Soon after the coalition government’s tenure came to an end, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) — the apex regulatory body of lawyers — has changed its approach on issues related to national politics.
This was reflected in a PBC statement wherein its Vice Chairman Haroon-ur-Rashid and Executive Committee Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha have condemned the decision of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to delay the general elections beyond the constitutional limit of 90 days because of fresh delimitation of constituencies based on the new digital census.
They expressed grave concerns over this matter and maintained that the schedule of redrawing constituencies issued by the commission was a tactic to delay the polls.
The PBC office-bearers also pointed out that Article 224 of the Constitution made it mandatory for the ECP to conduct the elections within 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies.
They said it was the duty of the commission to conduct free, fair and transparent elections within the stipulated period as mandated by the Constitution.
The regulatory body’s office-bearers reiterated the stance of the PBC, which had always strived for and played its positive role to ensure the continuity of the democratic process in Pakistan, that only free, fair and transparent elections could help the country in overcoming its ongoing worst economic crisis.
Interestingly, the Independent Lawyers Group, which is also known as the Asma Jahangir Group, has the majority in the PBC as well as all provincial bar councils. The senior members of this group played a key role in overthrowing the PTI regime last year.
Later, a senior member of this group, Azam Nazeer Tarar, became the federal law minister.
He successfully managed to gain the favour of the bar for the coalition government and the security establishment also received an advantage in the last couple of years.
On the other hand, the Professional Lawyers Group, which is known as the Hamid Khan Group, largely supports the PTI’s narrative through different means.
It was being expected that a senior member of the Independent Lawyers Group would be given a slot in the acting government as a federal minister and Ahsan Bhoon was a favorite candidate.
The Independent Lawyers Group was expecting the portfolio of the law ministry in the caretaker set-up but it was given to Ahmed Irfan.
Later, Bhoon politely declined to join the caretaker cabinet and accept some other ministry.
After this development, hardliners including Amjad Shah in the Asma Group are in the driving seat.
They are consistently telling their group leadership that their bar politics was being severely affected because of their direct or indirect support of the security establishment’s policies.
They argue that this was the reason behind the PBC losing the last Supreme Court Bar Association’s (SCBA) presidential elections.
The PBC has a huge influence on the superior judiciary. Senior lawyers believe that the PBC’s recent statement will certainly encourage the apex court’s section, which is interested in taking up the SCBA president’s petition seeking directions to the ECP to hold the elections within 90 days.
The pro-PTI Professional Lawyers Group might also gain advantage in this prevailing situation.
One section of the lawyers believes that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties as well as the PPP still have a huge influence on the Independent Group.
It will be interesting to see as to how the security establishment will manage to receive the Independent Lawyers Group’s silent support on the issue of delaying the general elections.