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‘Its difficult to be a Devil’s Advocate’

27 September, 2007

By Amjad Malik


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Post 9th March 2007 whilst lawyers of Pakistan gathered storm in support of a victim Chief Justice and received nation’s appreciation all around, at the same time a few emerged as devil’s advocate on the national scene too. In adversarial system its common that you have a brief, either for or against and one has to lose the case too and accepting defeat graciously and winning honourably is the key, however its opposite in Pakistan. No one wins or lose normally.

Whilst condemning the acts against Naeem Bukhari, Khalid Ranjha and Wasim Sajjad a few renowned lawyers and a TV star in Pakistan as well as an un called for show of aggression against President’s chief lawyer cum spokesman Mr. Qasuri is condemnable in the highest terms, at the same time, those so called barristers who wish to render their services as devil’s advocate must be aware of the public sentiments which always go against those who argue for their brief as well as publically incite hatred against the popular cause. When a lawyer  represents a case of public interest, criticism of good and bad comes with the job, however when one over represents, one mixes rightly or wrongly one’s representations with one’s aspirations, and same is the case with a few stalwarts as they are never aware when and where to stop. In this context Mr. Pirzada the magician lawyer and S M Zafar are noteworthy as they never go out of their brief. General Musharraf devoid of legal sanctity is without doubt the most disliked legal animal in Pakistan at the moment, declared ‘an endangered species’ by Ms. Bhuttoo and let alone winning, fighting his case is not an easy job and publically representing I believe is the job of his clan of Q.

In my practice in Britain, advocates exchange views, fight their cases in courts tooth and nail  and during breaks or in the end often have a cup of coffee together in the bar room or court lounges. They are always cordial with each other and always show respect to the other side lawyer and at all times address them as ‘my learned friend’. The incident which we are witnessing on television these days of blackening faces are rare in my years of practice in Britain. In fact, there is truly a culture of tolerance, acceptance of each other’s views and accepting defeat in the land where all the barristers are produced. In fact, lawyers as other professionals perform their professional duty and in principle they must not be penalised for performing their professional duty. 

Its a red hearing for those who whilst representing initiate a debate and express personal slanderous views without evidence or justification about past or present popular leadership or a cause. In Pakistan if you wish to be a gutsy lawyer and publicly wishes to say to a bhuttoites that you are the one responsible for sorting him out or declare Shraif’s traitor or call lawyers as foreign agents then either you are mad or you are with beggars’ belief that those who are paying you to represent a case will come to rescue you for your madness. Or it will be highly unlikely that millions of supporters of those individual parties or cause will  welcome you after those remarks with flowers as tolerance level is not that high yet in Pakistan and those who pay will rightly justify their payments for what one reaps for being a devil’s advocate in the end.  

However, the lawyers movement and its leaders must preach sanity and their papers on law must be apt to be considered by main stream political parties for their manifestos in coming elections. If wisdom is not preached at this juncture then the whole argument will fail where thousands of lawyers supported the cause all around the globe. Senior lawyers must consider the sensitivity of the situation, decorum and use their oratory for the sake of Pakistan and nomination of Wajihuddin Ahmed I think is a starting point towards the right direction.

Initiation of spade work early as possible is the message from abroad , as the independence of the whole institution is the aim and it must not be linked with winning one case or restoring one judge.  Nexus of our judges with Generals so far in Pakistan hindered democratic flow and process and the struggle must be for strengthening the institutions rather than promoting individuals. If system is strong enough and is allowed to run at its full capacity with free media and judiciary as monitors, it will automatically start chunking out leadership as is the case in India, Britain and United States.

If these dreams are to be translated in reality then visionary orators must keep their road map to the goal intact. Crucial topics such as appointment of judges via non political and unbiased commission, non controversial non political ethical future lawyers who in the end become  judges, politics free bar, training of lawyers and judges, accountability & financial autonomy of top judiciary including their  protection and true separation of administration from judiciary are the questions which as a overseas Pakistani lawyer I can think of to start with though I know that the true work will start when Ginny is in the bottle and military is shown  exit from the civilian set up. However, what if that happens overnight, therefore lawyers must be ready to play their due role even if the task lands on them all of a sudden.

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