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Naeem Bokhari and Larger Lessons for Pakistan’s Justice System

Posted on September 26, 2007
Filed Under >Raza Rumi, Law & Justice, People, Society
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Raza Rumi

Adil’s post on Kasuri incident has prompted me to recall the recent thrashing of Naeem Bokhari by his peers.

That Mr. Naeem Bokhari, documented a nasty invective against the Chief Justice of Pakistan remains a tragic event in our recent history. This letter, wittingly or unwittingly became a basis for that notoriously illegal reference against the top judge of the country. Bokhari should not have become a party to the typical power games as an officer of the court and he needs to explain much more than he already has.



What happened thereafter is all too well known to be repeated here. The apex court backed by the public opinion restored the honour of its Chief and effectively altered the destiny of this country. A new beginning was scripted by the citizenry with immense faith in the Constitution and its guardians. Never has the predatory executive suffered such a blow in Pakistan’s turbulent history. Ordinary, unlettered Pakistanis, joined in to conclude that due process was something intrinsic, vital and non-negotiable. Exactly after a week the Lord Chief Justice was reinstated by his brothers, while addressing a seminar, he noted:

“The last four months in our national history have changed something forever. I feel proud to say that not only the judiciary and 90,000-plus black-coated fraternity, but the entire civil society is ready to sacrifice everything to uphold the Constitution and achieve rule of law…”

A few days later, we read the news that Bokhari was manhandled by his ‘black-coated’ fraternity when he re-appeared in the Courts after a long break. Naeem Bokhari broke the silence and wrote in The News on what exactly transpired on that fateful day when the Rawalpindi lawyers’ “fury” resulted in his humiliation and ruthless thrashing. Bokhari’s license was canceled during the lawyers’ movement and later a High Court Judge had suspended that decision. However, when Bokhari tried to argue in a Rawalpindi Court, the secretary of the Rawalpindi Bar stated that the High Court order had been “passed by a Shia judge, who according to another lawyer was a tout.” Later, some of the lawyers were ready to strip him naked and thrash. The police intervened in this process but according to Bokhari the lawyers wanted his “physical custody.”

Bokhari painted a harrowing picture of his treatment. He alleges that he was “forcibly pushed out of the courtroom and hit on the head again and again.” At the end of this mob frenzy, Bokhari and his associate were severely beaten. Symbolically Bokhari’s coat was snatched and his shirt was torn. Humiliating as it is, the whole incident is reminiscent of tribal notions of justice.

While the misgivings against the perceived collaborators of the executive may be justified, such abusive treatment is not. It is plainly out of the ambit of the laws and code of conduct under which the legal profession is regulated. In fact, such incidents can taint the heroic image that the lawyers’ bodies have earned through their relentless, spectacular struggle.

Having said that, Bokhari’s contention is a little shaky that he will not apologize for his letter for which he considers “answerable to the court, not to any mob.” He is definitely not accountable to mobs but his letter was neither benign nor factually correct.

Now that the legal fraternity has won its prime battle and an independent Supreme Court and political process will tackle country’s quagmire, it is time that the Bar leaders should pay attention to the long-neglected issues concerning regulation and internal accountability of the legal profession.

The state of legal education barring a few elite institutions mirrors the general collapse of the education system. Bar Councils hold uneven entry examinations and relaxed entry policy is doing more harm than good to the profession. Countries such as Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka have improved legal education and Bar-entry examinations. We are lagging behind in this respect; and resultantly the quality of entrants is not the best. Similarly, action against erring lawyers is not always certain as the politics and electoral prowess of Bar subgroups (often organized along the lines of caste or sect) impede the process. These issues are well known to the legal community and they have the best solutions to correct this situation. This is the best time for the Bar leaders to take tough decisions to reform the way their profession is regulated.

If Bokhari’s story is true, then to uphold professional reputation and ethics, the Bar should question the members of fraternity who handled their “foes” – Bokhari and Kasuri among others – in a feudal manner. Would it be too much to ask that the Supreme Court should take suo moto notice of this incident and reaffirm that it is the ultimate guardian of constitutional rights and that it will not let its law-officers, especially in their name, behave the way an unaccountable executive governs.

And, Mr Bokahri, will have to set the record straight and apologize to the Court for unduly scandalizing the highest officer holder of the judiciary.

Raza Rumi blogs at Jahane Rumi

40 Comments on “Naeem Bokhari and Larger Lessons for Pakistan’s Justice System”

  1. ayesha sajid says:
    September 26th, 2007 3:01 pm

    perhaps the exalted judicery is not so exalted after all !!
    they are from amongst us … they err as we do so lets not try looking for demi gods to set us right. As a nation, only we ourselves can set ourselves on the right path.

  2. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    September 26th, 2007 3:05 pm

    Naeem Boukhari belongs to the same judiciary system as that
    of CJ, they all belong to that vicinity which can be as unpredictable as the President. God save the jura !!

  3. Mutazalzaluzzaman Tarar says:
    September 26th, 2007 3:17 pm

    what is with the nonstop sympathy for treacherous scum like Bohkari and Kasuri? is decency and class only required of us? what about the “government” and the establishment? do the military and its innumerable chamchas also need to respect any norms observed in civilized societies?

    Bokhari wrote that letter because he was paid off by our brave generals. Kasuri is charging millions for his “legal” services. these two are tools of this dictatorship. they are part of the process being used to subvert the political and democratic will of the people of Pakistan. effectively, they are part of Musharraf’s treason. any punishment they get is too little to my mind. Bokhari deserves much more than a beating and having his shirt torn off. Kasuri deserves much more than just black paint on his face.

    btw, why aren’t there posts condemning the murder of Hammad Raza here? he was killed by the “government”. it was a state-ordained murder in cold blood. his blood is on the hands of the dictator general. what about Raja Riaz? he was murdered by more “government” thugs – God bless MQM. who will give him and his family justice? both were good men – killed because they stood up against the army and its “government”.

    people cry about beatings and black paint. Bokhari didn’t die because of the beating. Kasuri didn’t die because of the black paint. Raja Riaz died. Hammad Raza died. why? because they were against the “government” that traitors like Bokharis, Kasuris and Pirzadas help prop up every time a military dictator decides that he wants to install himself as zill-e-elahi for life.

    if the courts, etc will not take action against enablers of dictatorships like Bokhari, Kasuri and Pirzada, then people will. they are traitors who sell out to any general that comes to the fore. any punishment they get is too little.

    the rules of civilized behaviour and fair play were abandoned a long time ago. one party can’t be expected to hold itself to saint-like standards while the military and its instruments conduct themselves like the criminals and murderers that they are.

  4. Daktar says:
    September 26th, 2007 3:48 pm

    Adil, I guess the last comment proves your point from the last post. The argument is always the same: because someone else is worse so I have a right to be bad. Odd logic, I can act badly becasue others even even worse than me!

    Those who preach violence for their cause end up validating violence against them.

  5. Ayesha says:
    September 26th, 2007 4:00 pm

    “Would it be too much to ask that the Supreme Court should take suo moto notice of this incident and reaffirm that it is the ultimate guardian of constitutional rights and that it will not let its law-officers, especially in their name, behave the way an unaccountable executive governs.”

    a pertinent suggestion!

  6. Kasim Mahmood says:
    September 26th, 2007 4:04 pm

    How about an explanation to the nation, Mr. Bokhari ?

  7. chief sahib says:
    September 26th, 2007 4:08 pm

    Even the lawyers choose mob violence over law.
    First we dirtied religon by mixing it with politics, now we will dirty law (not the absence of, but the law itself) by making it political. Army came to politics never left, the bearded ones came and never left, now the black coats will come and never leave. Our poor country is running out of places to take a beating on.

  8. Hammad says:
    September 26th, 2007 4:20 pm

    1) The general behavior and comments of Raza Kasuri, Sher afgan, Wasi zafar etc is shameful.

    2) “Guards of Law” (i.e. Lawyers) , reacting to them by voilence is terribly shameful.

    3) People here actually defending lawyers based on point 1) is horribly terribly shameful.

  9. September 26th, 2007 5:25 pm

    Raza saab,

    Interesting post as usual, I still say all of this hatred on both sides is as a result of our revered General’s insistence in raping the constituition for his own personal ends. If this was not the case a reasoned debate can take place on both sides, maybe some reading of Rumi on both sides will be the tonic!

    Also did you read my open letter to General Musharraf, its link is here – http://www.otherpakistan.org/today2.html

    Feimanallah

    Wasim

  10. Classof71 says:
    September 26th, 2007 5:27 pm

    I personally dislike Naeem Bukhari because he behaved in an insulting way towards Perveen Shakir a few days before her accidental death.

    In any case for whatever personal reason which I will not go into, Mr Bukhari joined the Pervez Musharraf camp, the repeated assaults not just on him but on a number of lawyers belie the mistrust the legal professiona place in themselves and in the judiciary…even now.

  11. zakoota says:
    September 26th, 2007 5:49 pm

    Mutazalzaluzzaman Tarar,

    Very rightly said, my views are not different from yours.

  12. syed ali raza says:
    September 26th, 2007 7:02 pm

    naeem bokhari wrote a letter the GOVT took suo moto action plz pardon the pun, but wait if all of what is posted on this single forum is correct can some one plz tell me what is the alternative for MUSH, well ladies & gents there is none, u might get what u wish for, & from what i often read on this forum it seems like that the majority is yearning for the dark & desperate times of BOTH “NOT SO” SHARIF & BB “GUN”. Plz don’t even mention IMRAN “CON” a one seater with “- ” credibility, & if u really want to know the mental state of majority of PAKISTANIS search NAEEM on YOU TUBE & just read the enlightened views of the lowest common denominators which unlike many here are the majority enuff said.

  13. Harris Siddiqui says:
    September 26th, 2007 9:06 pm

    The treatment given to Naeem Bukhari was shameful to say the least. In one of my friends’ words ” Pakistani lawyers are nothing more than stamp paper ke dalal.” I don’t know why people of Pakistan even gave them any credit in the whole Chief Justice saga.

    The bar councils in Pakistan are nothing more than wings of the political parties and the office bearers are nothing more than political dogs in black coats unleashed by the owners. For those who say that since Pakistan was created by a lawyer, only the law fraternity can save it; I have just one thing to say, find me one lawyer who is worthy enough to clean the boots of the creator of Pakistan with his tongue and then I may be convinced.

    What Naeem Bukhari did was shameful and I disagree with his decision to write that letter, but manhandling people that you don’t agree with just shows how uncivilized a nation we are.

  14. SH Kavi says:
    September 26th, 2007 10:15 pm

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  15. Adonis says:
    September 27th, 2007 1:35 am

    “Bar subgroups (often organized along the lines of caste or sect) ”

    Nothing could be further from truth. There are political groupings among lawyers but groupings based on caste or sect are extremely rare.

  16. chirand says:
    September 27th, 2007 5:40 am

    Raza, thank you for this post, its so important to see both sides of the story. No one is an angel here.

    Personally, I felt heartbroken after watching these self proclaimed protectors of the democracy and constitution turn into thugs. such intolerance!

  17. Babar says:
    September 27th, 2007 8:28 am

    Well written .. this situation is depressing because no one has taken the right approach. Very representative of Pakistan society today. BTW there should be more written about Hammad Raza’s death.

  18. Raza Rumi says:
    September 27th, 2007 10:19 am

    Dear readers
    many thanks for all the comments. I just wanted to raise this issue – there are legal remedies for such a situation – by taking the law into their hands, the defenders of the law and constitution are setting dangerous precendents.

    Well, there is no ‘sympathy’ here for any individual. There is a simple articulation of a principle – rule of law – that we all ostensibly hold close to our hearts.

    Hammad Raza’s tragic death has been investigated and apparently the murderers have been arrested and identified. there were press reports that the family had also identified them..

    And someone remarked that he had taken money or joined a camp, well all of these charges have to be proved before we start punishing the guilty on streets
    or worse start blackening the faces of the accused like tribal jirgas/panchayats do -

  19. Raza Rumi says:
    September 27th, 2007 12:44 pm

    Wasim Saheb:
    thanks for the link. I just read your passionate letter.
    Hope it has the desired impact.
    thanks

  20. September 27th, 2007 12:58 pm

    Raza saab,

    Thanks for the kind words, I doubt it will have the desired effect but its my bit for national service.

    For readers who missed it – see ‘ An Open Letter to President Musharraf – Pakistan or Musharraf First’ by clicking this link http://www.otherpakistan.org/today2.html

    Feimanallah

    Wasim

  21. S.Rizvi says:
    September 27th, 2007 6:59 pm

    As a senior attorney myself of Pakistani origin, practicing in the US for over 17 years, I am outraged at how a senior lawyer, Naeem Bukhari was brutally and shamefully assaulted in a Pakistani court. I am no friend of Mr. Bukhari and find his notorious letter writing stunt absolutely despicable. But at the same time, I firmly believe in what Voltaire once said, some thing along these lines: Although I abhor what you said, but Iwould still fight for your right to say it till my last breath.

    The perpetrators responsible for such outrageous acts must be identified and brought to justice. Also, the local and national bar associations in Pakistan must come out strongly and unequivocally on this issue, and must categorically condemn such barbaric acts with one voice.

    At the same time, without meaning to dilute the seriousness and gravity of this incident, I must add that one ought to resist the temptation of indicting the entire legal community on the basis of some isolated incidents.

    We all have our shares of bad apples in our respective professions.

    And after all, the Pakistani legal system and Pakistani legal community do not operate in isolation; they both absorb and exert certain influences ( good, bad, and ugly) prevalent and embedded in our culture, and society at large. In Pakistan, the entire society has a lot to catch up with and a long way to go in all spheres of human activity.

  22. Syed Fareed Ali says:
    September 27th, 2007 8:39 pm

    The lawyers are no saints and this behavior is expected of them. Just consider the plight of traffic policemen who dare to stop a lawyer who violate traffic rule. Many policemen have been kidnapped and given a thrashing by these exalted lawyers in the bar rooms of courts for this thing. It is therefore not a surprise that they thrashed Naeem Bokhari and then one of them sprayed black paint on Kasuri’s face.

    What is needed is a realization that lawyers also have to be law abiding citizens subject to same rules and regulations that the ordinary citizens are. Being lawyers does not give them the license to break laws and thrash their own colleagues and hapless policemen. The sooner this realization sets in not only lawyers but also other pressure groups like the journalists the better it will be for their own profession.

  23. SM says:
    September 28th, 2007 5:34 am

    Lets look at …… who like to become lawyers in Pakistan “by choice” these days after they are done with high school?

    Aren’t they the ones those who did not get admission in other disciplines?
    This profession is not like old times, when we saw Qaid-e-Azam and other great lawyers like to adopt it on priority and try to excell in their fields.
    So…. Should we expect something good?

  24. AAK says:
    September 28th, 2007 3:03 pm

    Is this the frustration that manifests itself in a mob frenzy if suppressed for too long? What follows it, is any one

  25. The Amenable One says:
    September 28th, 2007 3:04 pm

    there is no excuse for jungleepun and jahalat, whether it is committed in the US or in Pakistan. I was appalled by the way the academia at Columbia University and the mainstream media treated the Iranian Premier. Wahan pay verbal slaps deliver huay. Aur yahan pas asal thuppar. The treatment of Naeem Bokhari is no less than the way Ahmadinejad was treated in NY.
    And mind you i am not exactly beholden to either of them. Both are pandering to their own agenda but there are norms of behaviour and etiquette that in this day and age are largely missing!!

  26. Zia H says:
    September 28th, 2007 3:08 pm

    While i condemn lawyers armstwisting their colleague so ruthlessley but i also wish to see people like Mr Bokhari to be mindful of the consequences of their such blatant collusiveness with the establishment. His fault was that he disrespected highest post in judicial hierarchy. He was neither serving his duty as a law officer nor following acceptable civilised norms when he accused a sitting chief justice of baseless and concocted stories clearly denied by those he refered as evidences. He deserved a legal challenge to charges he hurled at CJ and not the physicial abuse he was subjected to.

  27. farzana hamid says:
    September 30th, 2007 8:16 pm

    I think whats going on in our country is shameful..the way the lawyers handled Naeem Bokhari shows the world how uncivilized and unruly we are as a nation.
    How we disrespect and treat our own people is apalling..i guess then we shouldnt be alarmed or shocked if we are treated like dogs in other countries.

  28. Naeem Bokhari says:
    October 1st, 2007 2:26 am

    I am responding to Raza Rumi

  29. Assad says:
    October 1st, 2007 3:59 pm

    Wow…. Naeem Bokhari responds!
    I am impressed that he has taken the time to do so. The response seems to be the same argument he has made in his opeds.
    Naeem Bokhari sahib, I must say that from this it seems that you are still not grasping the level of and reasons for the people’s anger at you. It is not at your person but at your willingness to act as an agent of a very unpopular govt.
    Whatever else the court of public opinion has given a verdict and it is against you.
    What the lawyers did by beating you was clearly wrong. But also wrong is your continued defense of a wrong position.

  30. Deewana Aik says:
    October 1st, 2007 5:19 pm

    Also if Naeem Bukhari makes an allegation the onus of prove is on him not on who he is levelling allegations against.

  31. Bhindigosht says:
    October 1st, 2007 9:04 pm

    And why Mr. Bokhari, have you never written a letter against the paragons of virtue that preceded the current CJ?

  32. Daktar says:
    October 1st, 2007 11:01 pm

    It is good that Mr. Naeem Bokhari is responding on this forum but I find nothing either new or convincing in his response. Some acknowledgement of the fact that his beating is being condemned here might also have been in order.

  33. Saleem A. Toor says:
    October 2nd, 2007 4:20 am

    Simple;

    as an armyman is trained to kill (whoever ordered), a lawyer is trained to argue (whether right or wrong)!

    Bokhari sahib has probably been trapped into a fiasco unintentionally (or otherwise) that he may not be able to get out easily.

  34. D_a_n says:
    December 6th, 2007 7:09 pm

    whatever happened to Bokhari…right or wrong…
    I find it hard to feel any sympathy for this pathetic man….

    he played a part in shameful exercise by virtue of which Pakistan was put through a horrific few months of crisis….

    the thrashing he received at the hands of his fellow lawyers is not defensible…he should be sued in some form or the other for defamation or the supreme court needs to be start contempt of court proceedings against him ..I dont know if that is possible as I am not a legal expert…but there must be some legal way for him to be made to pay for this disgraceful act…

    the thrashing he received is the least of his worries…his name is in the Gutter for the rest of his natural life….

  35. Ali says:
    March 31st, 2008 3:46 am

    It think it’s about time to toss the cliche back to him, used by Naeem Bukhari in his interview on Hum TV, after few days of first dismissal of CJ:

    “‘Ustra’ Tau hauta isTarah kiey kamoon mien”

  36. April 9th, 2008 8:36 am

    Last night Mr. Naeem Bukhari was interviewed by Mr. Lucman (ex-caretaker minister) at Business Plus TV. He tried to defend himself and perhaps succeeded too in doing so.

    He said there were other prominent Supreme Court lawyers who too were very critical of the CJ but turned their back on him when came the crunch.

    He may be right but my only point is that why he chose the wrong timing and why did he decide to publish an open letter as against other better ways available to show his discontent.

  37. Hasan says:
    April 21st, 2008 3:00 pm

    What I don’t understand is why no one questions Mr Chaudhry? Did he or didn’t he do what Mr Bokhari alleges in the infamous letter?

    Or is that not important at all?

  38. Dr. SHAH MURAD MASTOI says:
    May 16th, 2008 11:27 am

    wah naeem bukhari wah

  39. Jahanzeb says:
    July 14th, 2008 3:43 am

    Mr. Bukhari.. We are with you… You have all the support… this corrupt Juditiary needed a kick in the right place!! … Way to go man …

  40. Muhammad Farooq says:
    May 6th, 2010 7:08 am

    Can i have an email of Naeem Bkhari plz?.

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