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Who will fill Hamid Khan’s shoes for PTI?

Who will fill Hamid Khan’s shoes for PTI?

ISLAMABAD: Senior counsel Hamid Khan’s bowing out of his role as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) lead counsel in the Panamagate case has ignited a fierce debate over who will fill his shoes.

The final decision to replace the senior counsel will be made by PTI chief Imran Khan once he returns from London on Nov 22. In the meantime, the question of who will lead the party’s legal team in the landmark case before a five-judge Supreme Court bench has become a hot topic in bar rooms.

It is almost unanimously agreed that the replacement will likely not be Aitzaz Ahsan, whose name has been floated as a possible replacement for Hamid Khan.

“There is no denying that Barrister Ahsan has been approached by the PTI’s side, but why should he accept an offer when he opposed with full force all the efforts on the part of the Pakistan Peoples Party to file a similar petition before the SC on the Panama Papers leaks,” confided a senior counsel close to Mr Ahsan.

He said the PTI team had been told that the final decision would be made after the PPP leadership had been consulted, but they had also been subtly informed that any hope for a positive outcome in this regard would be “expecting too much”.

Given Mr Ahsan’s frontline role in making statements about Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s alleged corruption, it would be difficult to accept the brief of the case, that too halfway into its proceedings.

Mr Ahsan has previously defended PM Sharif in an election matter during the Musharraf regime and also defended prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Yousuf Raza Gilani.

When asked about the party’s policy in this regard, PPP spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said there used to be general guidelines for party members that they would always seek permission from the top before accepting any political cases. Party members even need approval from the leadership to attend weddings or other social gatherings that are hosted by a member of a rival party, he said.

Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Tariq Mehmood highlighted rule 148 of the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Act 1973, which deals with the conduct of lawyers with regards to clients and states that a lawyer will not accept a brief that could cause a conflict of interest.

He said that Hamid Khan was the senior partner at the law firm Cornelius, Lane and Mufti, while the prime minister’s counsel was a junior partner in the same firm, and it was expected that the junior member will not appear from the opposing side.

When asked if the SC bench would allow Hamid Khan to withdraw from the case when it resumed hearing on Nov 30 — particularly since the counsel had already initiated arguments — the incumbent SCBA president Rasheed A. Razvi said it was up to the court to decide. But, he added, the court could not compel a counsel to continue with a case if the counsel wished to withdraw for personal reasons.

In the event that Hamid Khan sticks to his decision, senior counsel such as Naeem Bokhari and Dr Babar Awan may plead the case.

Published in Dawn November 20th, 2016

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