The latest incident, that of the trashing of the Islamabad High Court by lawyers, on February 8, in the course of which the Chief Justice Justice Athar Minallah, was trapped in his chambers, seems to have capped such incidents as the December 2019 attack on the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, as well as a number of attacks on judges in their courtrooms by lawyers who did not like a particular verdict.
The attack was carried out by a group of lawyers protesting the demolition by the Capital Development Authority of a large number of lawyers’ chambers constructed on land belonging to a football ground. In its decision on the case, a four-member IHC bench ruled that the chambers were illegal and to be demolished. It gave a deadline of this Pakistan Day for the playing of a football match between students, and of Pakistan Day next year for the completion of a judicial complex for Islamabad’s district courts.
While it would perhaps be an exaggeration to say that the lawyers’ community has been controlled, this marks perhaps the first occasion that lawyers have been shown that the methods of violence and brute force do not yield the desired results, and that they will be held to the standard of what is legal, not what they will. It is perhaps of greater weight because it comes from the bench. The relationship between the Bench and the Bar has been so close because not only the latter appear before the former, and obtain its decisions, but the former is recruited from its ranks. It is the ability to obtain the bench’s decisions that gives the members of the Bar their power.
The breaking of the nexus in this case should show the Bar that it cannot expect blind support from the bench when it has not got the law on its side. The Bar should realise that a regard for the law is what has given it its respect in society as one of the learned professions. If it strays, it will find that it will not be supported, and that it will not be able to do what it wants.