ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) accepted on Monday a donation of Rs5 million from the government, although such grants were criticised in the past by the top organisation of lawyers.
Law Minister Babar Awan surprised many when he announced the donation at the Supreme Court premises and it was immediately accepted by SCBA president Qazi Anwar who received a cheque for Rs1 million, while Rs4 million will be paid to the association’s new leaders to be elected on Oct 27.
Qazi Anwar, a prominent critic of the government who had severely criticised donations made by the law minister to different bar associations, praised the gesture of Mr Awan and said that he had always been a lawyer and would again join the ranks when he would not be a minister.
Talking to reporters, he said the cheque was meant for employees of the association which he promptly handed over to them, while the rest of the donation would be utilised for upgrading its library.
The donation of Rs1 million was announced by the minister some time back.
Qazi Anwar had earlier announced at a seminar organised by the SCBA that during his tenure no donations from the government would be accepted and over Rs112 million given by former president Pervez Musharraf to the association would be spent for lawyers’ welfare.
The acceptance of the donation raised many an eyebrow with Advocate Athar Minallah, former spokesperson for the chief justice, immediately criticising the reception given to the minister and acceptance of the funds. He accused Mr Awan of being instrumental in government’s refusal to implement the Supreme Court’s judgment against the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
The minister spent about 25 minutes in the office of the SCBA president and then appeared before the media along with Qazi Anwar and some other lawyers to announce the donation.
He said the meeting had been held in line with the government’s policy of reinvigorating contacts with different bar associations which were necessary to redress the grievances of the legal fraternity.
Qazi Anwar said he was always willing to play his role in this regard.
Mr Awan said the government planned to introduce legislation for speeding up disposal of pending cases and consultation with different bars was essential for the purpose.
The draft of recommendations prepared by the government in this regard will be sent to the SCBA, along with copies of the amended Constitution.
A few hours earlier, several lawyers who had gone to attend the Supreme Court proceedings on reports about plans to revoke the notification of reinstating superior court judges held a demonstration at the same place. They chanted slogans in support of the judiciary and condemned government’s alleged attempt to slander it.
Later, Mr Awan had to cut short his press conference in the afternoon when charged lawyers started gathering outside his chamber at the Rawalpindi district courts and chanted slogans.
The minister had been invited by the People’s Lawyers Forum to the courts where he had started his practice.
The bar representatives did not allow him to hold the press briefing on the premises.
Mr Awan, who was accompanied by seven lawyers, started a press conference in his office, but could not continue after about 10 minutes when lawyers led by district bar president Malik Waheed Anjum and high court bar association chief Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi gathered there.
The minister rushed out of his chamber and left the court premises.
Advocate Naqvi told journalists that some lawyers had sought the permission for the minister’s press conference in the bar’s premises but its representatives did not allow it because the mood of the lawyers was not favourable.Mr Awan said the government would introduce a bill in parliament within a week to ensure speedy trials. He said the opinion of the legal fraternity on proposed changes in procedural laws would be given due consideration.
He ruled out any unconstitutional changes and said the government would respect all institutions functioning within their constitutional limits. He said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had clarified the government’s point of view about de-notification of judges’ reinstatement.
Lawyers of Rawalpindi had banned the entry of Mr Awan in the bar premises, accusing him of trying to create a rift in their ranks by distributing grants from public money.
The bar has refused to accept any funds from the law ministry and urged the government to comply with the SC orders to reopen cases abolished under the defunct NRO.