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Lawyers in Pakistan under constant Pressure


AED-EDL, Foundation ›Day of the Endangered Lawyer‹, ELDH, IAPL

Over the past several years many lawyers in Pakistan have been subjected to acts of mass terrorism, murder, attempted murder, assaults, (death) threats, contempt proceedings, harassment and intimidation in the execution of their professional duties. They have also been arrested, detained or tortured, and in some cases the family members of the murdered lawyer have also been murdered. Some lawyers have been threatened with disbarment or had their homes raided by the police. Sometimes Christian lawyers or members of minority sects have been assaulted or threatened with death. The most notorious attack on Pakistani lawyers occurred on August 8, 2016 when terrorists attacked the Government Hospital of Quetta with a suicide bombing and shooting which resulted in the death of 56 lawyers. Since, there has been an alarming increase in the number of lawyers murdered, with nine reported over the past year.


Bilal Anwar Kasi, a prominent lawyer and the president of the Balochistan Bar Association, was shot dead by an unknown gunman on the morning of August 8, 2016 while leaving his home for his office. His dead body was brought to the Government Hospital for autopsy and many lawyers assembled outside. A suspected suicide bombing took place inside the hospital, which was followed by gunfire resulting in many fatalities and injuries (94 people were killed and over 120 injured). Of the 280 practicing lawyers in Quetta at the time, 56 were killed and 92 were injured, consequently a large part of the Balochistan Bar was simply eliminated. Both the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State terrorist group (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack. Initially, IS claimed the responsibility for the attack, however, Jamaat-ul-Ahar, a splinter group of Pakistani militant group Tehrik-i-Taliban, also claimed credit for the attack on Kasi and the hospital. The group threatened that more attacks would take place »until the imposition of an Islamic system in Pakistan«.


Formed on the orders of the top court, Justice Qazi Faez Isa headed up a commission to investigate the circumstances of the attack and issued a report on December 13, 2016, which blamed the government, including the interior ministry, over its failure to take action against militant organizations. However, despite promises made by the provincial government to the families of the slain lawyers the recommendations have not been implemented. In fact, very little progress has been made in the investigation and minimum effort has been made to implement important recommendations. Moreover, Taliban suicide bombers have also attacked courthouses, resulting in deaths and many injuries since August 2016. Considering the fact that the Taliban and other terrorist groups still have a serious presence in many parts of Pakistan and who still carry out frequent attacks on many different targets, Pakistani lawyers face a constant threat of targeted violence, including murder.
The perpetrators of these attacks have been terrorists, religious zealots, the police and unreported sources. There have also been reports that pro-government militias (which still exist today) have been behind some of the murders, and in some cases lawyers have been killed because they are Shia. In response to these repeated attacks, Pakistani lawyers frequently strike, demonstrate, protest and hold boycotts.
The International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL)(1)Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers recorded the following lawyers murdered: Zainullah Khan (March 30, 2018), Sanam Sikandar Umrani (aka Waqar Umrani; May 31, 2018), Zamin Khan (June 6, 2018), Haroon Bilour (August 13, 2018), Yasir (August 15, 2018), Syed Azan Kundi (December 24, 2018), Naizmeen Shah (January 8, 2019), Naila Amjad (January 11, 2019), Asif Hussain (March 1, 2019), Chaudhary Ghazanfar Ali Warraich (May 31, 2019) and Malik Dilawar Hussain (July 17, 2019).
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)(2)  documented a further nine murders or assassinations of Pakistani lawyers in which they intervened, from 2014 until February 2018: Pervez Akhtar (February 7, 2018), Muhammad Idress (February 5, 2018), Rauf Ahmad Thaur Sheikhpura (October 9, 2017), Alia Shenzadi Sheikhpura (May 16, 2017), Saleem Latif Nakana Sahib (March 30, 2017), Mohammad Jan Gigyani (March 4, 2017), Irfan Chauhan and Rana Khalid Abbas (May 25, 2015) and Rashid Rehman Khan (May 4, 2014).
Lawyers from Pakistan have reported the following murderous attacks on lawyers in 2019:
May, 3, brutal murder of Mahr Muhammad Yasin Sahu, Multan (family dispute).(3)
May 31, murder of Chaudhary Ghazanfar Ali Warraich, former president of the Samundri Bar Association (four persons firing on advocate and his client).(4)
June 3, murderous attack on Muhammad Adnan Othi, Chaudhary Shahid Meo, Muhammad Tahir Aslam (three advocates seriously injured and culprits were close relatives of DPO Narrowal [District Police Officer, Punjab] and were not arrested by police).
June 20, murderous attack on Syed Noor Ahmad Shah and nine other advocates in in the admin- istrative district (Tehsil) ĀrifwĀla, Punjab (Tehsil Bar Association).
July 13, murderous attack on Mahr Ghulam Noul. July 16, murderous attack on Basharat Hundal, Rahim Yar Khan (Punjab).
July 17, murder of Malik Dilawar Hussain.(5)
Consequently, our Pakistani colleagues continue to be subjected to acts of violence, and more recently, in early July 2019, a lawyer was seriously assaulted by a judge during a trial, which led to a local strike (›Black Day‹) of lawyers lasting at least a week. At the national level recently there have been repeated strikes by lawyers, especially in solidarity with two judges who have been under attack by Pakistan President Arif Alvi. The latest national strikes organized by the Pakistan Bar Council were held on July 13 and 27, and August 8 when many Pakistani lawyers went on strike to commemorate the Quetta massacre. These were followed by another strike on August 26.


Individual lawyers, like high-profile lawyer Saif-ul-Malook, also continue to face a high risk of death or physical harm. Saif-ul-Malook was targeted with death threats after he obtained the acquittal on appeal of his client, Asia Bibi, who had been on death row since 2010after her conviction for blasphemy. Malook subsequently received death threats and was forced to seek protection from European governments. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan, the judges who overturned her conviction for blasphemy, were also threatened with death.
Malook fled to the Netherlands last November after violent protests erupted over the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Bibi’s 2010 death sentence. He returned to Islamabad on January 26, 2019 to defend Bibi as she faced another and final appeal of the Supreme Court’s decision. The final appeal was rejected at the end of January 2019. Bibi, who has been detained in protective custody, was expected to leave Pakistan as well to seek asylum in Canada (where her children have already obtained refugee status) or a European country. However, the situation was so volatile and violent in the country that she was unable to leave the country for several months. It is reported that Malook is afraid to leave his apartment, and he is in great danger of serious harm or death. […]


Four organizations (IAPL, AED, ELDH the Foundation Day of the Endangered Lawyer, and LRWC) are working close together again to prepare the next day, with full support from the coalition of lawyer organizations and BAR associations as founded this year in Brussels and a large number of other lawyers and BAR associations from all over the world.
Supporters include: Foundation ›Day of the Endangered Lawyer‹, AED, International Association of Peoples Lawyers, ELDH, CCBE, CBE, Institut des Droit de l’Homme (International Institute of Human Rights), several Bar Associations, Avocats Sans Frontières (Lawyers Without Borders), Law Society, CNB.

AED-EDL (Avocats Européens Démocrates-European Democratic Lawyers), Foundation ›Day of the Endangered Lawyer‹, ELDH (European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights), IAPL (International Association of People’s Lawyers). This is a revised and slightly abridged version of the report of the above-mentioned organizations. For the full report, see [19.10.2019]; revisions by Volker Eick.

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