LAHORE – After completion of one year of their movement, the lawyers are observing ‘Black-Flag Week’ throughout the country from March 9 (today) to protest the sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other judges of superior judiciary through a PCO on November 3, and to emphasise their reinstatement for the sake of rendering judiciary independent.
Previously, President Supreme Court Bar Association Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan had given a call to the legal fraternity all across the country to stage a long march from their respective bars on March 9 and converge at Islamabad where a national convention of lawyers followed by a protest demonstration and move to the Judges Enclave (where Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other judges are detained) was scheduled. However, SCBA President altered the programme and instead of holding long march decided to observe Black Week, realising that the political parties ready to form the government supported the lawyers cause and also there was no new government in sight by March 9 to do the needful.
Hence reversing the option of long march, the lawyers are going to observe Black Flag Week to bring the hardships of deposed Chief Justice and other judges to the limelight as well as to attract the national and international attention to the struggle of attorneys for the independence of judiciary and rule of law. So the Black Flag Week would serve as a constant reminder to the incoming parliament that its top most priority should be the restoration of deposed judges for which the lawyers have been sacrificing for the last one year.
Lawyers have involved so much into their movement which has created a stir at the national and the international level that they are hard to withdraw from their stand unless their demands are met, commented a senior advocate Shahzad Shaukat.
Reinstatement of judges is likely to come up as a first and rigorous challenge before the incoming parliament. According to an observer, the coalition partners need to sit down and do brainstorming on this issue so that they enter the new house with a definite viewpoint on it.
In order to observe the week, legal fraternity has chalked out elaborate programmes, marked by protest meetings, rallies, courts boycott, simultaneous address of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Barrister Aitzaz to the bars throughout the country and conventions, in addition to hoisting black flags at the houses, offices and bars.
Lawyers have good reason to believe that masses also support their cause. Therefore, from the bar side, black flags have also been distributed among general public to elicit solidarity from them so that they would come out to join the lawyers on the street. The fact that people back lawyers’ stand was reflected in the recent elections wherein those parties won which stood by the independence of judiciary, rule of law and demanded restoration of sacked judges, said an observer.
Another feature of the week is to remind the new parliament that it need not to pursue a lengthy and tedious course to undo the November 3 actions of Pervez Musharraf which he took in his capacity of Army Chief.
According to SCBA President and constitutional expert Barrister Aitzaz, the deposed judges could be reinstated through an executive order by the interior minister and there is no need of two-thirds majority in the parliament to scrape the actions of President by amending the Constitution.
Illustrating this to the comprehension of a layman, he says in case November 3 actions are set aside through constitutional amendment, the first need would to deem the same as part of the Constitution. Which means the parliament would itself level the field for an army chief to intervene into the civil side at will, enforce emergency for some time and suspend the Constitution, amend it and after few days lift the emergency and restore the amended constitution for the parliament, which later on, would continue to look for two-thirds majority to strike the amendment down and let the cat and mouse show be started.
The matter is, last elections were also held under the PCO and the point is whether an assembly as its product can avoid question mark against its own status if it would pursue any other means to undo the PCO.
A jurist addressing this proposition says, the PCO has become invalid and the Constitution now stands restored. But the actions taken under the PCO stay in the field. He says the moment assembly session is called according to the existing Constitution, it would start to be regulated by the Constitution of 1973 which would also be the guideline and spirit of the parliamentarians after they swear their oaths under it. Therefore, any decision regarding the acts under the PCO, would not dwindle position of the parliamentarians, he says.
The Black Flag Week is going to give realisation to the incoming government about sentiments of the lawyer community on the restoration of judges. Thus formation of the government and marking of the week intertwine to usher in some major developments aiming at deciding the fate of lawyers’ movement and future political scene. If the government restores judiciary, it will not only give a sigh of relief to the people but also pave way for a stable government, said a constitutional expert.