LAHORE - Pakistan Lawyers’ Representative Convention was the biggest event of the legal fraternity held in the provincial capital.

Lawyers from across the country participated in it and gave seven days to Nawaz Sharif to step down as prime minister and appear before the Joint Investigation Team constituted to probe corruption in panama leaks’ case. Otherwise, they said they would start a movement against him. The deadline expires on May 27.

The convention also demanded immediate removal of NAB chairman and FIA DG, saying that the SC had already passed strictures against both of them.

Issuing a nine-point declaration, the lawyers’ convention announced war against corruption. 

In the first point, it held that accountability should be started of all public officials involved in corruption through offshore companies or otherwise. The second point was that Nawaz Sharif should disassociate himself from Prime Minister Office for fair and independent inquiry against him by JIT. In the third point, it asserted that in case he fails to resign; lawyers would launch a countrywide movement to ensure his resignation. The fourth point said that all bars of the country shall hoist black flags and establish protest camps at their premises every Thursday during the holy month of Ramazan.

The fifth point was that NAB chairman and FIA DG be immediately removed from their offices because the SC in its judgment has already passed strictures against them. In sixth point, National Action Committee (NAC) was formed which would be headed by SCBA President Khursheed A Rizvi and consist of representatives of various bars including Islamabad High Court Bar and Rawalpindi bar, Sahiwal Baluchistan High Court Bar, Singh High Court Bar and Peshawar High Court and many other district bars.

In the seventh point, the declaration said that Secretaries of both SCBA and LHCBA would be the secretaries of NAC. In the eighth point, it said that NAC chairman would hold meeting after month of Ramazan to decide further steps and measures for lawyers’ movement against corruption and for resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Shari Sharif.

The 9th and last point strongly condemned the trouble created by the alleged supporters of the PML-N at the saying that “Convention condemns the hooliganism and gonda gardi committed by the goons sent by the PML-N government to the premises of the Lahore High Court Bar Association. This attack is similar to the attack on the SC building in 1997 by the goons of PML-N at that time.

The convention is of considered view that this attack has been done on the behest of the Attorney General, Advocate General Punjab and Prosecutor General Punjab. And convention demands immediate resignations of all three of them and criminal prosecution against all those who have committed violence and also against those on whose instigation it has been committed.

The stance of the lawyers who demand resignation of the PM is that after SC’s decision of 20th April, the PM has lost justification to remain in office. They say that the SC has not given the clean chit to the PM. They term the SC’s verdict an historic breakthrough against corruption which has damaged the country from within. They say that fair and independent inquiry into foreign assets of the Sharif family is not possible while PM Nawaz Sharif is in office.

At present, SCBA President Rashid A Rizvi is leading the lawyers’ movement against the PM, though; LHCBA President Zulfiqar Ali Chaudhary is the first lawyers’ leader who demanded resignation from the Prime Minister on April 20.  The office bearers of the Lahore High Court Bar Association are united on one page: demand for PM’s  resignation. But on the other side, SCBA office bearers are not so united. 

SCBA President Rashid A. Rizvi and its Secretary Aftab Bajwa and half members of the executive body are on one side who demand resignation and half others including a vice-president are on the other side who oppose the demand. While Pakistan Bar Council, the lawyers’ top regulatory body, has already opposed movement against the PM.

On May 5, 2017, Pakistan Bar Council held a convention in Islamabad and rejected the stance of the SCBA and LHCBA regarding resignation of the PM over SC’s verdict in Panama leaks case. PBC said that the demand of the lawyers was irrational as it would derail the democratic setup in the country. 

The PML-N Lawyers wing is also very strong. It has deep roots and attraction for many of the fellow lawyers and members of the bar. It opposes move strongly. The N-wing says that the matter is sub-judice, and therefore, it is not appropriate to run any movement or demand of resignation from PM Nawaz Sharif.  Many of the wings which belong to the opposition are not openly supporting the call of resignation except PTI’s lawyers wing which held a meeting during the week and vowed to strength the move against the PM Nawaz Sharif. The law officers and legal advisors of the public departments are also backing the PML-N lawyers’ wing and opposing the movement.

20th May, the day the Representative convention was held at the LHCBA, also witnessed clash. Some lawyers intruded into the convention, created rumpus, broke windowpanes, chairs and tables, and took SCBA President Rasheed A Rizvi and its Secretary Aftab Bajwa to a library of the LHCBA and locked them there. 

The SCBA president and secretary say that the attackers actually were policemen and patwaris who were wearing the lawyers’ uniform. The incident, however, clearly reflects  the unity’ among the lawyers and shows their strength as compared to the previous movement of 2007 launched against the then army ruler Pervez Musharraf when he had deposed then CJP Iftikhar Chaudhary.

The former dictator used force against lawyers and tried to suppress them with power but unity among the lawyers made them stand against him, forcing him to take his decisions back and restore the deposed-judges.  The fact was that he did not have roots or connection within the legal fraternity as the ruling party has.

The movement against Nawaz Sharif so far could not get the thrust which required taking it to a logical end. The 2007 struggle was against military ruler and supremacy of judiciary and above all due to lawyers’ unity it witnessed the dawn of success.

An important factor between two was a fact that the lawyers always had inclination towards democracy and they never accepted dictatorial rule. The present campaign could lead the country to prosperity, if all stake holders had firm view to fight against menace of corruption as the plunders of national wealth did not deserve any concession or mercy.