By Amir Riaz & Numan Wahab
LAHORE: Though the Lahore High Court chief justice on Monday rejected the resignation of 1,300 judicial officers of the Punjab subordinate judiciary, a standoff between the Bar and the Bench further deepened as lawyers, including Ali Ahmad Kurd, have demanded Chief Justice Kh Sharif’s resignation.
All the judicial officers of the Punjab had stepped down on Monday morning in protest to, what they believe, sending of sessions judge, Lahore, Zawwar Ahmad Sheikh, on forced leave. They sent their resignations to the LHC’s registrar but Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif rejected the same and directed them to perform their legal and constitutional duties, keeping in view the sufferings of litigants.
Interestingly, only a dozen or more judges from the whole subordinate judiciary had resigned in protest against police torture on the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry after his suspension by the then dictator Pervez Musharraf in March 2007.
No judicial work was done in the district judiciary and the Lahore High Court as both judicialcomplete boycott, adding to the miseries of litigants as thousands of cases were deferred.
LHCBA president with a group of lawyers took round of the courts and requested the judges to stop courts proceedings owing to their boycott of courts. He also requested the judges not to dismiss cases for non- prosecution.
A series of development took place on fifth day of tension between the Bar and the Bench including resignation of judicial officers, their rejection, boycott of courts, lawyers’ rallies at both bars and demand of Chief Justice Sharif’s resignation.
For the very first time, Lahore High Court Bar Association also came forward and held its general house meeting to express solidarity with Lahore Bar Association and urged LHC’s CJ to immediately transfer Zawwar. They also took a rally, led by Ali Ahmad Kurd, to Awan-e-Adal where both bars held a joint session and delivered furious speeches against LHC Chief Justice Sharif. They were shouting slogans, “Go Khawaja Go”, “we want freedom”, “disapprove judicial dictatorship”. Ironically, only two years ago the same bar associations were demanding Justice Sharif’s restoration and suffered hardships of jails and police torture in the process.
They also staged a sit-in outside Awan-e-Adal, vowing to continue their boycott till sessions judge’s transfer and action against those who tortured lawyers. Addressing the LCHBA after a long time, Ali Ahmed Kurd held Chief Justice Sharif responsible for torture on lawyers and sought his resignation.
“How can we absolve Chief Justice Sharif. Police cannot even enter the premises of a university without permission of its vice chancellor. Then how police opened fire at lawyers and entered the Bar on it own,” he questioned. He said LBA is not too far away from LHC and Chief Justice Sharif should have gone to stop police from thrashing lawyers. “Had Justice Sharif been a man of conscience, he should have run to the spot to save lawyers who rendered sacrifices for him,” he added. He regretted that Chief Justice Sharif had ‘rewarded’ lawyers in this brutal manner. He said only Chief Justice Sharif’s resignation would heal their wounds. Kurd quelled the speculations that there were differences among the lawyers, saying black-coats were united and the legal fraternity had observed countrywide strike to express solidarity with LBA lawyers.
He said if Zawwar is honest it is not an additional quality because a judge has to be honest. Lawyers only got annoyed when a judicial officer misbehaved with them and Zawwar had done the same.
He vowed that if same treatment continued with lawyers and responsible were not brought to book they would be compelled to launch another lawyers’ movement.
After holding general house meeting, in the leadership of Mian Abdul Qudoos, LHCBA president, they took out the protest rally on The Mall and marched towards Aiwan-e-Adal courts to join the LBA general house meeting to show solidarity with them.
The protesting lawyers were not hindered by the police and instead were given easy access to their destination by blocking traffic on their rallying route. Shouting slogans against police and Lahore High Court chief justice, they were demanding Chief Justice of Pakistan to ensure action against responsible police personnel of torturing the lawyers.
When the lawyers’ rally reached Aiwan-e-Adal, a large number of highly charged lawyers gave them warm welcome by resonating slogans and showering rose petals on them. Ali Ahmed Kurd, Mian Abdul Qudoos delivered their speeches and expressed solidarity with the LBA lawyers. Putting their political affiliation aside, they said above all they were lawyers and benefit of the bar was supreme for them.
Later, the lawyers took to the Lower Mall and reached on the stage set up by the LBA at the PMG Chowk. Sound system was also arranged by the LBA on The Mall around Nasir Bagh and The Mall and the Lower Mall were blocked by parking trucks on the roads. No police personnel were seen at the spot as if they themselves gave free hand to the lawyers. However, after staying for not more than 20 minutes, the protesting lawyers returned to the bar room without any untoward incident. Later, the lawyers held protest rally and a protest demonstration on The Mall and the Lower Mall without facing any resistance from the police.
They also held joint sessions chaired by LBA President Sajid Bashir. LBA lawyers were vociferously chanting slogans against Chief Justice Kh Sharif and called him the “prime accused” who brought shame to the judiciary and worsened the bar and bench relationship.
LBA President Sajid Bashir while addressing the lawyers said judicial high- ups have intensified the situation not only humiliating lawyers but prolonging the issue. He said LBA has only demanded transfer of D&S judge and they will not step back from their ‘legal’ demand.
PbBC Chairman Executive Committee Rana Muhammad Akram in his address considered resignations of judges as shame in the name of judiciary and suggested that LHC should immediately accept the resignations of all the judges.
Lahore Bar Association also rejected formation of a three-member committee by Supreme Court to fix responsibility of torture on lawyers in Lahore and has termed it a tactic to prolong the issue.
Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Ali Ahmed Kurd addressing the lawyers at the LBA said the LBA played role like torchbearer throughout the lawyers movement for restoration of judiciary and now lawyers were with the LBA in this testing time.
During his speech, Kurd stopped the lawyers from raising slogans against Lahore High Court Chief Justice Kh Muhammad Sharif. However, he demanded the chief justice to transfer sessions judge of Lahore instead of sending him on leave. He also advised Chief Justice Kh Sharif to step down.
Vice Chairman of Pakistan Bar Council Kazim Khan demanded the CJP not to forgive the responsible police personnel for only saying sorry over torturing the lawyers. He demanded him to hold inquiry and bring to the book whoever is involved in torturing the lawyers. He said whoever including representatives of police, provincial government or federal government were involved in these clashes should face action.
Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) vice chairman Mumtaz Mustafa, while addressing the bar, demanded resignation of LHC Chief Justice. He also demanded the Chief Justice of Pakistan to sack the Lahore High Court Chief Justice. He also demanded the chief justice to accept resignations filed by judges of the subordinate judiciary.
PbBC chairman of executive committee Rana Muhammad Akram Khan condemned the judges of subordinate judiciary and demanded the Lahore High Court to accept their resignations. He also asked representatives of bars concerned to send references against these judges to the PbBC so that their practice licences could be cancelled.
Supreme Court Bar Association Secretary Raja Zulqarnain said lawyers were united and there were no differences among them over sanctity of the bar. He said the lawyers should support the Lahore Bar above their political affiliation.
Lahore High Court Bar Association President Mian Abdul Qudoos said that lawyers would not stop their protests till action against all the responsible police officials.
More than 300 judges of subordinate judiciary also tendered resignations in protest against possible transfer of Lahore District and sessions’ judge. However, the Lahore High Court did not accept their resignations and advised them to work smoothly.
Sajid Bashir said since last three months they were waiting for decision of the committees made by the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court to resolve the issue of transfer of the Lahore district and sessions judge but in vain. He said formation of these committees is a delaying tactic and they did not believe in it. He demanded registration of FIRs against the responsible police officials and their immediate arrests for torturing the lawyers.
He asked the CJP that he should not test their patience otherwise the LBA rally could also reach Islamabad. He put a resolution before the general house which also rejected formation of the committee.
Early Monday, all the civil judges of Lahore gathered in the chamber of Senior Civil Judge Arif Hameed Sheikh. All the judges submitted their resignations to senior judge in a bid to show their solidarity with their boss Zawwar Ahmed. Subordinate judges while talking to The News on the condition of anonymity said sending D&S judge on forced leave was a disgraceful act on behalf of LHC establishment. They termed lawyers’ demand insensible. Sessions judge’s behaviour was not an issue, the real bone of contention is “illegal demand” made by office-bearers of LBA to give them quota in appointments of court staff for which they had allegedly taken Rs 400,000 each as bribe, they added.
They said certain elements in LBA were bent upon undermining judiciary’s performance for their personal gains. They said the lawyers stood against a dictator but it does not permit them to act like a “mafia” against an honest and competent judge.
LBA lawyers were behaving like violent mob as they constantly cause harassment to judicial officers and even attacked the chamber of LHC Chief Justice, they added. They said a group of lawyers was trying to topple judicial system due to their political affiliations. LBA cabinet is following a hidden political agenda, they alleged.