Keeping up with their trademark form of registering discontent, the Pakistan lawyers’ community has decided to hold a nationwide strike. The Pakistan Bar Council vice-chairman Syed Amjad Shah has issued the strike call for July 13th, when the PBC will hold a convention to protest the filing of references against two superior court judges by the government. The convention is in response to the filing of the presidential references against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice K.K. Agha of the Sindh High Court, which have been taken up by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

How will the government deal with this nationwide protest? The dissatisfaction of the legal community against the references was clear from the start. The PBC and the Supreme Court Bar Association hinted towards taking action since July 2nd — the day the SJC took up the references for a second time. The government, in turn, has aggressively defended the references and affirmed the need for investigation of the judges.

It can be said that while it is not an easy situation for the government to deal with an aggressive lawyers march, this strike is far from the ones of the days of the lawyers’ movement, which played an instrumental role in bringing democracy to Pakistan. The legal community is much more divided now, with different political motivations bridging lawyers into many camps at odds with each other. The last few years have also seen lawyers conduct strikes at every small turn or complaint in protests which have often turned violent. The use of strikes and aggressive rhetoric to fulfil demands, even unreasonable ones, have diminished the influence that the legal community once had.

Yet there is a way to keep the issue of references at bay and still effectively deal with the protests. The government should empathise that apart from the specific references under discussion, the legal community does have valid demands. Their concern is that they don’t perceive the accountability of judges through the SJC to be a transparent process. It is true that though the SJC is an esteemed and honorary council, the past years have shown that it might be inadequately equipped to mediate the process of accountability of judges. With judicial activism having largely increased in the past decade, it could be argued that a new and stronger forum is needed to address and regulate accountability and conduct of judges.