ISLAMABAD  -   Hundreds of litigants, particularly women prisoners seeking bail are undergoing enormous mental agony and distress due to continuous strike by lawyers in the district courts of the capital.

Although the winter vacations have ended, yet the troubles of litigants have no end as their cases are being deferred owing to the strike announced by Islamabad Bar Association (IBA), being observed since the past 3 weeks. The legal community of Islamabad is on strike for the past 23 days after they announced protest in favour of their demand for rotation of judges in district judiciary which was later coupled with their anger over demolition of ‘some of their illegally-constructed chambers’ overnight in Sector F-8 Katchery. Lawyers usually attend important cases such as those of bail during the strikes but this time they have opted to boycott even those cases which mounted sufferings of jail inmates’ manifold. Particularly, the women prisoners languishing behind the bars on petty allegations and seeking bail are affected the most due to this strike.

The strike and the construction of chambers by the lawyers have compounded miseries of litigants who have been travelling to the courts for hearing of their cases but have to return empty-handed when the hearings were adjourned due to the absence of lawyers. Recently, a meeting between key stakeholders to end the strike ended without reaching a breakthrough.

The meeting of stakeholders was held at the district courts in Sector F-8.

From the judiciary, judges of local courts and representatives of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) and the Islamabad District Bar Association (IDBA) were present in the meeting. However, the IBA President Riyasat Ali Azad did not attend the meeting. During the meeting, the illegal chambers built by lawyers throughout the district courts, including in the litigant facilitation centre, were discussed in the light of reports from security agencies, including Special Branch of Islamabad Police.

Unfortunately, participants of the meeting could not reach a consensus to end the strike. As a result, cases in the district courts are continued to be adjourned without any hearings. The saga started as the lawyers announced a protest against recommendations of attorney general of Pakistan about judges’ rotation policy in the federal capital and demolition of chambers of the lawyers at district courts 3 weeks ago.

The lawyers strongly protested against Capital Development Authority (CDA)’s operation against encroachment in F-8 Sector District Courts, Islamabad. Later, within 2 days of the demolition of 21 chambers at the district courts in F-8, the lawyers had again constructed around 50 chambers in different parts of the court premises. But, this did not end the miseries of the litigants as the lawyers have also been on strike for over 3 weeks, demanding a rotation policy for the lower judiciary judges. Under the rotation policy, judges would be transferred out of the capital and those from other provinces would be posted to Islamabad to avoid chances of alleged nexus among the adjudicators, lawyers and litigants.

When the lawyers tried to rebuild their chambers, some of them clashed with the staff of the post office who filed a case against the lawyers with the police on December 22 for allegedly grabbing land. Later, the Islamabad Police lodged another case of land grabbing against 14 lawyers on December 27 for building chambers in the facilitation centre and wrote to a district and sessions judge terming the lawyers and their chambers a security risk.

This angered the lawyers who have not only continued their strike but have demanded that the police cases registered against them are withdrawn and that the government build their chambers. Failing which, they had warned to stage protest rallies and to build chambers all around the district courts.