LAHORE/ ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) is going to polls today to determine the future course of the lawyers' movement for the restoration of 'independent judiciary', which as an issue now stands at the crossroads with a sharp division in the legal fraternity as well as at the political level. As per Bar rules, this time it is Balochistan's turn to give president to this body of countrywide spread. First time since inception of the SCBA, pro and anti-movement lawyers shaped in groups, have fielded their panel of candidates on each and every seat in the elections. Professional Group, the pro-movement group, has fielded for the president slot a former Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council and its sitting member, Ali Ahmad Kurd, who has earned national and international fame for his spirited speeches during the lawyers movement, which holds its genesis in the March 9, 2007 incident when Justice Chaudhary was removed by the Military General Pervez Musharraf and re-emerged more vigorously after he was again sacked on November 3, last through a PCO along with over 60 judges of the Superior Judiciary. Against Kurd, a former Senator and six-time un-unopposed returned President of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association, carrying a 40-yaer professional experience to his credit, M Zafar has been put in the arena by the anti-movement lawyers comprising mainly those who belong to PPP led by Sardar Latif Khan Khosa and the Progressive Group of former Attorney General of Pervez Musharraf's era, ex-judge LHC and former President SCBA Malik Muhammad Qayyum, who also shares a big chunk of Arian bradery with Kurd's support, Main Israrul Haq. The elections result has to largely tell on the movement particularly after National Coordination Council, a forum represented by the bars all over the country to regulate the movement, has announced to observe Black Day on November 3 next by lock-up of the courts in the country. The movement is also likely to assume a more acute turn after Justice Chaudhary is bound to visit abroad to a great acclaim of the foreign academic institutions. PPP government has taken a specific line on the judges' issue after most of the deposed ones stand re-appointed as such it appears in no mood to put the deposed CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary and other siding him at present, back into the judiciary. Law Minister Farooq H Naek has stated on this count more than once as such, the PPP leading the coalition government in the centre, abhors any further continuation of the movement not only to prevail upon its coalition partner PML(N) on its intellect to tackle with the issue but to also nip or at least discourage any support from N-league or any other party to the movement. The N-League which pulled itself out of the coalition after PPP had thrice backed out of its written promise to restore Justice Chaudhary and others through an executive order without any intermediatory fresh oath, is fully backing the movement not only to show its commitment to the 'principled stand' on which it sacrificed the government in the centre but to also keep the PPP wolf away from the door. Notwithstanding the fact that N-League as principal party is holding a coalition government with PPP in Punjab yet it appears hardly turning a blind eye to its partner given the attempts it has made in the recent past to take over the province with the support of Q-League. The recent statement by PML (N) Chief Nawaz Sharif to support and participate in the movement and the most recent one by President Asif Ali Zardari to offer a political role of Justice Chaudhary speak volumes as to how distant the two stand today on an issue after they had demonstrated extreme cordiality on it and made it a bottom-line for forging a coalition government. Unlike the past, this time round a bit of tension has also been witnessed in the electioneering while at the level of Pakistan Bar Council, this political-based division remained also very visible. A day ahead of the final showdown, both the groups remained very active to win over the voters mainly to clinch top slot of the SCBA. They continued direct and indirect contacts, pamphlets, letters, cards distribution, and offered sumptuous dinners to take a lead over the other. Professional Group Panel is comprised of President, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Vice President (Punjab) Mian Javed Iqbal, (Baloshistan) Muhmmmad Ayaz Khan Sawati, (NWFP) Saeed Akhtar Khan, Secretary, Shoukat Umar Pirzada, Additional Secretary Zulfiqar Khalid Malooka, and Finance Secretary Sheikh Ahsanud Din. Candidates for the Executive body, Bukhtiar Ali Sial, Jamil Ahmad Sindhu, Muhammad Mudassar Bodla, Muhammad Tariq Asad, Samaira Akhtar Awan, Sardar Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, Sabbir Ahmad Khan, Syed Murtaza Zaidi, Muhammmad Qahir Shah, Jahanzen Khan Jadoon, Ghulam Nabi Khan, Noor Alam Khan, Zia Makhdoom and Jawaid Ahmad Siddiqui. Whereas Progressive/Ghosa Group panel consists of President M Zafar, Vice President (Punjab) Iqbal Mahmood Awan, (Balochistan) Zahid Hussain Malik and (NWFP) Muhammad Jameel Khan, Secretary, Qamar Zaman Qureshi, Additional Secretary Ch Tajammal Murad, Finance Secretary Haji Muhammad Rafree Siddiqui. Candidates for Executive Committee: Mian Abdul Aziz, Rana Ahmad Shahzad Farooq, Muhammad Ijaz Jamal, Syed Muhammad Ali Shah Hamdani, Rai Muhammad Tufail Kharl, Sardar Abdul Majeed Dogar, Sultan Mahmood, Raja Amir Abbas Hassan, Zahood Ahmad Shahwani, Fazal Gull, Shakeel Ahmad, Haji Shafi Muhammad Chandio, and Shamsuddin Khalid Ahmad Ansari. It is worthy of note that in addition to his own charisma and stature, Kurd is also drawing support from lawyers associated with Jamat-e-Islami and PML (N) who together form a substantial number in SCBA voters list. Furthermore, the hatred against the unpopular policies of the government which is almost the continuation of Musharraf regime, are also piling up the support for Kurd as he is seen as the icon of anti-exploitation lawyers movement that rocked the boat of former dictator after he first sacked Justice Chaudhry in March last year. The critics of the outgoing SCBA President are also referring to the sit-in call outside Parliament in June this year where Aitzaz didn't let Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Syed Rehman speak to participants but allowed every Tom, Dick and Harry to raise his voice from lawyers' platform. They also criticise Ali Ahmed Kurd for yelling at a senior judge of apex court when he was sitting in the bench headed by former CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on October 1, last year besides accusing him of being contemptuous to court on several occasions. Admirers of Ali Ahmed are, however, reportedly increasing despite this severe criticism. His firm commitment to the lawyers' cause and his speaking power are taking Ali Ahmed Kurd above the criticism of his opponents. In the bid to frustrate the top offices of government and lessen their impact on the electorate, the pro-Iftikhar Chaudhry Bars like Rawalpindi and Multan have already banned the entry of the Minister of the law and Attorney General in their premises. As the election campaigns will come to an end on Monday evening, both sides are trying their best to fetch results in their favour and hectic efforts are underway for success of both the candidates. According to regional break-up of the SCBA voter list, Lahore has the most number of 852 votes among the total of 1,724, while Sindh with 280 votes, NWFP with 160 votes, Rawalpindi and Islamabad with 230 votes, Balochistan with 83 votes, Multan with 73 and Bahawalpur has 46 votes in the tally. Unofficial result will be announced in the evening while official counting and announcement of the results will be held on October 31.