Legal defenders emerge as PTI’s last line of support


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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), once a dominant political force, has lately found itself in the throes of a staggering decline following the tumultuous events of May 9.

The crackdown that started against the PTI leaders and workers in the aftermath of the party’s attack on civil and military installations culminated in the party’s disintegration and it literally fell like a house of cards.

As the PTI leadership either joined rival political parties or went underground to evade potential arrests, it was a surprising development that the party’s last line of defence emerged not from within its own ranks but from the legal community.

The PTI, which had previously enjoyed the support of influential politicians, has witnessed an exodus of key figures who once held portfolios and enjoyed various perks and privileges.

At a time when PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan is languishing in jail after being convicted in the Toshakhana reference and facing multiple other legal battles, it is his legal team and the lawyers’ community that have taken on the role of defending the beleaguered chairman in courts, as well as mainstream and social media.

The legal fraternity’s unwavering support has become a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity but it leaves a question mark on all those who have left the party and its chairman when they both needed them the most.

Imran Khan’s initiative, the ‘Jail Bharo Tehreek’ or ‘Fill the Prison Movement’, intended to prepare party leaders for potential incarceration, has seen only a handful of the PTI members choosing jail time over their political future. To add insult to injury, some have opted to flee the country altogether.

While the PTI’s leadership grapples with a seemingly insurmountable legal and political quagmire just ahead of the general elections, the lawyers’ commitment to upholding the rule of law and defending their leader has become a focal point in a rapidly changing political landscape. With the party’s future hanging in the balance, it remains to be seen whether the legal defence can stave off the tide of challenges being faced by the PTI.

PTI’s legal eagles playing key role

At a time when judges like Humayun Dilawar, as well as prosecution, witnesses, and evidence are allegedly compromised, PTI legal team’s member Shoaib Shaheen said, the party’s legal eagles are playing a vital role by standing by the Constitution and defending the rule of law.

Expressing displeasure at all those who joined other political parties after addressing news conferences, the PTI lawyer said that the cases of those who left the party when pressure was exerted on their families were different.

“Doubting on their sincerity would not be the correct thing to do,” he said, adding that there are others still standing tall in jails.

On the difficulties being faced by the lawyers defending PTI on different forums, Shaheen said that the lawyers find it difficult to get access to records, adding that the right to a fair trial and fundamental rights were being violated.

He incorporated that firing at Latif Khosa’s house and then the incident where he along with other lawyers was stuck in a lift at the Islamabad High Court were the kind of pressures that the lawyers were facing, among other things.

Revealing what motivates him personally to keep fighting for Imran and the PTI, Shaheen said that he believes Imran is an honest and courageous leader, he hasn’t fled abroad and he is still in high spirits despite being in jail. “The most powerful stakeholders are after him yet he is standing on his ground; these things motivate me to stand by him,” he added.

Renowned lawyer and legal expert, Abdul Moiz Jaferii, however, saw things a bit differently as he noted that lawyers, recognising their waning relevance in Pakistan’s politics, are now aligning their interests with Imran Khan in the restoration of judicial authority and the Constitution.

“I think lawyers have correctly identified that their own relevance to the body politic of Pakistan has severely depleted; due in part to the machinations of the establishment against the Supreme Court and the collusive disregard of the Constitution and the rule of law,” Jaferii said.

“They [lawyers] find their interests aligned with Imran Khan in the restitution of both the power of the courts; and the Constitution,” he added.

As Imran Khan’s legal battles continue and the political fallout from the May 9 incident reverberates, Pakistan’s political scene remains in a state of flux and the role of lawyers can help shape its trajectory but only time will tell where all this ends up.

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