Lawyers deny split over Panama Papers case


Lawyers deny split over Panama Papers case ISLAMABAD: Senior members of the legal fraternity on Sunday tried to dispel an impression of a division within their ranks over the proceedings of the Panamagate case in the Supreme Court.

Senior counsel and human rights activist Asma Jahangir told Dawn that the judiciary should be able to carry out accountability in the matter of the Panama Papers without fear or favour or any pressure from the streets.

Brushing aside reports that lawyers were divided over the case, former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Kamran Murtaza said the legal fraternity supported complete accountability, starting with the prime minister but also including judges whose names appeared in the Panama Papers or judgements of the Supreme Court itself.

However, the process of accountability should not be politicised and should be held in accordance with the law and due process, he said, adding that court proceedings and its jurisdiction should not be determined in the streets.

New PBC spokesman accuses Farogh Naseem of using his position to ‘rescue’ MQM men

Ms Jahangir also echoed this view, saying: “The pace of this accountability should not be determined in the streets, but through the due process of law.”

She stressed that there was still some doubt over whether the Supreme Court had the authority to unilaterally appoint a commission, even though it had done so in the past to probe the ‘Memo scandal’.

She conceded that the bar was divided over the question of accountability, but claimed that the only sticking point was the inclusion of judges and others in the process. “There are judges whose names have surfaced in the Panama and Bahamas leaks,” she said, adding that holding members of the judiciary to account would purify the institution.

She commended the SC judge who had resigned after a judgement on illegal appointments made in the Islamabad High Court.

There was no doubt that accountability should start from the prime minister and judges, but it should also include members of parliament, as well as senior officers of the armed forces, she stressed.

Meanwhile, Mr Murtaza, who replaced Vice Chairman Farogh Naseem as the Pakistan Bar Council’s (PBC) spokesperson on Saturday, explained that the powers of the vice chairman were fully intact.

However, he claimed that a spokesperson had to be nominated since Mr Naseem had allegedly taken a position in public contrary to the decisions of the majority of PBC members, or without consulting them. Frequent calls for strikes were also issued without taking the members into confidence, he regretted.

Mr Naseem had endorsed the call of the Punjab Bar Council for the resignation of Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, who had taken notice of a lawyer’s misconduct, and had asked the provincial bar council to proceed with the matter.

The Pakistan Bar Council was the supreme regulatory body of lawyers in the country and its vice chairman should not be taking positions on any such case, Mr Murtaza deplored.

He also lamented the vice chairman’s alleged use of his influence to rescue members of his political party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, who were recently arrested for their involvement in the May 12, 2007, violence in Karachi, where several lawyers were killed and injured.

“The PBC is accountable to its community and cannot sit by idly while actions are taken in its name. The council will ensure that its majority is heard and not bulldozed by any member,” he stressed.

Referring to the split in the PBC, Ms Jahangir said it was regrettable that the majority in the council was being marginalised by dragging them to court.


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