IT has unfortunately become the norm in Pakistan for many members of the legal community to display uncouth behaviour a that stands in stark contrast with the lofty ideals of their profession. The latest incident involving high-handedness of lawyers occurred in Karachi, where legal proceedings were paralysed for nearly a week at the City Courts after a dispute emerged between the black coats and a district and sessions judge. The dispute revolved around the arrest of a court watchman, who the lawyers alleged was involved in `criminal activities`. However, the judge got the watchman released, telling the Sindh High Court chief justice that the lawyers in question had tried to encroach upon a piece of land, and the watchman was simply doing his job by stopping them.
As a result of the dispute, litigants had to suffer for almost a week, as cases were not heard due to the lawyers` strike. The lawyers only relented and returned to work when the judge was transferred.
There have been several such incidents nationally in which the legal community has flexed its muscles, much to the detriment of the public and the rule of law. One of the most shameful episodes occurred in 2019, when lawyers attacked Lahore`s Punjab Institute of Cardiology following a dispute with doctors. A number of patients died on account of the ensuing chaos. Moreover, there have been numerous incidents where lawyers have locked judges in their chambers after not getting their way. Such brutish behaviour needs to end. The fact that those who are supposedly most well-versed in the law choose to trample on it is a glaring contradiction. What is more, when lawyers resort to frequent and lengthy strikes, it puts additional strain on our creaking legal system. For example, there are nearly 70,000 cases pending trial in Karachi`s district courts. When legal proceedings are disturbed, the backlog only grows. The leading lights of the legal profession, therefore, need to do more to rein in their unruly colleagues, and teach them how to respect the law.