Law is an esteemed and respectable profession, with the Bar Council having its own code of conduct ensuring discipline and ethics among lawyers. It seems however that Multan lawyers are somehow exempt from this code of conduct, as they have become a blot on the profession with their use of violence and intimidation tactics. To protest what they thought was unfair exclusion of lawyers chambers, from the Multan judicial complex, Multan lawyers, instead of seeking a negotiable remedy, stormed the new judicial complex-which was built after years of effort and aid by foreign funds to increase access to justice in Pakistan- and responded by smashing windows and doors and mirrors with sticks, in protest over the shifting of the courts for two days.

Such illegal behaviour by those who purport to practice the law is absolutely unacceptable, and warrants strict action, lest it be made a norm. Multan lawyers have a history of unchecked violence, when they ransacked the Lahore High Court in support of a criminal bar president-which probably gave them the confidence to carry this protest without fear. This is why Rana Sanaullah’s comments, where he justified the lawyer’s actions by comparing it to Faizabad, are so dangerous-it affords these lawyers impunity to subvert the law and act with worse violence next time. As law minister, his is responsible for both the actions of the lawyers and the inaction of the police; these lawyers taking up violence on non-political issues sets a slippery precedent for their behaviour in a political rivalry.

The point is not that the lawyers had unreasonable demands- but we need to dispel the illusion that one cannot evade the law with intimidation. The government needs to start suspending licences of those involved - they are all on tape - and prosecute them under state laws-that is the only acceptable solution. We hold our law officers and custodians of the law to a higher standard than we do ordinary citizens; because it is to them we entrust the strict workings of the law and order, and judicial workings of Pakistan; and the Supreme Court needs to take sou moto notice of its profession first, if it doesn’t want the law to become a disreputed, discredited career.

The one lesson we should take away from the Faizabad protest is how we should never again let threat and intimidation become the remedy to fulfilling demands. Sadly, it seems that Rana Sanaullah took away the opposite.