Any Ban On Enrolling Non-Muslim, Ahmadi Lawyers Is Unconstitutional: Pakistan Bar Council

England and Wales Bar was informed that such a restriction on non-Muslims or Ahmadiyya Community members would be against the spirity of the Constitution

Any Ban On Enrolling Non-Muslim, Ahmadi Lawyers Is Unconstitutional: Pakistan Bar Council

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has hinted that lawyers belonging to the Ahmadiyya Community will not be barred from enrolling with the respective bar associations and bar councils, nor would they have to give up their faith to practice law in the country. The council has asserted that the spirit of the Constitution does not advocate a bar of this nature on any Pakistani.

The Pakistan Bar Council's (PBC) view came to the fore after the England and Wales Bar wrote to the former expressing concerns over reports that lawyers in Pakistan who are members of the Ahmadiyya Community were denied admission into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council (KPBC) and the Gujranwala District Bar Association (GDBA) unless they denounced the Ahmadiyya faith. 

As part of its correspondence with the England and Wales Bar, the PBC communicated that any such restriction was incompatible with Pakistan's Constitution and, therefore, void.

"In effect, Ahmadi Muslim lawyers cannot be required to denounce their faith in order to be called to the relevant Bar Council and Association, presently or in future," the England and Wales Bar interpreted from the reply it received from the PBC earlier this year.

The England and Wales Bar further inquired whether the KP Bar Council and the Gujranwala Bara Association had been informed about the illegality of their alleged notifications.

Last year, the KP Bar Council and the Gujranwala District Bar Association issued notifications that barred non-Muslims and Ahmadis from obtaining memberships in the respective bodies and, thus, from legally practising law in the relevant courts. Lawyers from the Ahmadiyya Community were asked to renounce their faith before applying for membership.

Moreover, in April 2023, a 77-year-old lawyer from the Ahmadiyya Community was targeted within the premises of the Sindh High Court by some lawyers on account of his faith. He was accused of hurting the sentiments of Muslims by adding the religiously inclined word 'Syed' as a prefix to his name. However, critics argued that by using the prefix, which is only used by Muslims, the lawyer was trying to pose as a Muslim, and they did not accept that being of the Ahmadiyya faith, he was a Muslim.

Following this incident, England and Wales Bar Chairman Nick Vineall wrote to the Pakistan Bar Council in May 2023 and expressed concerns over the lawyer's treatment.

"The decisions taken in Gujranwala and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to exclude Ahmadi Muslims and non-Muslims from the Bar – and by extension, potentially excluding citizens from access to legal representation – are intentionally discriminatory and seem impossible to reconcile with Pakistan's constitutional principles of religious freedom and equality before the law."

Responding to Vineall's letter in January 2024, the then PBC Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha maintained that they reviewed the matter in light of the Constitution and determined that the notifications issued by the KP Bar Council and Gujranwala District Bar Association carry no legal weight as they are contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and no such notice will be issued in the future.