Lawyer’s Movement in Pakistan

The new prime minister of Pakistan, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, has promised full restoration of constitutional government and democracy in Pakistan. He has proposed two emergency laws to restore the constitution and balance the powers of the emergency rule. Both the chief justice of Pakistan and the prime minister of Pakistan have rejected the new constitution. They feel that it is a transfer of power from the elected house of citizens to the legislature assembly of Pakistan. In the past, the opposition parties have criticized the emergency laws introduced by the premier.

There was immense criticism against the justice system and the functioning of the government in executing the emergency rule. There are many cases of arbitrary arrests, flippant use of laws, and extrajudicial killing. Many of the lawyers who were arrested along with thousands of other legal professionals, and even politicians, for participating in a rally for election candidates and other legal issues face wrongful charges and imprisonment. Many of these lawyers belong to the Islamic Lawyers Association, which was accused of being linked to terrorist groups.

The chief election commissioner has been repeatedly threatened by the opposition for his appointments. The prime minister has also replaced the chief justice of Pakistan with a more junior colleague, Sajjan Nazir. This move is against the independence of the Supreme Court and violation of the constitution and the rule of law. There is immense concern on behalf of lawyers over this move by the premier.

The chief election commissioner has also replaced the top lawyers with two junior associates of the chief justice. The two new lawyers are Zafar Ismail and Mumtaz Mahmudi. These two have been appointed as additional senior lawyers of the Supreme Court. It is clear that the government wants to sideline the chief justice and replace him with these two officials, as the power is being transferred to them.

The World Justice Project is an international organization headed by the late Zafar Ismail. It is aimed at building a democratic nation and making it a global leader in justice. A majority of the nations in the world including Pakistan has already launched the projects that are aligned with the welfare and interest of the poor and underprivileged people. Although many have criticized the Pakistan government for not implementing the projects, Zafar Ismail and his associates claim that the projects are moving ahead smoothly. They also added that the implementation process and the work of the lawyers has been carried out meticulously and impartially. However, the fact is that the work of the lawyers has been slow and sometimes problematic in various aspects.

There are numerous cases of abuse and violation of human rights by the police and the private security agencies. There have been allegations of extra-judicial executions, disappearances, extra-judicial flogging, custodial assassinations and torture of opposition figures. In order to address these issues, the government and the opposition have proposed the formation of the National Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the independent office for the accountability and probity of the government officials. Although the American Bar Association has condemned this move, the government has promised to establish the commission immediately.

The government has also launched the Public Complaints Commission (PCOC) to resolve complaints against any police officer or any other member of the security forces who is guilty of abuse of human rights. The premier among the complainants is Tassaduq Butt, the former interior minister who was forced to resign due to the rampant abuses against the opponents. He had filed many cases before the PCOC before being relieved of his post. The new commission will be headed by Makhdara Rabbani, an accomplished lawyer from Srinagar.

In a way, this recent development in Pakistan reminds us of the need for a new set of lawyers. There has been no systematic approach to resolving the problems of the people living under oppressive regimes. The lawyers movement in Pakistan paved the way for social change. Now, the government must make sure that it does not repeat the mistakes of the past. If the government fails to do so, the lawyer’s movement in Pakistan will once again find themselves fighting a legal battle on behalf of their clients.

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