Lawyers Divided On Panama Papers Investigation

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ISLAMABAD: Division appears to have crept into the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). A majority of the 22-member SCBA will respond to the call of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) by attending the May 5 representatives convention of lawyers but rest of the association members, including its President Rasheed A. Razvi and Secretary Aftab Bajwa, have called their own conference on May 20.

On April 29, the PBC, the supervisory body of lawyers, had called the representatives convention of lawyers on May 5 in the aftermath of April 20 Supreme Court judgement in the Panama Papers case. The convention was arranged to streamline and give a direction to the calls by different bar associations to observe countrywide strike coupled with demands that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should step down.

But SCBA president Razvi told reporters here after presiding over a meeting that the PBC had convened the convention in haste without taking into confidence other bar councils and bar associations.

“We will request the PBC as well as the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) to consider postponing their conventions of May 5 and 13, respectively, instead both like others should attend SCBA’s meeting of May 20,” SCBA president Razvi said, adding that this would help devising a unanimous strategy and a common resolution.

The bar councils and associations needed time so that when they attended the convention they should come out with a concrete and unanimous opinion of the respective body which was only possible if they could hold a proper meeting in advance, the SCBA president said.

It is the job of the PBC, being a mother body, to bring along the entire bar associations of the country.

But SCBA’s Vice President from Sindh Shabeer Shar said 15 members of the association will attend the May 5 PBC convention saying “we do not want to become a tool in the hands of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf”.

Shabeer Shar, who belongs to the Pakistan Peoples Party, said today’s meeting had rejected by majority a demand asking the prime minister to resign till the time the six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which the Supreme Court would appoint soon to probe into the veracity of allegations stemming from the Panama Papers scandal against the prime minister and his children.

During SCBA elections last year, the current president was the nominee of the Hamid Khan group — a senior lawyer who also happens to be the vice president of the PTI. The majority members of the association belong to the Asma Jahangir group like the current vice chairman PBC Ahsan Bhoon who also being to the Asma group.

On the other hand SCBA Secretary Aftab Bajwa told Dawn that the SCBA would not be attending the conventions called by PBC and LHCBA since both the decisions were not made during full house meetings.

The real purpose behind the May 20 meeting was to prevent any show of division or dissent among the lawyers’ body at this crucial juncture, Mr Bajwa said.

On the other hand Mr Razvi explained that the SCBA would soon commence a contact campaign in which it would approach different bar councils and associations to convince them to attend the association’s May 20 convention.

When reminded that the PBC was a regulatory body of lawyers, Mr Razvi said the SCBA had a fresh mandate of lawyers since it was elected during the 2016 elections whereas the current PBC body was elected in 2014.

He said it was in the genes of the advocates that they would only support democracy and the rule of law. Any kind of military rule or martial law whether soft or worst kind will always be resisted and opposed like in the past.

Mr Razvi was also bitter over the inclusion of seasoned officers of the Military Intelligence (MI) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the six-man JIT, adding that when no members of the judiciary or representatives of the civilian were ever included in the military courts which tried officers of the armed forces then why military officers were being included in the probe team to investigate a civilian.

In his opinion, the SCBA president said, the proper procedure would be to appoint the judicial commission but he hastened to add that it was his personal view and not that of the entire SCBA.

Courtesy: Dawn

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