Who is Attorney General of Pakistan?
Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) serves as the principal legal adviser to the government. As constitutional officer of Pakistan, he has the power to give advice to President on legal matters.
Last year, the federal government began searching for a replacement AGP after former AGP Ashtar Ausaf Ali announced his resignation due to health reasons. Now, Barrister Shehzad Ata Elahi has been officially approved by government to fill this post.
Muhammad Waseem, the Attorney General of Pakistan, is renowned for his work within government. With over three decades of service to the public sector under his belt, he has held key leadership roles within several departments and international organizations.
He has served as Attorney General of Pakistan since May 2018, and is a member of the PTI government. A professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences, his expertise spans politics, constitutional law and electoral law to ethnic and sectarian matters.
In 2016, Waseem made headlines for the tragic murder of Saima Baloch, a self-described “modern day feminist,” who was found dead at her home in Multan in June 2016. The Pakistani government faced criticism for allowing her killer to go free with her parents’ forgiveness.
After the murder, however, the government tightened laws to ensure that killers would not get away with impunity even if their families forgave them. This new law was intended to safeguard women against domestic violence from family members.
Pakistani courts had often pardoned killers when their families expressed forgiveness. But Waseem’s case stood apart.
Waseem is an experienced lawyer who has practiced at the highest levels of the Indian legal system. He has represented clients in a range of matters such as family law, business law, corporate governance and property law.
His work in the courtroom has earned him a reputation as an ethical and dedicated advocate who strives to uphold the rule of law in Pakistan’s courts. He has represented some of Pakistan’s most prominent public figures, with his work being widely cited.
He is a highly esteemed leader within Pakistan’s judiciary and an enthusiastic supporter of the PTI. After serving in government for over 30 years, he now serves as Attorney General since May 2018, representing the government in all court hearings.
The Attorney General of Pakistan is the country’s chief law officer, appointed by the prime minister and confirmed by the president. As such, they hold a high legal position within Pakistan. Furthermore, they enjoy audience before Parliament but are prohibited from private practice.
In November 1999, former army chief Pervez Musharraf issued executive orders that guaranteed immunity for all actions taken while the Constitution was suspended. These included sweeping censorship rules and arbitrary arrests and detention of lawyers across Pakistan – many without charge or trial. Within days, thousands of legal professionals across the country were arbitrarily detained and placed under house arrest without charges being laid against them.
Human Rights Watch believes these actions were undertaken with an aim to discredit the Supreme Court and nation’s judicial system. Orders prohibiting lawyers from taking up client cases or opposing government decisions were widely condemned as violating fundamental principles of democracy and human rights.
In the days that followed, lawyers and judges faced a barrage of retaliatory measures such as being beaten and tear-gassed, detained in police stations or jails for hours on end, and ordered to pay fines for acts committed during their work. These government actions drew widespread international condemnation and sparked mass protests that included political parties joining in on the movement.
Human Rights Watch estimates that the eruption of violence, which could have continued for two weeks or more, caused widespread fear among lawyers and the public. Government actions resulted in the arrests of thousands who were either charged with criminal offenses under the Anti-Terrorism Act or detained under colonial-era Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance.
Pakistan’s lawyers experienced unprecedented violence and turmoil during this period. They had been the primary defenders of constitution and rule of law during many major political movements in Pakistan, leading the campaign to restore Chief Justice Ali Zafar Chaudhry to office, breaking with precedent and signalling a change in how courts would operate moving forward.
Syed Iqbal Haidar
On Sunday morning in Karachi, Syed Iqbal Haidar, the former federal law minister and renowned human rights advocate passed away from lung illness at 67. He leaves behind his wife and two children as his sole survivors.
He was a renowned Pakistani democrat who advocated for peace, human rights and secularism in the country. As President of the Forum for Secular Pakistan, his work had an immense impact on those around him.
Over the past several years, he has actively advocated for India and Pakistan to address the human rights violations suffered by prisoners held in both nations.
He was an outspoken human rights activist and lawyer with a passionate message to deliver: uphold the rule of law and adhere to secular state principles. As such, he strongly supported Article 20 in the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and religion for all citizens.
His inspiring presence was often relied upon to invigorate any gathering, whether it was protesting against Shia killings, defending Mukhtaran Mai or advocating peace between Pakistan and India. He had a big heart and believed in the potential of his country.
He always stood up for his country, confronting its mischief makers, extremists and terrorists. He held that if the country could not move in a secular direction, then it could never progress as an entity.
One of his most renowned moments occurred in November 2007 when security walas raided the HRCP office in Lahore and started rounding up activists, including Iqbal Haider. When arrested, he put up a valiant fight, skipping around their attempts to grab him while keeping his cool.
His dedication to secularism was unwavering, and he dedicated his life to its cause. A man of exceptional moral and spiritual integrity, he had a remarkable ability to motivate people into action against the injustices that beset their country.
Ashtar Ausaf Ali
Ashtar Ausaf Ali, the attorney general of Pakistan, has tendered his resignation to the prime minister due to health reasons. Nevertheless, he was instructed by the prime minister to continue in his position until a new attorney general is appointed.
Lahore-based lawyer Muhammad Asif has held key positions in Pakistan’s legal and political community for four decades. He represented the federation in parallel international arbitrations before ICSID and ICC, as well as drafting the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution that combined FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Furthermore, he oversaw settlement processes which led to a USD 6 billion penalty being lifted against Pakistan by International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), along with renewal of GSP Plus trade package renewal.
As the 32nd Attorney General of Pakistan, he served in the law ministry during former PML-N premier Nawaz Sharif’s tenure. During this period, he drafted legislative reforms related to honour killing and compromise, overhauled succession certificates procedures for Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad constitutional committees, among other projects.
He has advised the government on numerous landmark transactions, such as the construction of Masjid Al-Islam in Islamabad and purchasing Gaddafi family land that is currently being developed into Islamabad’s first residential area. Furthermore, he served on both boards: Pakistan Bar Council and International Disputes Unit.
His expertise in public policy and conflict resolution enabled him to secure Pakistan’s appointment as a party to key international treaties. Furthermore, he has been actively engaged in the negotiation and implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with China.
In a recent interview with The Express Tribune, he offered three pieces of advice for students aspiring to be like him: “Work hard; stand out; and make public service your goal.” Additionally, he gave credit to his teachers at GW Law for providing him with the skillset necessary for success in his career.
As attorney general of Pakistan, he recently returned to his alma mater to speak with MCL ’81 students about his time at GW Law. He discussed how his career has progressed since graduation and shared his perspectives on international law and conflict resolution!