The government must not bend, the government must not relent. Every gang believes there is safety in numbers; every violent mob huddles up to become a stronger foe than the sum of its parts. But individually, separated from the pack each individual is just a powerless petty criminal. The same sense of impunity and hubris that led the lawyers to attack the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) is now being marshaled to put pressure on the government. The same power politics of Bar Councils that whipped crowds of black garbed goons onto the streets are now being used to mount a nationwide strike in an attempt to close ranks around the instigators.

The government must not be pressurized, the government must not compromise. For too long political lawyers have levied their numbers to win concessions and escape justice. It is time that the government takes a strong stand and proves to the people that the law is the same for the rich and the poor, the few and the many.

Pakistan’s legal fraternity is oversaturated with lawyers; too many graduates from unaccredited universities, too few cases to go around. In situations like these falling behind powerful Bar Council members is the only recourse. This “ganging-up” is not a problem in one-off incidents like the PIC attack – every day bands of lawyers intimidate witnesses, terrorize judges and even physically assault litigants. Even High Courts are invested by these power groups, let alone the Session Courts. If this disease of our legal system needs to be cured, and culling must begin now.   

In the past when these groups have gone on rampage, the government, the senior judiciary, and legal fraternity all sought to compromise to “minimize unrest”. The Multan legal complex still lies in ruin and not one vandal has been charged. Such steps have set the precedent for leniency and impunity the fruits of which Pakistan is reaping at the moment.

The nationwide lawyers strike will have to subside sooner or later. The government has weathered stronger challenges than this before – such as the Azadi March – and it should be able to see this one through.

This has the potential to be Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s Model Town Incident – a travesty of justice which will continue to haunt the party forever. The party has said all the right things, as has the senior police leadership; will they stay true to their word?