Saturday, March 21, 2009

POLITICS/PAKISTAN: Useful lawyers ...

Lawyers are often considered sources of division, as leeches who suck not just blood but even marrow from their communities and their local economies. Lawyers are also seen as futue politicians, yet often another source of division.

But in recent days, Pakistanis are seeing a different side to their legal profession. Lawyers, all suited and booted, are seen marching in the streets, being arrested and even beaten. Their protest concerns the restoration of judges and the rule of law. They want to see democratically elected governments being held accountable. And Pakistanis across rthe nation (and even diaspora cross the world) could keep up with it all on Twitter. Years ago, they were protesting on the same issues during the rule of military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.

All this really came home to me when I recently saw a snippet from a talkback TV show on Pakistan's Aaj TV. One housewife called in to made this observation, which I will translate from Urdu:
It was the lawyers who united our country where once we were so splintered that people with opposing political views wouldn’t even talk to each other.
My paternal grandfather was a criminal lawyer practising in Lahore, who died at a relatively young age of a heart attack whilst cross examining a witness in a murder trial. My father, who avoided a career in legal practice like the plague, was never much keen on seeing me practise law. I've met some pretty nasty lawyers during my 15-odd years practising in Sydney.

But lawyers can (and so often do) make a huge difference behind the scenes holding authorities to account. And lawyers everywhere can feel proud of what their colleagues across Pakistan have achieved. Whether it all makes the difference remains to be seen ...

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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