Lawyers from across Pakistan on Thursday showed unity in passing a resolution demanding that all state institutions operate within their constitutionally defined boundaries and that general elections should be held within the constitutionally stipulated 90 days.
However, the community split on when it would launch its vaunted 'Lawyers' Movement' with conflicting dates offered.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on Thursday organised an "All Pakistan Lawyers' Convention to Protect, Defend and Preserve the Constitution, Rule of Law and Human Rights" in Islamabad.
At the culmination of the convention, the SCBA issued the resolution adopted by the lawyers from across Pakistan.
The resolution stated there is an alarming and ongoing blatant disregard for the principles of justice, the authority of courts, and compliance with judges' orders.
It added that it was imperative to ensure that general elections are conducted within the constitutionally prescribed timeframe of 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies.
However, it expressed concern about how the Constitutional timelines for holding general elections were being disregarded and ignored by institutions which had been "created and established by the Constitution itself for the purpose," thus creating a constitutional void and chaos.
The resolution further stated how Pakistan was passing through "one of the most critical periods in its constitutional and political history" wherein the constitutional dispensation is under "serious threat and judicial verdicts are being trampled upon".
Accusing law enforcing agencies and institutions of "violating and undermining the human rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution," the resolution said that recent forced disappearances have raised serious concerns.
"It is constitutional duty to ensure the protection of fundamental rights with equality for all citizens," the forum reminded, and went on to condemn the repeated arrests of political leaders and dissenting voices, recognising these actions as an "abuse of power and political victimisation."
The 15-point resolution demanded that every institution in Pakistan operating under the Constitution "cannot make even the slightest deviation therefrom."
Emphasising the importance of civilian supremacy, adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law, it demanded that general elections be held within the 90 days identified by the Constitution.
"General elections are required to be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies is concerned, and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and all other institutions required to act in aid of ECP are under constitutional duty to do so" the resolution read, adding that caretaker governments can not go beyond 90 days, that after that they become unconstitutional and illegal.
"The caretaker governments in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have already become unconstitutional and are liable to be removed," it read.
It stressed that the armed forces and their officials of all ranks were bound to act strictly per the Constitution and the laws framed thereunder and that they were bound per their constitutional oath not to indulge in any political activity whatsoever.
It further demanded that all citizens currently in the custody of the military or intelligence agencies be transferred to the custody of the relevant and concerned civil law authorities for their presentation before civilian courts.
"All arrests, detentions and harassment of ladies for the last few months or so are strongly condemned, and those found responsible for such acts be punished under the law," it added.
The lawyers also condemned the recent hikes in electricity and petrol prices. They said that the phenomenal rise in the prices of electricity, oil, gas, sugar and other commodities of common use should be withdrawn and reduced, and relief be granted to the common people of Pakistan on this behalf forthwith.
During the convention, lawyers gave passionate speeches.
Date for movement
However, the lawyers appeared to be divided on a date for launching their movement.
SCBA, in a subsequent statement, announced that all bar associations across the country would observe a country-wide strike while staging peaceful protest demonstrations and rallies.
But the Pakistan Bar Council, a national body representing all lawyers, their All Pakistan Lawyers Representatives Conference (Independent Lawyers Group) has already called a strike for Saturday, September 9.
It remains to be seen whether both strikes go ahead or if one of the strikes is sacrificed for the other.
SCBA upcoming elections preparation or something else:— Hasnaat Malik (@HasnaatMalik) September 7, 2023
Lawyers bodies are divided on the date of strike. SCBA's All Pak Lawyers Convention ( Professional Lawyers Group) has announced to observe countrywide strike on September 14 while PBC's All Pak Lawyers Representatives… https://t.co/mI4pRRwX1N pic.twitter.com/abgDnVqq5T