Pakistani Lawyers’ Misconduct Insults The Profession of Lords
The world has been a battleground from the very first day. Fights, skirmishes and wars have plagued our identity and history from the start. Since the dawn of mankind, the earth has stayed this way, and is presumed to stay the same till the last human breaths. Historically, humans resolved disputes through might; the gentlemen with most sharp swords and the latest techniques often emerged as victors – the term gentlemen being deliberately used as women and members of other genders have comparatively turned out to be more peaceful of the lot! After formal states emanated from ruins of barbarity, civilization and so-called civilized methods of dispute resolution dawned on humanity.
In its initial phase, humans regulated their behaviour, and of their contemporaries, through recognized societal norms and state-enacted laws. Like all human inventions, the first attempt wasn’t much fruitful, a major reason being that these laws were enforced from the top i.e. anti-democratically. They also didn’t cover much of human life and its conduct. Therefore, extrajudicial methods of conflict settlements were still norm of the day.
This behaviour, being fructuous neither for the Crown – as most states were headed by monarchs in that epoch – nor for the public at large, wasn’t much adored. During this phase of human society, another method of purportedly doing justice in those days, and of determining the guilt of an accused, was through trial by ordeal. Under the method, the accused were directed to take out a heavy stone out of pots containing boiling water, or something similarly painful to this. If the accused healed shortly after that, which rarely happened, he was said to have God on his side, and therefore innocent. Readers can easily guess as to how inhumane and illogical the states and society in that era were.
It was in this background that the profession of lawyers emerged, for neither duels to death between conflicting parties nor trials by ordeal by state were considered to be just or effective. Informally, lawyers have existed for a very long time, as tales of gentlemen pleading on behalf of another human are a part of recorded Greek and Roman history. But, as it exists in its present shape, the profession is quite novel. The system of litigation that exists in our part of the world is based on Britain’s Adversarial System of Litigation. Under this beautifully crafted system, two versions of the same story are put up against each other in the Court of Law, whereby Barristers or Advocates have to establish before a Judge or Jury that their version of facts of the case is correct, while that of the other has factual as well as legal lacunas present in it. It is still considered a battle by litigating parties, but instead of guns, words are fired, instead of strong marksmanship, razor-sharp wit is required.
At this point, it is necessary to bring light to the question as to who a lawyer is, and what ‘shape’ it is that we have been discussing. Technically, lawyers are professionals having education of the laws of land, and a license to practice as an “Advocate”, “Attorney”, or “Barrister”, depending on which country you live in. After the grant of license, lawyers are allowed to represent litigants, from either side, and charge a fee for such representation. In effect, lawyers charge money from their clients for representing them in a legally sound and professional manner before a Court of Law, Judge, or Jury.
It is however unfortunate that despite having stacks of rules as to how a lawyer should behave in general and before the Court, the conduct of lawyers in Pakistan, and even in India, has been deplorable for quite some time. Men in black uniform behaving like ruffians is a common sight. The events of August 21, 2017, where dozens of lawyers ransacked Lahore High Court’s premises to disrupt contempt of Court proceedings happening against a prominent lawyer shall always remain a part of our profession’s ‘golden history’. This isn’t an isolated episode. A simple Google search with keyword “wuqla-gardi” brings pages of reported news on how mobs of lawyers have attacked hospitals, litigants, police, and even the judges. Every now and then, videos of black uniform clad lawyers attacking and abusing people, surface on the internet. The most shocking of recent history is when lawyers attacked a hospital in Lahore. Vandalism from members of the Bar has, sadly, become the norm. The situation has worsened to an extent that Justice retired Asif Saeed Khosa, Ex Chief Justice of Pakistan, during an address before lawyers requested them that a movement for restoration of dignity of lawyers be commenced.
A lawyer’s stature is established by the calmness of his spirit, sharpness of wit, logic of his arguments, and dignity with which he carries himself. Sad incidents of members of the bar harassing, physically confronting, and even attacking judges, litigants, and the general public are loathsome, and outright disgusting. Therefore, it is time that the Bar and the Bench joined hands to ensure that professionalism instead of vandalism is promoted, and the legal profession is restored to its original position of reverence and honour.
The author is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He tweets @sheraza29