Pakistan People’s Party had promised in its manifesto of 2013 that once in power they would introduce laws on ethical practice.
Lawyers are responsible for the application of the rule of law in their societies. Lawyers advocate for the advancement of human rights, protect the rights of their clients, and foster the administration of justice. For the fulfilment of these critical principles, lawyers must “all the time act freely and diligently by the law and recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.”
Legal ethics also known as “Professional Responsibility,” is the set of standards required of a lawyer to follow. These measures comprise ethical principals that members of the legal profession owe to one another, their clients, and the court. These principles are honesty, integrity, independence, fair treatment, candour, confidentiality, competence. Though these are shared values practiced worldwide, their interpretation depends on the culture and society where a lawyer practices. Every nation interprets these principles according to its system of ethics and values. These ethics and values are codified in code of conducts, regulations, guidelines, procedural rules and legislation.
The situation in Pakistan as regards to legal community has been precarious. Those considered the guardian of law had been resorting to violence and vandalism to even their score. The problem had grown worse after the successful movement for the restoration of the judiciary. People had finally expected rehabilitation of the broken justice system. But the results produced were entirely different. Arrogance crept in both the Bench and the Bar with the result that they became blinded toward the real issues of litigants. The superior judiciary got busy in reclaiming their domain from the executive, while the lawyers started behaving like a mob with no regard to legal consequences against them. Soon we started having news about lawyers thrashing police officers, journalists, and even senior judges. Strikes became a norm rather than the exception. This fall in the standard of the quality of lawyers led to the further deterioration of the quality justice dispensed in courts.
Several reasons are given for this substandard behaviour by the lawyers, such as: the sorry state of legal education; politics of elections; unjustified and excessive adjournments sought to prolong litigation; pressurising judges through coercion and other means to get judgment of a lawyer’s own choice and last but not the least the boycott of courts.
Minister for law and Prison, Sindh Zia-Ul-Hassan Lanjar, said that it was not in the purview of a provincial government to enact legislation on legal issues. However, the question does arise that in spite of having a substantial presence in both houses of parliament, National Assembly and Senate, why the party never moved any resolution or bill to that effect. In response to this question, the minister agreed that the PPP had failed in keeping this promise by not even raising the issue at the federal level. He, however, emphasised that the PPP government had been giving grants and funds to the Sindh Bar Council for the betterment of the legal profession.
Faisal Wada from Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf and a member of Sindh Assembly told Truth Tracker that the PPP is not in the habit of making any law that would affect its corrupt practices. “The PPP has politicised police, and it has corrupted all those institutions responsible for the maintenance of rule of law and accountability and legal profession is one of them.
“There is no such law in practice in Sindh,” said Wada.
Salahuddin Ahmed, Advocate Supreme Court and former President of Sindh High Court, in a telephonic conversation with Truth Tracker, said that the Sindh Assembly had not passed any such law. He said that the legal system of the country was in need of such laws, primarily to regulate a few areas, because of which he argued, the legal system had weakened and was becoming worse.
“We need to regulate the legal education given to the lawyers. There is need to regulate the system of professional development of the lawyers on a continuous basis. Lastly, we require a law that establishes the system of third-party audit of Bar and Bench, ”said Ahmed.
He added that the rule of self-accountability, under Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan, had failed to deliver any results.
Pakistan People’s Party had not been able to raise its voice in the National Assembly to bring about any such law that would regulate ethical practice in the legal profession. So the promise stands compromised.