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From Heroes to Gangsters: The Tale of Lawyers in Pakistan

Gangs of lawyers in Lahore are using their fists to settle disputes, the Washington Post reports. At least fifteen cases have come to light this year of “marauding” lawyers beating up people involved in judicial cases, including police officers.

“Storm troopers,” Ayaz Amir, a politician and commentator, called them in a June column. “Time was when lawyers did most of their arguing with their tongues. Now they seem to do a better job with their fists.” . . .

“If police officers don’t submit to their pressure, they abuse and beat them,” said Sadaqat Ullah, the 28-year-old police investigator who alleged that a group of lawyers pummeled him in late September because he refused to share a confidential hospital report with an attorney in the original assault case. “They behave like gangsters.” . . .

Pakistanis used to love their lawyers. Beginning in 2007, thousands of Pakistani lawyers rose up as defenders of judicial independence. They braved police battons and tear gas to protest in the streets when then-President Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution and fired Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. In a country where politicians and military leaders are seen as deeply corrupt and ineffective governors, Chaudhry and the judiciary were impartial defenders of civil rights and the rule of law.

That public admiration appears to be evaporating, and even the thuggish lawyers can see it.

“It’s true. We should mend our behavior,” Zulfiqar Ali, president of the Lahore Bar Association, said sheepishly in an interview. He attributed the violence to a lack of emphasis on ethics and courtroom conduct in law schools.

Pakistan desperately needs leaders to step up against corrupt politics and bad governance, whether they’re politicians, lawyers, or army officers. The judicial class, it turns out, is just as capable of the dirty tactics used by their peers in government and the army for decades.

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