June 9, 2023
By Xari Jalil
The Bar Council of England and Wales have released a statement expressing serious concern over recent ‘announcements’ in Pakistan made by its various bar councils who have said that Ahmadi lawyers must renounce their faith in order to practice at the bar.
These statements had come from both the District Bar Association of Gujranwala and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council who had issued notices that anyone applying for admittance to the Bar must positively assert that ‘they are Muslim’ and they ‘denounce the teachings of the Ahmadiyya Community and its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’.
However it must be noted that these announcements are inconsistent with the basic principles of the Constitution of Pakistan which clearly highlights religious freedom and equality before the law.
In this connection, Nick Vineall KC, Chair of the Bar of England and Wales, has written to the chair of the Pakistan Bar Council, Mansoor Awan, requesting that action be taken to remedy this discrimination against Ahmadis and non-Muslims.
“The Bar Council of England and Wales is concerned about the impact of this requirement on the Pakistani Bar as well as the wider justice system,” says the letter. “If the barristers’ profession is not open to all, irrespective of religion and background, it suggests that the justice system as a whole is discriminatory. All appropriately qualified individuals seeking to be called to the Bar should be able to do so without discrimination on religious grounds.”
Ahmadis have also faced physical attacks in court
The Chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales Nick Vineall KC, also said commented upon the international focus on Pakistan.
“There is understandably a huge amount of international political focus on Pakistan at the moment,” he said in a statement on this issue. “Amid these wider concerns over democratic processes, we have been alerted to the specific concerns of Ahmadi lawyers who are facing discrimination in being denied the right to practise at the Bar because of their religion.
“The decisions taken in Gujranwala and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to exclude Ahmadi Muslims and non-Muslims from the Bar – and by extension, potentially excluding citizens from access to legal representation – are intentionally discriminatory and seem impossible to reconcile with Pakistan’s constitutional principles of religious freedom and equality before the law.
“We are urging the Bar Council of Pakistan, as the overarching body, to take action.”
Meanwhile speaking to Voicepk.net, Mr Hassan Raza Pasha the Chair of the Pakistan Bar Council said that he was still to receive the letter directly, his comments on the matter would be ‘premature’. However he said that nothing could go against the principles enshrined in the Constitution. “You cannot expect a non-Muslim to renounce their faith in order to practice their profession,” he said. “At the same time, in the coming week, we will call the concerned committee and discuss this issue thoroughly and then come to a decision.”