Pakistani lawyers challenge waiters in uniform spat

Members of the country's legal profession see the right to wear customary black suit a status symbol

Lawyers chant slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during Panama leaks hearing outside Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan July 17, 2017.  REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood
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Pakistan's lawyers have been accused of demanding a monopoly on black suits and white shirts after writing to the authorities to stop waiters wearing the “uniform” of the legal profession.

Three bar councils have written to their respective provincial governments to express dismay at staff in hotels and marriage halls donning the same clothes.

Pakistan's lawyers are instantly recognisable with their black suits and ties which and consider the dress code they have followed since the time of the British Raj as a status symbol.

The leaders of groups of lawyers in Punjab, Balochistan and Islamabad have now threatened to take legal action unless waiting staff are banned from wearing the garb.

“Nobody is allowed to wear the uniform of lawyers except the lawyers,” the secretary of the Punjab bar council wrote to the provincial chief secretary over the weekend.

“If anybody will found in the uniform of lawyers at any place - marriage hall, hotels, event hall - I have clear directions to proceed under the relevant provision of law."

A similar letter from the Islamabad bar council to the local chief commissioner explained that “even a law graduate cannot wear the proper uniform until and unless he passes the entry test and completes his six month training period for enrolment as a advocate”.

The letters were widely shared and mocked on social media in Pakistan.

One lawyer on Twitter called the edicts the “latest chapter to the very lengthy book titled 'Why no one respects lawyers in Pakistan'.”

“I think they should also issue a cease and desist notice to all Hollywood celebrities who wear lawyers' uniform at the Oscar Awards,” joked another.

The bar councils stood by their request. Ayub Tareen, chairman of the executive committee of the Balochistan bar council, told The National: "Waiters are our brothers, but we want bifurcation in their uniform as the lawyers and judges have a uniform across the world and no one copies that."

Previous legal petitions to limit who could wear the clothing have been dismissed in court as unenforceable and against common sense.

Pakistan's lawyers make up an influential power bloc in the country, but for a profession dedicated to the rule of law, some members have also attracted a remarkable reputation for thuggery.

In late 2019, three heart patients died after a mob of lawyers rampaged through a Lahore hospital in a dispute with doctors.

About 200 lawyers, all wearing black suits, stormed the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), forcing doctors and nurses to abandon intensive care patients.