Lawless’ lawyers thrash journalists againAugust 7, 2009
Wajih Ahmad Sheikh
Lawyers or Hooligans?
LAHORE: Lawyers on Thursday continued their vandalism against the media, attacking a Geo TV cameraman and other journalists again on the premises of the Lahore High Court.
A few minutes after a two-member bench adjourned the hearing of a suo moto notice on manhandling of a policeman and journalists by lawyers in the sessions court last week, lawyers thrashed the journalists who were covering the case. The lawyers, who were around 500, had gathered inside and outside the courtroom since morning, which reflected their designs. Though there was a sufficient strength of police personnel stationed there to counter any untoward incident, they were removed prior to the adjournment of proceedings on the complaint of lawyers.
The bench adjourned the hearing of the case till Aug 13 after a short proceeding. Immediately after the division bench, comprising Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif and Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, adjourned the proceedings, hundreds of lawyers started shouting slogans and using abusive language against the media and the judges. The lawyers came out of the courtroom and continued hurling abuses at the media persons. Later, they chased the media men towards the parking lot where the DSNG vans of different news channels were parked. The lawyers, led by Lahore Bar Association Vice President MR Awan, attacked the reporters and cameramen and tried to force them out of the court premises.
During their attacking spree, the frantic lawyers kept on using abusive language against the media and the judges, especially against the Lahore High Court chief justice apparently for taking a suo moto notice against the lawyers’ high-handedness. The lawyers pelted stones at vans of journalists and broke the camera of Geo TV cameraman AR Adnan besides thrashing him.
Earlier, during the hearing, senior advocate AK Dogar, appearing on behalf of the accused lawyers, told the bench that a committee comprising lawyers and journalists had been constituted, which would review the facts. The bench also referred 18 references of judicial officers against the lawyers to the Punjab advocate general for his legal opinion.
Meanwhile, in a related development, a four-member disciplinary committee of the Punjab Bar Council restored the licences of four lawyers — Rana Asif, Rana Sajjad, Malik Hanif Awan and Rana Saeed Anwar — involved in thrashing a policeman and journalists in the sessions court.
On Thursday, the disciplinary committee, while declaring the decision of its vice chairman as null and void, restored the licences of the lawyers from the date of suspension. The licences were suspended on July 31 by the PBC’s vice chairman on the directive of LHC Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif.
The committee observed that the vice chairman had no authority to suspend the licences of the lawyers at a time when a fact-finding mission was carrying out its investigation.
Agencies add: Journalists protested against the lawyers at the GPO Chowk and traffic was blocked on the Mall Road.
Attorney General Latif Khosa, while condemning the thrashing of journalists, said the footage showed on the media had made him feel ashamed. He said the lawyers’ leadership should control such incidents.
Talking to the media, the attorney general underlined that the leaders of lawyers should tell their colleagues that without the support of the civil society, the media and the people, they could not succeed in their mission and professional obligations.
The former federal law minister, Dr Khalid Ranjha, also condemned the torture on journalists by lawyers. Talking to a private TV channel, Ranjha said the courts were the symbol of peace and the bar councils should investigate the matter. He demanded action against the responsible. The former federal minister, however, also blamed the media for creating a hype during the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of judiciary.
Mujeebur Rehman Shami said action should be taken against the responsible lawyers; otherwise such incidents in future might create a crisis. He said the lawyers’ leadership had termed the incidents of torture by lawyers on a policeman and journalists a conspiracy but such incidents were recurring.
Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira condemned the violence against journalists by lawyers, terming it a sad incident. He said the government would take measures to prevent such incidents in future.
The minister said: “I will ask the provincial government to immediately communicate with the federal government over the issue and of course they have to take action.”
Supreme Court Bar Association’s former president Aitazaz Ahsan said he would deem himself as suspended from the membership of the Lahore High Court Bar Association. Talking to Geo News, he said he took this step in protest against the manhandling of journalists.
He urged Justice (retd) Nasira Javed Iqbal to take steps in this regard, adding he was writing a letter to her in this connection. Aitazaz said he was a member of the LHC bar since 40 years, adding he could not give up the LHC membership, as he would not be able to practice law. However, he would refrain from using the bar facilities in protest.
Earlier, Aitazaz demanded a befitting disciplinary action against the lawyers involved in the incident. Until it happens, he would not avail the bar facilities.
SCBA President Ali Ahmed Kurd said that manhandling of journalists by lawyers was condemnable and he would take practical steps to avoid such incidents in future. Talking to reporters in Quetta on Thursday, Kurd said lawyers and journalists should not lose temper and try to solve the issue sensibly and urged the lawyers to oust the black sheep from their ranks. To a question, the veteran lawyers’ leader said some elements were behind such incidents just to create differences between the lawyers and journalists.
Commenting on the restoration of licences, Kurd expressed his disappointment, saying the Punjab Bar Council took the decision in haste. Meanwhile, the Balochistan Union of Journalists condemned the torture of journalists, adding they would not tolerate such acts of violence and brutality.
The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists has decided to boycott the coverage of legal fraternity. RIUJ President Shaharyar Khan, while talking to a private TV channel, said it was unfortunate that journalists, who gave live coverage to the lawyers’ movement and rendered unprecedented sacrifices, were being targeted by the same lawyers without any justification.
Sindh journalists also protested against the registration of fake FIRs, misbehaviour and violence against their community. Journalists from Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kamber-Shahdadkot, Mehar, Nasirabad, Naudero, Ratodero, Garhi Yaseen, Sukkur, Khairpur, Ghotki and other districts strongly flayed the restrictions on performing their duties.
Also, the MQM Rabita Committee condemned the alleged attack on a reporter of a private TV channel, Mushtaq Sarki. In a statement on Thursday, the committee termed the alleged incident an attack on the freedom of the press.