It is hard for people to see the legal system as the venerable fount of order and justice when the members of the legal community don’t treat it as such. The scenes outside the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday are despicable – professional lawyers behaving like base goons; vandalising property, clashing with law enforcement and disrupting the proceeding of countless cases. What for? To intimidate the LHC into letting their ringleader – the president of the Multan Bar Association, Sher Zaman Qureshi – off the hook. That’s the rule of law for you.

The logic here is impeccable; the lawyers are destroying property and violently clashing with the judiciary in the hopes of ensuring that the court doesn’t charge one of their own for previously damaging property and violently clashing with the judiciary. Then again, if these gentlemen had learned to use their brains instead of their brawn they might actually be lawyers instead of stick-wielding thugs.

To be fair, we should mention that lawyers clashing with the police are not indicative of the larger legal community; the rest are civilised professionals who recognise the gravity of their duty and perform it with diligence and zeal. These professionals spent no time condemning this violent behaviour and disavowing the perpetrators from the legal fraternity.

However, it is also fair to lay the blame for this situation solely at the legal fraternity’s feet – at the end of the day, this is an internal disciplinary issue, one that should have been solved years ago. The fact that lawyers feel they can gang up and intimidate the judiciary and the opposing party without consequence is a damning failure of the larger legal community.

More than journalists on cable news or politicians on podiums – this behaviour in the courts itself is what undermines the authority of the judiciary. If the court can be bullied by their own, why should political parties with millions at their back hesitate?

This is the litmus test for the judiciary, its turning point, its crossroads – undoubtedly a time where a Suo Moto action is warranted. It de-seated the nation’s highest elected representative with authority and appreciation; it has to discipline its own if it is to truly demand respect.

The path forward is simple. Sher Zaman Qureshi – who instigated this ruckus must spend a long time behind bars to ponder his choices. The footage from news cameras is easily available – each and every lawyer taking part in this melee must be recognised, his license rescinded, his law firm fined and charges brought against him. If the judiciary can sternly chasten these goons now it can set a precedent, if it blinks now, it will lose all moral authority it has gained over the years.