The 1985 non-party elections by general Zia divided the Pakistani society at many levels. The toxic divisions along ethnic and sectarian lines and on the basis of cast, creed, braderies and interest groups have destroyed the social fiber of our society. Often people of the same braderi, ethnic or interest group support each other in all circumstances and situations. If a member of a bradari, interest or pressure group commits a mistake, crime or is on the wrong side of law, her/his bradari is likely to extend their support to the violator ignoring the principles of law, ethics and justice and fairness. Polarization and prejudices lead to madness, insanity. In such an environment peace and harmony become distant dreams. This is happening in Pakistan.
In the aftermath of the dreadful attack on Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology by a mob of lawyers; some members of the lawyer community are justifying the deplorable act, which was in fact a heinous crime committed by the defenders of law in broad daylight and in front of cameras. A doctor’s stupidity can’t justify another stupid act. The attack on the Punjab Institute of Cardiology was not just an irresponsible act or mistake. It was a serious crime. Those who committed the crime or were involved in it in anyway, must face legal action and the consequences of their criminal acts, which have tainted the image of lawyers.
The reaction of some lawyers is reflection of the mentality and culture that has developed in Pakistan as the result of 1985 non-party elections which divided the society into groups, braderis and interest groups. This attitude is not limited to lawyers only. From generals to soldiers, civil servants, doctors, teachers, journalists all react and respond in the same manner. This has become an acceptable behavior. Sometimes one doesn’t agree with her/his community’s actions or attitude but in public they support any wrongdoing or inappropriate actions of their community or colleagues because this is expected of them by being member of a particular group or community. Otherwise they are named and shamed.
It requires courage, vision and a lot of empathy to disagree and even condemn wrong actions of your “own”.
In a normal and healthy society horrible incidents like the attack on a hospital by lawyers wouldn’t take place in the first place. In case, an illegal act is committed by the people of the same profession or community, the other members of the community or group won’t support that action because it’s committed by “one of us”. But Pakistan is not a normal or healthy society. Even so the whole country is shocked to watch lawyers blatantly violating the law and vandalizing a hospital.
Lawyers are custodians of law. They are expected to stand with the law and ensure justice. As defenders of the Constitution and human rights, their conduct must be exemplary. They must always show restrain when registering a complaint or staging a protest. The public look at lawyers for lawful and appropriate conduct. Lawyers and indeed no group, community or person is above the law.
We should not paint a whole community negatively because of the irresponsible actions of some. However, it is a matter of concern that hooliganism, vandalisation and threatening behavior involving lawyers as a community is an emerging pattern, particularly after 2007.
The Lahore incident is a soul searching and reflection opportunity for the lawyer community. They can take the lead by coming up with a code of behavior in case lawyers face injustice, unfair treatment or a challenge anywhere in Pakistan. This ‘Code of Conduct, Behavior’ for registering protest and staging peaceful agitation could be used by any people or community during protests for their rights or genuine demands.
Protest and struggle for rights is healthy human action, reaction but if protesters commit human rights violations, cause hurt and pain to innocent citizens or damage public and private property; they become violators, offenders and lose moral authority. Their acts should be condemned and rejected and they must face legal action.