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What Latif Afridi’s SCBA Win Means For Pakistan’s Progressives

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The position of President of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has been a greatly influential one in Pakistan over the past decade or more – especially since the elevation of the late Asma Jahangir to that level of leadership for the lawyers’ community. Now the election of a renowned veteran from the “Asma Jahangir Group”, Abdul Latif Afridi, is being hailed by progressive voices in civil society & the legal fraternity in particular.

Afridi, known affectionately as “Latif Lala” to his supporters, is one of the most senior members of the legal community in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. A former member of parliament, he was known to be affiliated with secular and progressive politics as represented by the Awami National Party (ANP) – as well as his independent and principled stand.

Veteran progressive politician from KP Afrasiab Khattak welcomed Afridi’s election saying:
“The election of Latif Afridi belonging to the Asma Jahangir Group as President of Supreme Court Bar Association is victory for all those struggling for democracy and supremacy of the Constitution.”

Naya Daur Media asked Lahore-based lawyer Usama Khawar to explain the context of Afridi’s election as President SCBA and its significance for progressives in the country. Khawar emphasizes that the “win is significant for symbolic reasons, given the current political climate in Pakistan.” He further notes, “Lala is an old progressive hand and has never shied away from taking difficult cases or stances.”

Khawar says that Latif Afridi’s progressive worldview is reflected in the cases that he had taken up through his career and in his achievements on that front:
“In the recent past, Lala obtained bails for Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir. Recently he obtained a stay against Idris Khatak’s trial in a military court. Earlier he was at the forefront of the Lawyers Movement against General Musharraf’s regime, and while he was being arrested, an APC crushed his legs. More recently, he vociferously opposed the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.”

In his election to President of the SCBA, Afridi defeated defeated Abdul Sattar Khan, nominee of the Hamid Khan-led Professional Lawyers Group.

According to Usama Khawar,
“Most importantly, during his entire election campaign, Afridi positioned himself as an anti-establishment candidate, recounted his democratic credentials and didn’t shy away from naming names in the security establishment. He, in fact, pledged to send them back to barracks. His opponent Abdul Sattar opposed the Pakistan Bar Council’s resolution against the Presidential Reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. Law Minister Farogh Naseem, who is considered close to the establishment and wields significant clout amongst the legal community, in his own right and due to the resources of the state available at his disposal to dole out patronage, opposed Lala tooth and nail – but failed.”

Khawar concludes:
“No wonder, then, that all the parties belonging to the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) endorsed Afridi.”

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Naya Daur