Is a lawyer’s blood worth a dime ?
It was 2013, I had just started out my legal career as a junior associate at a very well reputed criminal law firm. In that connection, I was working on a criminal case that had the eye of the media constantly fixed on it, the Hamza Ahmed murder case. A part from experiencing how the print and broadcast media can affect a legal trial while spending countless hours at the anti-terrorism court, I met a very charming personality. He was a senior lawyer, who I observed was widely respected. His name was Naimat Ali Randhawa. Then on the 26th of September, just when I was getting ready for a day in the local courts, I got a message. The Karachi Bar Association had declared a strike, because Naimat Ali Randhawa was murdered. Shock struck me, for a second it felt like the ground under my feet had slipped. His funeral was attended by the ‘who’s who’ of the bar, I was particularly impressed at such a high attendance.
More than a year later, the 10th of January 2015, the same episode eclipsed once again. Only this time, it was another senior lawyer, Chaudhry Tanveer Ahmed. The reaction was not much distinct though. As usual a strike was called, followed by lawyer leaders attending the funeral of the deceased. This is where I fail to understand the utility of lawyer bodies. Is a strike all they can do to help curb the killing of advocates?
Nearly all politically active members of the bar were present at the funeral, not one of them had any design in mind to put a stop to lawyer’s blood being spilled. This included the elected president and the general secretary of the Karachi Bar Association as well as the president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association. I just want to alert them, if they can’t stop the spilling of the blood of lawyers, their politics at the bar will abruptly end. We do not want strikes, we do not want you to attend funerals, we need an action plan. An action plan to end this bloodshed.
With the recent public opinion in support of military courts, may I be blessed with the audacity to ask, why can’t those judges and lawyers who are involved in the litigation of hardcore criminals be provided security. A brigadier of the armed forces of Pakistan lives in cantonment areas, which are restricted to the common man. Why can’t judges be provided with such colonies?
I personally know a judicial magistrate, who has jurisdiction over areas like Kati Pahari which hardcore militants have as their bases. He travels in a Suzuki Mehran without any security and lives at Korangi crossing. If you expect him to rule against militants, putting his family into peril, you must be living in a fool’s paradise. He can’t. He might though, even if you provide him with half of the security that the Government of Sindh’s ‘secretary fisheries’ enjoys. Law and order, after all, is more important than fish. He might, if he lives in a judicial colony restricted to the common man, where hardcore militants cannot target his family. He might if you provide him with the same perks as a bureaucrat or an officer of the armed forces enjoys. Without this, he must be demotivated to act against such militants.
As a lawyer, I feel threatened. I might meet the same fate tomorrow, only to be followed by a strike and some stalwarts of bar politics attending my funereal. I do not want that. I want to be secure at a place where I work. This brings me up to the security of the courts. I am a witness of people with arms walking inside the district courts and the High Court of Sindh. The courts lack adequate security, just a bunch of policeman standing at the entrance to the courts. Will we only act, if God forbid an incident like the Peshawar incident strikes at our courts? How incompetent can the court’s administration and bar associations be? For God’s sake, take action before it is too late. The courts can be a primary target of the militants acting against the state of Pakistan. A tragedy in Islamabad has already struck a court in March 2014. We still haven’t taken any action to increase security for the judges or advocates though.
Rashid Rehman told BBC that he was “walking into the jaws of death” to defend someone accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. Prosecution attorneys warned him, in front of a presiding judge, that he would not attend the next hearing. He did not, since he was martyred. Bar associations kept quiet. No charges were brought against the prosecution attorneys. A lawyer lost his life for the rule of law; nobody seemed to care.
I humbly ask being a lawyer, is my blood this cheap? Does it demand no exertion? Except, of course a strike and a highly attended funeral?
With questions lingering in my mind, I can only express myself by quoting James Patterson from his novel ‘Mistress’:
“Murder can be made to look like suicide, and suicide can be made to look like Murder”
If us lawyers cannot push the bar associations and the government into taking action, we will not be murdered, we will be committing suicide by lack of protest and activism.