“The Bajwa Doctrine” lead to a national debate across political sectors of the country on the importance and relevance of the 18th Amendment of the Constitution; the amendment which turned Pakistan from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary republic and provided safeguards against dictatorship and coups. Perhaps the most important voice in this debate that needs to be heard, in these strange times of a conflict between institutions, is that of the lawyers community, and speak they did.
At the All Pakistan Inter-provincial Bar Council Coordination Committee on Saturday, the legal fraternity of the country resolved to resist any move against the 18th Amendment and said that the plot against the constitutional provisions was aimed at paving the way for martial law. Lawyers also made many suggestions into reforms within the legal community itself, mostly to do with activation of the Supreme Judicial Council, and the need for provincial bar councils to be taken on board to oversee the transparency and fairness of the Bar elections.
The Lawyers community in Pakistan has been a very active one for the decade, especially for their own rights. Thus, most of the suggestions and demands made in the meetings concerned increasing their influence, such as consultation on appointments of high court judges. However, the legal fraternity did make some crucial remarks on the need to strengthen the 18th amendment. The conference passed several resolutions demanding that the government devolve the administrative control of natural resources such as gas, oil, water and other minerals to the respective provincial governments, and warned on making “cult of personality in state institutions”; in a show of support towards the 18th amendment.
What is more revealing is that the legal fraternity advocated also for rolling back on the clash of institutions, and for the institutions of state to not go beyond their scope. These statements seem in reference to the situation today, where there is controversy over the Supreme Court’s increasing role in administrative affairs better left to the government.
Such statements from lawyers, however, are not new or surprising. In March, the Sindh Bar Council (SBC), the top provincial body of the legal fraternity, urged bar associations and bar councils across the country to take immediate steps to check developments which create obstacles in the path of democracy. The legal fraternity of the country has a certain influence, and support for the 18th amendment from the community goes a long way.