Islamabad. March 15. Javed Sultan, 49, a middle rank (Assistant Sub Inspector) officer of Margalla Police Station of the capital city, stopped a motorbike near Faisal Chowk at night and asked the young biker to prove his identity and show the documents of the vehicle.
The biker failed to show the documents, forcing the police to impound the vehicle. The police official did not realise that Imdadullah was a lawyer by profession.
The check-post at that night was part of the high security plan in the capital city because of the ongoing three-day Asian parliament conference. Nearly 70 representatives of 23 Asian countries were meeting in Islamabad to mull a European-Union-like bloc.
According to the police official, soon after his bike was impounded, the person started “threatening” him of “consequences”. Next morning, Imdadullah along with a handful of charged lawyers entered the police station and asked the Station House Officer to return the bike, claiming the police officer on duty had misbehaved with the lawyer.
“A day after, he lodged a baseless complaint in a local court alleging me of misbehaving and beating the lawyer and later when I went to the judicial magistrate to record my statement, I saw more than 50 lawyers gathered outside the court room,” says Sultan, the police official. “As the court summoned me, they all forcefully entered the court room and started beating me in front of the judge. They beat me twice until the police reached the spot.”
Later, there was a police case filed against the lawyers. Meanwhile, all three lawyers named in the police complaint were granted pre-arrest bail by the sessions judge.
Clashes between lawyers and other sections of society, especially the police, have been on the rise in the past 10 years, since the Lawyers’ Movement to restore the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry began in 2007. Since then, the lawyers are seen as a vibrant and sometimes violent and unruly pressure group. They are often reported to have misbehaved with judges at the local level too. Likewise, the public mistrust of police is already established in the society.
Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, president Islamabad High Court Bar Association, believes this is the issue of intolerance in society and not just in the lawyer community. “This is reflected in the lawyers just like politicians and even journalists,” he says. “These incidents should not be portrayed as image of the community. The majority of the community is peaceful and law abiding.”
A few days back, lawyers protested against the Gujar Khan Police for lodging a criminal case against six lawyers including president of the Gujar Khan Bar Association. During a convention held two weeks ago, the representatives of Pakistan and Punjab Bar Councils and district bar association expressed their intention to launch a campaign against the police.
This March, in Karachi, a group of lawyers clashed with the police for having booked some of their colleagues in a case regarding the escape of two suspected robbers from court premises.
In January this year, in Lahore, police booked three lawyers on terrorism and other criminal charges for misbehaving with an additional district & sessions judge in open court allegedly for not getting a ‘favourable’ decision in a case. In some other incidents in the past, lawyers have slapped and locked judges in court rooms and thrashed policemen inside and outside the court premises.
Following the latest incident, lawyers of Islamabad also observed a one-day strike against the alleged ‘harassment’ by police officials, demanding suspension of police officials. Expressing concern about the attitude of the lawyers’ community, the Islamabad Police has written to the superior judiciary that “in the current situation it may not be possible to provide security to the courts.” The police has demanded action against the lawyers involved, claiming the incident has “demoralised” the force.
Critics think that it is the duty of the bar councils as well as the chief justice of the respective court to hold the lawyers’ accountable by suspending their licences. Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon, Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), believes such cases should not be seen collectively but individually. “There is no doubt some elements were given a free hand during and after the Lawyers’ Movement who promoted this culture of unruliness in courts and outside. However, PBC is gradually taking strict measures to stop this violent attitude of lawyers.”
He claims that now licenses of lawyers are also being suspended and revoked if they are proven guilty in such incidents. “However, we should also try to see both sides of the picture; sometimes the lawyers are victims too.”