The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on Thursday urged bar associations to observe a nationwide strike on Sept. 9 (Saturday) to call for upholding the rule of law, release of political prisoners, end of the military’s role in politics, and effective measures to address ongoing economic turmoil.
In a resolution issued after a convention of the body, the lawyers’ body emphasized civilian supremacy and claimed all bar councils would protest to defend and uphold the Constitution and rule of law. However, it is unclear if it draws support from all bar associations, as the Pakistan Bar Council skipped the convention despite an invitation by SCBA President Abid Zuberi.
The resolution said the Constitution was supreme and applied to every institution in Pakistan without deviation. Specifically referring to the Army, it said the officials of all ranks were bound to act strictly in accordance with the Constitution and not indulge in any political activity whatsoever. It also opposed the trial of civilians in military courts, maintaining all citizens were entitled to a fair trial. It said military courts negated due process and other fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
“All citizens being kept in the custody of military or intelligence agencies be transferred to the custody of the relevant and concerned civil law authorities for their presentation before civilian courts,” read the resolution, while also demanding the release of anyone detained “illegally” due to political affiliation. “Those responsible for their illegal arrest and detention should be proceeded against in accordance with law,” it said.
Referring to women supporters and leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who have been detained since the May 9 riots, the lawyers body condemned their “arrests, detentions and harassment” and demanded those responsible be punished under law. The SCBA also condemned the alleged harassment of advocates performing their professional duties and demanded action against those responsible.
The resolution stated that the government, nor any of its institutions or officials, should be allowed to induce, pressure or influence any judge for obtaining desired judicial verdicts and those found attempting to do so should be strictly punished under law. It said all judicial verdicts of the courts should be enforced and implemented in letter and spirit, adding anyone who defied such orders should be strictly punished under law. It further stressed all citizens are equal before the law and no military, civil or judicial office-holders should be granted privileges such as free fuel, transport, electricity, gas.
The SCBA also called for relief to the general public in prices of electricity, oil, gas, sugar and other commodities. Acknowledging the gravity of the economic situation, it invited all stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue to find solutions to address the situation.
The resolution further demanded general elections within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly, stressing any caretaker government exceeding this period was unconstitutional.
Ahead of the resolution, various senior lawyers addressed the gathering and called for all institutions to remain within their constitutional limits. Veteran lawyer Hamid Khan, who is affiliated with the PTI, said the only way to resolve the country’s problems was strict adherence to the law and the Constitution and enforcement of fundamental rights. “The armed forces are the creature of the Constitution and it is their duty to remain confined within the four walls of the green book,” he said.
SCBA President Abid Shahid Zuberi, also affiliated with the PTI, demanded Article 6 (treason) be invoked against the chief election commissioner for not adhering to the Supreme Court judgement of holding elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on May 14. Similarly, Sardar Latif Khosa, part of PTI chief Imran Khan’s legal team, demanded contempt proceedings against former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, as well as the ministries of law, defense, and interior for not implementing the Supreme Court judgement to hold the Punjab assembly elections on May 14.
Aitzaz Ahsan, meanwhile, urged Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial to issue a ruling on military trials of civilians before his retirement. He also declared the CEC a “violator of the Constitution” for not holding general elections on time.