I usually I love to sit in Lahore High Court Bar with my friends and colleagues under the historical bar tree. Saeed Ul Hassan sits in one corner of Iqbal Lounge whereas Malik Mohammad Hussain sits in Old Lounge among a circle of like-minded friends and advocates. It is always a matter of joy to sit, converse and socialize with them. The members in this group of Bar are known as leftists, whereas the rightist group of lawyers like to sit in Kashmir Lounge. I am lucky to have friends in both the groups.

During these sittings I heard some very disenchanting stories regarding the behavior of lawyers in the courtrooms, particularly after the Judges’ restoration movement and during elections of Bars.

These stories have compelled me to write this article. When I consulted with my friends regarding the subject of this column, they suggested my effort would be fruitless. Then I recollected the instance of hoopoe bird ____ a bird having crest of multi-colored feathers on the crown of its head and with long beak for pecking ____ who took water in its beak while heading towards the fire in which Prophet Ibrahim was thrown by Nimrod. The fellow birds put a question to hoopoe as to where he was going. On hearing the reply that it was heading to extinguish the fire, all of them laughed. The bird replied by saying that on the Day of Judgment its name would be among those who attempted to extinguish the fire in which messenger of God was being burnt, and not among those who lit that fire. On this analogy, I myself would like to have my name among those who made an attempt at reforming the legal fraternity.

In our society, corruption and disregard for the rule of law is subjugating our society. It is lamentable that the lawyers’ community that should have served as a bulwark against the cited menace is tending to succumb to this national menace. No doubt, the Pakistan lawyers led a paradigmatic street protest around the nation in their black suits during Judges’ Restoration Movement, and it was highly appreciated and highlighted in the national and international media.

The Bar Councils are statutory bodies responsible for safeguarding the rights, interests and privileges of practicing lawyers for regulating their conduct and helping the administration of justice. Its composition, powers and functions are described in detail by the Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Act, 1973. Important role assigned to Bar Councils is to promote the legal education and ethics to newly registered advocates, and particularly to issue the licenses for the practice of law strictly on merit. It is also primary duty of Bar Councils to act upon those rules and regulations that control the Bar elections.

Now there are few queries in my mind which I want to share with readers: 1. Whether the voters (who are law graduates) cast their votes according to the general principle of deservingness in favor of those candidates who throw large parties with sumptuous menus, or to those candidates who are professionally upright, sincere, conscientious and credible? 2. Whether the elected representatives of lawyers play their roles accurately and do not resort to blackmailing the lower judiciary? 3. Whether Bar Councils are performing their roles strictly in accordance with bylaws and as expected, particularly while granting License to fresh law graduate? 4. And, whether the honorable Judges in the Judicial system, including in High and Supreme courts, are being elevated on merit and their judgments for themselves?

In the year of 1992, I became member of Lahore Bar Association. In that era there were two main rival groups among lawyers: the leaders of one group were Hamid Khan, Kazim Khan, Dr Khalid Ranjha, Ashraf Walah, Hafiz Abdur Rehman Ansari and Latif Khosa, etc., and it was known as professional group. Whereas the leaders of other group of lawyers were A Karim Malik, Mian Israr Ahmed, Jhangir A. Jhoja and Mian Abdul Qadus, etc., and it was known as Arian Group of lawyers.

In those days the elected offices of Bar were considered offices of honor and not offices of profits. The Bar Councils were playing their role accurately. Junior lawyers never sat on the front table in the courts and they vacated the chairs when any senior lawyer entered in the courtroom. Lawyers used to cast their votes to professional, honest, well-reputed and competent lawyers as candidates. The election expenditures were low and bearable by nearly all-aspiring candidates.

It is common knowledge that the seats of president of the District Bar and High Court Bar cost 7.5 to 10 million and 10 to 20 million rupees, respectively, to an average candidate nowadays. It is no less than strange that ample number of lawyers, who in actuality are double graduates, namely, B.A. and L.L.B, have established the pressure groups in the names of Railway, Muchly (Fish), Northern Lahore, Southern Lahore Groups. Similarly, we also cast votes in the names of Rajpute, Jat, Arian, Sunni and Shia, which is deplorable. It has also come to my knowledge that some land mafia, white crime collar culprits and professional killers sponsor some of the candidates for Bar Councils just to achieve their goals in courts through their favoured elected candidates.

The Bar Councils miserably failed to act upon the provisions of Bar Council Act, 1973 for Election Rules and Regulations, especially regarding size of posters hanged by candidates upon walls and in open places. Additionally, it is strictly against Bar Act that the office bearers write the names of their elected posts outside their private offices, which is being done. These instances are cited merely to illustrate that the lawyers should portray themselves as the example-setters for abiding and upholding of the rule of law. Another instance of disregard for the rule of law is the rampant smoking undertaken in the Bar Rooms by the lawyers despite the law forbidding smoking. For the sake of a vote to become member of Pakistan Bar Council, some of the candidates are offering millions of rupees to newly elected members of Punjab Bar Council ____ the electoral body____ against their votes.

From among more or less these political lawyers, the Judges of High Courts are selected, and I am afraid if we fail to cast our votes to right persons it is likely that such individuals will be delivering less than desirable judgments. During times of national crisis, such Judges are unlikely to come up with suitable judicial conduct.

If Bars fail to produce good Judges in the future, then our beloved country, which is already facing lot of problems like terrorism, poverty, corruption, ransom, kidnapping, shortage of electricity and gas would fall further in darkness. It is a blessing of God that in our Judiciary honourable Judges like Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Zaheer Jamali, Umer Bandyal, Sheik Aazmat Saeed, Khalid Khan and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah are still delivering good judgments with innovations.

Similarly, I affirm that still there is a majority of professional, law knowing, competent and honest lawyers in the Bars, but they should come forward against those limited number of lawyers who launch assault on police officials and on members of general public in courts, instead of adopting legal remedies against them; and thereby in this way they defame whole Lawyers’ Community. During my last visit, I was sitting with late Akbar Ali Bhatti, Secretary Punjab Bar Council, and I put him a question regarding the tests and interviews conducted on fresh law graduates. He reacted to my question and explained: We are producing voters, not lawyers. He explained that when a candidate entered into the room of Member, Punjab Bar Council, for his interview, the learned Member would put him first question: Where are you from? As soon as he disclosed the place, then next question is to be put: Do you know Mr. so? As he (candidate) shakes his head in affirmation, the Member presses the bell to summon the peon and commands him to hurry up and bring a cup of tea for the candidate. And subsequently he signs his file, granting him Bar license.

In the end, I wholly endorse a senior lawyer, Mrs. Asma Jahangir’s views expressed recently that millions of rupees investment as horse trading is being undertaken in order to secure a seat in Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) during the present elections.