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Why Pakistan's lawyers are not marching with Bhutto

Anonymous [advocate, Lahore High Court, Pakistan]: "The legal fraternity in Pakistan so far is absent from the long march or other protests earlier planned by Mrs. Benazir Bhutto. There are a number of reasons why this is so.

Firstly, a Bar Association is a registered body duly registered under the relevant law. It elects its office bearers through elections. Whenever an office bearer considers that a potential theme be placed before the open house of the bar so as to determine the course of action in given circumstances, he would himself or through a trusted colleague put forward a 'resolution' and a day and time would be fixed to debate the issue and finalize the strategy if all the members of the Bar raise their hands in favour. Once a resolution is passed with a consent of the members, then the office bearer also issues a press release that on such and such issue we do or that we do not share views with a political party and/or in addition to this we shall take part in the protest as a 'Bar Association' collectively. The reason why the Pakistan Peoples Party is devoid of Bar's support is the fact the office bearers are either under house arrest consequent to the invoking of Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance 1960, or in police lock up/jail subsequent to the First Information Reports recorded by the police.

Secondly, it is seldom that a Bar Association would in its entirely support a political party through its office bearers in such a manner. There are certain groups in every Bar Association on the basis of caste as well as political affiliations, e.g. Peoples Lawyers Forum belonging to the party of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto. They are not 'registered' under any law and would choose a leader amongst themselves who would necessarily be a lawyer and would have the backing of the elders of the political party. The leader of Peoples Lawyer Forum of Lahore High Court has direct blessings of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto. It is quite customary that such groups would participate in an event without the permission of the office bearers of the Bar Association that they belong to, but they would make it clear that their appearance or participation is not to be taken as participation of Bar Association by any means. A 'Bar Association' always prefers to maintain its separate entity and identity by not aligning with any political party. The groups within serve the purpose.

Thirdly, Mrs. Benazir Bhutto's call for this morning's 'Long March' was jeopardized by the junta before the setting of the sun as last night detention orders were pasted on the face of the house in Defence Housing Authority where she is residing. So she is under protective custody; 900 — 1200 policemen have cordoned off the area. She can not come out; none can visit her either.

However, she is residing at the house of Mr. Latif Khosa, a senior lawyer who is also member of the Senate of Pakistan elected on Peoples Party's ticket. Mr. Khosa has his own fairly large group of lawyers within the Lahore High Court Bar Association as well as the Lahore District Bar. There is every reason to believe that a good number of lawyers would be present at his residence or nearby his residence making futile attempts to reach there. But yes, this is true that the Bar Associations are not taking part in the long march and for obvious reasons."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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