The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) All Party Conference was held today on September 17, attended by leaders and workers of various political parties, as well as the PBC, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and other bar associations. The conference expounded upon the following concerns:

(a)    The process of appointment and accountability of judges in the superior judiciary

(b)    The state of current accountability procedures in the country

(c)     The worrying state of civil liberties of individuals and citizens of Pakistan

Following a thorough debate on these areas of interest, the conference resolved on the following:

The conference comprised of political figures and the legal fraternity, finding the superior judiciary a key institution in assuring rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution, believed that the current system of the appointment of judges unsatisfactory. The current system is a major obstacle to the functioning of a free, competent and professional judiciary. Moreover, the judicial commission has regrettably transformed into a judges’ consortium.

The conference urged that Article 175A, relevant to the appointment of judges, and the process of accountability be brought under review. The 19th Amendment should be discarded and a new forum should be constituted in which the role of the Parliament is afforded a greater role. Moreover, stakeholders, including the relevant authorities, various bar councils, and judiciary should convene on single, equal platform to render fair decisions based on merit.

The conference understood that good governance and good government facilitate free and fair accountability processes. The current system of accountability in the country is redundant, ineffective and controversial, and is used as a political tool. The conferring parties registered their strong condemnation of existing accountability laws.

The conference determined that a new law founded upon principles of justice and fairness be drafted with inputs from all political parties and stakeholders. All institutions and individuals should be brought under a singular law and under a singular establishment. Detaining an individual before a case is even registered should be outlawed. The conference rejected the exemption to accountability of certain institutions, and determined that state officials should be brought under the purview of the same accountability laws.

The conference believed that Pakistan is being obstructed from a constitutional and democratic system. The Constitution of 1973 guarantees the safety, reinforcement and strengthening of the federation, and any action or thought repugnant to remains unacceptable.

The deteriorating state of civil liberties, freedom of expression, freedom of press, fundamental rights is a cause for grave concern. The conference also denounced increasing instances of sedition charges levied against journalists, curbs on media houses, and enforced disappearances of critics of popular and acceptable discourse, and urged the immediate drafting of a law for the protection of journalists.

Fundamental liberties and rights of citizens are being undermined under the banner of 5th Generation Warfare – the conference denounced this development, and urged that all missing persons be immediately released from state detention, and that under-trial detainees be produced immediately in court.

The conference registered its condemnation of the enforced silence on discussions surrounding civil liberties, and resolved to break this silence. The conference also issued its strong criticism over the increasing interference of the military in politics, and determined that the military should remain outside the political sphere.

All the political parties and groups who participated in the APC resolve to devise a collective strategy to fulfill the above mentioned purposes and that these purposed will be featured in next political charter.