitute due process for complaining against a judge. Demanding the transfer of a judge is not within the legal or moral rights of members of the bar.

If the legal community has a lawful complaint against a judge, a complaint should be filed with the competent judicial authority and its subsequent decision should be accepted with the authority that is granted to it by the constitution. Lawyers cannot be allowed to become judge, jury and executioner.

Lawyers turning against the principles they stood for a few years ago, is emblematic of a graver and more problematic reality. The lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the independent judiciary has not produced the kind of social transformation that we had hoped for. It was not the turning point in our history that many claimed it to be. We remain a lawless nation ruled by personal and group interests with scant regard for the law.

The rule of law stands damaged and diminished, as those who had campaigned for its restoration have become crusaders for an unlawful demand. The step we had taken in the right direction has been nullified by this awful stumble backwards. And with the baring of the ugly face of the legal community, we have been reminded that it was just that, a step. And that the real work still needs to be done.

We must remember that sustainable change is not created overnight. It is not produced by headline making street revolutions. It is produced by the much more unglamorous policy changes that Pakistan has been avoiding and been unable to implement in many of its institutions, including bar councils. Years of corruption, mismanagement and utter disregard for merit, were unlikely to disappear with a couple of long marches. While the revolution was successful in bringing dignity and authority to the offices of the superior judiciary, it ignored the other policy imperative of sustainable change; reform of the other side of the judicial coin – the bar councils. If the leaders of the lawyers’ movement are committed to establishing the rule of law, then they must now turn their efforts to weeding out the corrupt and incompetent elements in the local bar councils that mar the dignity of the legal profession.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2010. 

http://tribune.com.pk/story/59244/as-lawless-as-ever/

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3 Responses to “Dark Justice”

  1. moaiz October 7, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    I would like to take your proposition a step forward. One must remember that the lawyer’s movement was provided impetus by lawyers’ groups affiliated to different political parties (Peoples’ Lawyer Forum of PPP, similar groups affiliated to PML-N, TI etc). These lawyers provided the street power to the movement that eventually led to the removal of Musharraf from office. That is in my opinion the real contribution of the lawyers’ movement and that is ideally where it should have stopped. Demanding restoration of certain selected justices on the premise that they are ‘honest, sincere and independent’ was incorrect because even these justices had supported dictators and had charges on them that were forgotten during the movement. So do we support one wrong over another? That is what we ended up doing. Since this movement was fueled by lawyer groups affiliated to political parties, the movement did not stop even after departure of Musharraf or restoration of Iftikhar Chaudhry. The power that the judges and lawyers groups have amassed during that movement is now being used by their respective political patrons. So now we see a stand-off between Chief Justice LHC and Peoples’ Lawyers Forum or on the NRO cases in the Supreme Court, where one side is patronized by PML-N against the PPP government. So the movement that started on the premise of an ‘independent judiciary’ has now become a pawn of the political battles between the two major political parties or it is being used by different prominent lawyers to get judiciary of their liking appointed to benches. If this stand-off continues it will eventually lead to the breakdown of the current political setup which we cannot afford. But putting the genie back in the bottle will require judicial restraint of the Supreme Court and sending back lawyers to the court rooms, both of which require statesmanship from the judiciary and the political parties which seems nowhere in sight at the moment.

  2. abdul Majid October 11, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    why should the lawyers be different from rest of the society?

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