Latest in the series, attack on Lahore’s newsmen: Lawyers fail camera trial
By Muhammad Asghar
LAHORE: The whole country reverberated with calls of accountability and justice after a group of lawyers attacked two journalists at the city’s sessions court on Thursday.
According to eyewitnesses, the lawyers were incensed by television channels’ reporting of an incident a day earlier which had projected black coats humiliating and beating up a policeman in uniform at the same courts. The images were telecast far and wide and drew protests from people at large over the singularly inhuman attitude shown by the attacking lawyers against the policeman, an assistant sub-inspector whose case is now pending with court.
On Thursday, a bunch of lawyers assaulted the reporter and cameraman of television channel City-42, which had filmed the Wednesday’s assault on the policeman. The lawyers targeted reporter Shaheen Attiq and cameraman Nasir soon after they reached the sessions courts on assignment. They snatched the camera from Nasir and declared that the media’s entry into the sessions courts had been banned.
Reporter Shaheen managed to get the camera back and asked Nasir to leave. The lawyers, however, pulled Nasir out of his office van as he was leaving the sessions courts, and subjected him to violence. He received a head injury, his shirt was torn and his camera was badly damaged.
The court reporters protested against the incident at the Lahore High Court and decided to boycott the coverage of the lawyers’ activities starting with the People’s Lawyers Forum elections being held there.
Talking to a delegation of print and electronic media reporters in the afternoon, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif described the torture of journalists by the lawyers as regrettable and shameful. He said he was perturbed on watching the manhandling of a policeman by the lawyers on television a day earlier.
He said he had told the leaders of the bar that the lawyers involved in violence were bringing a bad name to the profession and depriving it of the prestige earned during the movement for the restoration of the judiciary.
The chief justice called Lahore High Court Bar Association President Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal (retired), Supreme Court Bar Association Secretary Shaukat Umar Pirzada and Lahore Bar Association President Rana Zia Abdul Rehman who apprised him of their concern over the violence of lawyers against the journalists. He also contacted Punjab Bar Council Vice-Chairman Asif Ali Malik by telephone and asked him to take disciplinary action against those involved in the attack on journalists.
The Punjab Union of Journalists and the Lahore Press Club decried the violence by lawyers against the media and called upon Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the LHC chief justice to take suo motu notice of the incident.
The assault, latest in a series involving the lawyers in the past few days, drew widespread criticism, the voice of the lawyers’ leaders being the feeblest among them. In Lahore, while a number of people called for shunting out the black sheep from among the black coats, leading lights of the bar fell well short of a categorical condemnation of the violence; their approach was only marginally different from to the stance they had taken on some recent occasions where the lawyers had appeared to be the perpetrators of violence against those challenging their ‘authority’.
The remarks emanating from the bar following Thursday’s violent act were similar to the ones made in the wake of the lawyers’ battles with the revenue staff a few weeks ago in Faisalabad and a slightly less intense fight with the Wapda officials in Kasur a few days later.
After the Wednesday’s public beating of the ASI at the sessions court in Lahore, some lawyers’ leaders had expressed doubts about the identity of the attackers even though the faces were splashed all over the channels for many minutes for anyone who cared to recognise.
The police said it had a case registered against five lawyers — Rana Asif Raza, Rana Saeed Anwar, Malik Muhammad Hanif, Sajjad Afzal and Mehr Jehangir — who got interim bail till Aug 10 in connection with the attack on the policeman. The lawyers on Thursday approached Additional District and Sessions Judge Malik Rafiq for registration of a counter-case against the ASI on charges of abusing them for today.
The AD&SJ issued notice on the application for Friday but the lawyers insisted that a notice may be issued for Thursday. This infuriated the lawyers and they tore up the file containing their application.