LAHORE    -  On the call made by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the lawyers are divided on the holding of a protest today against the government’s move to file a misconduct reference against Supreme Court (SC) Justice Qazi Faez Isa and another judge.

The lawyers and the government locked horns after President Arif Alvi complained to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against alleged misconduct of the judges who allegedly hold undeclared assets abroad either in their names or through their family members.

After the filing of the reference against Justice Isa and Sindh High Court (SHC) judge Karim Khan Agha, the SJC issued a notice to the federal government for hearing the reference on June 14. The two judges have been accused of possessing undeclared foreign properties and the government has sought action against the judges under Article 209.

Since the filing of the reference, the lawyers including the office-bearers of the Pakistan Bar Council and the Lahore High Court Bar Association have been criticising the government, saying that the reference had a weak legal footing.

They are of the view that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) did not issue a show-cause notice to the judges thus committed a violation.

Yesterday, the LHC Bar Association convened a meeting of lawyers at Lahore where the lawyers from the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League wings marred the meeting’s agenda to be discussed.

The meeting held on the eve of the countrywide strike called by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) against the filing of the references against the judges could not discuss the agenda and the meeting ended inconclusive.

The lawyers from the PML-N lawyers’ wing were demanding immediate withdrawal of the reference. They were of the view that today’s protest is aimed to protect the essence of the Constitution and the supremacy of law.

On the other side, the lawyers supporting the PTI-led government’s decision to file the reference stressed that the government should not withdraw reference against the judge. They were of the view that if a common man conducts an activity in violation of the law and the Constitution, immediately the law comes into action and a legal proceeding starts against the law violator; why not against judges a legal action could be taken, they questioned.

When contacted, LHCBA Secretary Hassan Iqbal said that the bar will fully follow the strike call made by the PBC.

PBC member Abid Saqi said that the reference was a reaction to Justice Isa’s verdict pertaining to Faizabad sit-in. The verdict was highly critical of the military’s involvement in the political activities. The judge in the verdict had remarked that the institution should remain within the constitutional ambit. The verdict also fired broadside at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for the 2014 sit-in. as per the verdict, the way it was handled by the government has set a precedent for the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protest in the capital.

To a query, the PBC member said that the purpose of the strike was to express solidarity with the judges and to show resentment against the government.

He said that the lawyers were not against accountability but against discrimination and actions rooted in deceit. He was of the view that Justice Isa was being punished for the sins he had never committed. He said that the lawyers as well as the entire nation would raise voice against and resist such moves. He demanded that the government should withdraw the case against Justice Isa or face protests.