Monday, February 8, 2010

Lawyers or Hoodlums!

January 28, 2010

Lawyers or Hoodlums!
By Saeed Qureshi
The custodians of law and interpreters of the sacred document titled constitution turned into an unruly crowd the other day in Lahore to press the court for bypassing the legal process and release their cohort lawyer accused of torturing to death a domestic servant 12 years old girl. About 300 lawyers held a raucous demonstration in front of the court, raised questionable slogans incongruent with the dignity of their profession and demanded circumvention of the judicial hearing. Such bandit lawyers have no right to be in the legal profession because by a roguish behavior they have forfeited their right to be on the right side of the justice. These vulgar guys should be debarred from taking part in the legal practice and their licenses cancelled.

If today the law protectors turn law breakers and take the law in their hands what legal or moral barrier can stop the ordinary litigants not to storm the jails, ransack the courts and kidnap the judges and jurists till they get their dictated verdict. The lawyers have set an ugly example to the effect that when a member of the bar is nabbed, the legal community was at liberty to hold boisterous demonstrations and cut short the due process of law. What lesson these legal minds and jurists are emanating to the people: the lawyers themselves are above law, they are immune from the normal proceedings and can subvert the courts and threaten the judges because they have an influential peer put behind the bar for an insidious and a gruesome crime of murdering an innocent and helpless girl of a minority community, already hard-pressed by the sheer apathy and discrimination of the religious sections of the majority.

Their bizarre assemblage in front of the Lahore court that is hearing the case of accused Chaudhry Naeem advocate also emits a reprehensible signal to the jurists and legal practioners around the world that here is a faction of their fraternity which can turn into the scum of the earth and debase their honorable profession meant to aid the afflicted and the wronged humanity. It is a self inflicting detrimental wound by this band of rabble rousers to their own prestigious profession and more so to their personal conduct. The melee of these lawyers would leave an indelible blot on the radiant and fair face of Pakistan’s legal system and the defenders of law. If the judicial system in Pakistan succumbs to the highhandedness and mob mentality of the lawyers then Pakistan is ready to turn into a lawless jungle.

Even otherwise Pakistan’s justice system has remained tainted and egregiously faulty. As the proverb and common cliché goes, “better buy the judge than hire an advocate.” Such is the gross travesty of justice in Pakistan. The judicial system in Pakistan can be circumvented and thwarted in myriad manners. It is mostly devoid of healthy and fair practices relating to the implicit covenant between the clients and the lawyers on one side and lawyers and the adjudicating authorities on the other. The judges and magistrates from top to bottom, with fewer exceptions, accept or demand bribes to hand out unjust verdicts. It’s not a guarded or uncommon secret that after the day’s work, the lawyers both from the prosecution and the defense sit together in cozy settings for hilarious evening extravaganzas.

Same is true of the judges’ collusion and personal equations with the lawyers, the latter cultivating the judges for favorable decisions for the agreed amounts of money, besides other entertainments that better not narrated. Most of the so called lower or junior courts look like shops where justice is sold rather dispensed with according to the book or in compliance with the imperatives of justice. The laws or caveats are practiced more in breach than observance.

The clients or the litigants keep paying hefty fees to the lawyers who seldom prepare the cases because they use the power of money to buy the tampered justice. Quite a few lawyers buy law degrees and their knowledge of the law is as good as a common man in the street. However, they are adept in wheeling dealing and striking underhand deals to get the decisions of their choice. There might be exceptions but such is the general picture of the realm of the justice and judicial system in Pakistan.

So the judges and lawyers are the chips of the same bloc that survive on fleecing the harried citizens desperately hankering for justice for such crimes as grabbing of their small piece of land by a powerful goon or such heinous crime as the rape of their women or murder or abduction for ransom. The basic human values that are reiterated from the pulpit five times in a day are willfully and with rare abandon trampled from top to bottom. The common man with no social clout or financial backbone is at the mercy of an assortment of thugs, bandits, murderers, looters, rapists, touts, blackmailers and so on. On top they get swindling lawyers who keep milking the client as long as they can.

The litigations continue interminably for ages especially for serious crimes and most notably with regard to the vacation of a property or sale or purchase of land. Invariably, a person trapped into the vicious cycle of land disputation would not see the decision either way during his or her lifetime. The laws about land are so infamous and complicated that even if the judiciary was on the right tracks, these cannot be conclusively decided in favor or against of either contending party. In the meantime the farmer sells his other lands to pay for the fees and grafts, becomes penniless, get older and dies. The forcible occupation of prized lands is common in Pakistan and those in occupation have long arms to silence the dispensers of justice by force or bribe. On the other hand for small felonies as a verbal brawl or lifting a pair of shoes, a convict with no connections, languishes in jail for longer terms.

Although in the past the Supreme Court’s role and conduct in treading the unalloyed and sublime path of justice has not been above reproach, yet during the past two years it has manifested itself with a laudably upright demeanor and strict propriety. From the time of removal of the chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to his restoration and till now, the apex court has exhibited what has been termed as independent judicial activism. Chief Justice Chaudhry has been viewed as a symbol of democracy and rule of law.

The ongoing tussle between the superior judiciary and the government bears an incontrovertible testimony to the sordid phenomenon that the establishment was ignoring or dishonoring the court’s decisions. The supreme court of Pakistan overturned the amnesty granted to over 8000 corrupt and criminal individuals in NRO. But the government by all indications seems determined to thwart this historic ruling. Various phony and fake excuses are pouring out of the government portals that signal that implementation of the follow up action is not going to be a smooth sailing.

Now if the executive wants to promote and justify corruption and shelter the rank corrupt persons then the sanctity of the constitution and supremacy of rule of law stand robbed. In such an inclement environment, it looks a tall order for the accountability and law to prevail. Small wonder then, if the lower rank lawyers and advocates make a mockery of law and undermine its inviolability by their disruptive and villainous behavior.

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