Clip_37A judge of the Lahore High Court changed his decision less than two minutes after ruling in favour of the accused in a blasphemy case when lawyers and members of fundamentalist groups threatened him.

The judge, in fear of the dire consequences, quickly withdrew his decision of granting bail to the accused persons.

May 19, the arrested persons of a printing press were presented before the Lahore High Court (LHC) for their bail applications. The persons were arrested on January 7, 2013 on the charges of Sections 295B (defiling the Holy Quran) and 298C (an Ahmadi calling himself a Muslim or preaching his faith) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 24A of the Press and Publications Ordinance.

The arrested persons were simply the employees of a printing press which was owned by an Ahmadi, the most hated Islamic community in Pakistan.

The Government of Punjab has once again pounced upon the Ahmadiyya Newspaper, ‘Al Fazl’ which is the only paper the community has in Pakistan for the education and information of its members.

Al Fazl is completely apolitical and extremely particular to publish items within the framework of the restrictions imposed upon it by the infamous Ordinance XX, issued during the military government of General Zia ul Haq.

A group of fundamentalists, Khatme-Nabuwat, supported by the local police and vandals, attacked the Black Arrow Press in Lahore. Whilst the owner of this press is an Ahmadi the employees are not.

During the hearing the courtroom was full and some lawyers had to stand while the judge heard the arguments, after which he approved bail for the suspects.

This announcement nearly caused a riot in the courtroom and the judge had to withdraw the order barely two minutes after he had pronounced it. He then referred the case to the Chief Justice for fixing it before another judge.

A group of 35 lawyers came to oppose the bail application of the printing press employees because the lawyers claimed they were from the Ahmadi sect.

The judge had to withdraw the order after harsh remarks from one particular lawyer who was part of the group who had appeared before the court to argue the case against the Ahmadis.

When this lawyer used harsh remarks against the judge the other lawyers and some people from a fundamentalist group shouted slogans against the judge and verbally insulted him with malicious remarks.

Some lawyers said it was ‘improper’ for the judge to withdraw his order, whether verbal or written. He should have considered the repercussions, they said, before announcing the order rather than withdrawing it later.

They appear to be missing the entire point which is that when a judge makes his decision the lawyers should respect it. Any judge should make a decision based on the merits of the case and for reason of personal security. For the lawyers to verbally abuse and threaten a judge makes a mockery of the law. The defendants who were initially granted bail should be released as the justice system permits.

Just one month before this latest incident a similar situation was faced by another judge of the Lahore High Court. On April 9, the said judge, after hearing the arguments on the bail petition of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, referred it to the chief justice for fixing it before another judge.

The hooliganism of the lawyers has become common in the country since the successful movement for the independence of the judiciary. Since the year 2010, when Chief Justice Iftekhar Choudry and other judges were restored after the struggle of the lawyers and masses, the lawyers formed groups which take decisions in their favour or force the judge to accept their dictates. In not one single case has the Chief Justice of Pakistan or the Judicial Reform Committee taken any action to stop such hooliganism.

In one appalling case which happened in 2010 a lawyer physically beat a judge of a Session Court of Faisalabad, Punjab province. When the judges went on strike due to this incident the Chief Justice, rather than support their stand, ordered them to settle the issue with the attacker. The judges then had to apologise to the offending lawyer as the other lawyers went on strike in his support.

This is nothing more than vigilantism and has become a disease in the lawyer’s community. In the case of the assassination of the former governor of Punjab, Mr. Salman Taseer, who was shot by his guard, the lawyers defending the killer made him a hero of Islam and attacked the court rooms to stop the hearing against him. Later the judge that sentenced him had to leave the country after receiving threats to his life from the lawyers.

The religious fanaticism in the country has now reached the point where it has destroyed the very fabric of the society. The judiciary for whose independence people have sacrificed their lives has become hostage before the lawyers and the fundamentalists and acts on the dictates of bigots.