The PTI-led government has managed to bag the support of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) at a time when it is facing severe criticism from the legal community on issues related to civil liberties.
For the last three years, the relationship between the government and superior bars has not remained cordial due to several reasons including the filing of a presidential reference for the removal of SC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
The SCBA, along with other bars, also challenged the presidential reference in the apex court. It was also witnessed that superior bars had always supported opposition leaders in case they were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Similarly, the representatives of bars remained vocal against manhandling of journalists by state agencies including the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
A delegation of SCBA, led by its secretary Ahmed Shehzad Farooq Rana, met with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday. SCBA President Lateef Afridi avoided attending the meeting.
The meeting was arranged by Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who is also an advocate by profession.
Most of members of the SCBA executive body belong to Asma Lawyers Group also known as Independent Group.
One section of Independent Lawyers Group fears that meeting with the premier might negatively affect the SCBA elections which would be held in October.
Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan and Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem were also present at the meeting. The SCBA delegation raised issue regarding amendments to the procedure for judges’ appointment.
During the meeting, PM Imran said the services of lawyers’ organisations were “invaluable in promoting and strengthening democracy”.
“A society develops only where rule of law prevails and prosperity can only be achieved with systems based on justice and fairness,” he added.
He said in the past, people with vested interests misused law and the rich and powerful class remained free from the grip of law. “The weaker classes continued to be exploited through the misuse of law.”
The premier maintained that the present government was reforming civil and criminal laws so that relief could be provided to the common man.
The prime minister added that legal reforms would reduce case load on the courts. “The support of lawyers’ representative bodies is required in the government’s agenda of legal reforms.”
PM Imran said the government was aware of the problems faced by lawyers and every effort would be made to resolve them.
The prime minister directed immediate removal of hurdles in the establishment of a housing colony for lawyers, their inclusion in the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme, provision of health cards to them and the inclusion of young lawyers in Kamyab Pakistan programme.
The premier also directed the law minister to ensure regular liaison with the bar and to resolve issues related to grants on a priority basis.
Rana thanked the prime minister on behalf of the SCBA.
The members of the SCBA executive committee fully endorsed the government’s legal reform agenda and presented proposals for further improvement in the process.
It has been learnt that in response to the AGP’s letter for evolving an objective criteria, representatives of superior bars have demanded postponing the Judicial Commission of Pakistan’s (JCP) meeting to consider the elevation of Lahore High Court’s female judge Justice Ayesha Malik to the apex court.
They sought time to present their proposals to improve the process of judges’ appointment.
A senior lawyer said there was a need to decide as to who would determine the objective criteria for judges’ appointment.