Waheed Ahmad is a Pakistani human rights lawyer currently serving as the Chairman of the Child Protection Committee at Lahore Bar Association. For the past 16 years or so, Waheed has been working in Pakistan’s juvenile justice system defending youths. Waheed also works as a legal advisor in multiple progressive organisations and advocates for women’s rights, minority rights and the rights of transgender people in Pakistan.
Waheed trains Pakistani officials (prosecutors and law enforcement officials), lawyers and other stakeholders working in the criminal justice system addressing children’s rights.
“I visit jail regularly where children are locked up. It has been a harrowing experience for me. I have seen children as young as ten years old locked in prisons. They remind me of my children as my children are of the same age. I am not the person who can change the world as per my wish, but I want kids to be safe and protected by a compassionate legal system. That is why my role has been to convince and educate officials (prosecutors, Probation officers, Social Welfare officers and law enforcers) who work in the juvenile justice system.”
When Waheed first participated in DTP training in 2002, he was new to the legal profession, and he said that DTP training acted as a booster to his career.
“DTP training provided me with an excellent opportunity to advance my career. In that training program, I have learnt a lot about legislation and the protection of the rights systems of different countries. That knowledge helped me explore and compare the Pakistani judicial system with other countries. I still use references from the DTP training in my legal practices at the courts.”
Apart from gaining knowledge, Waheed formed a new network of friends with whom he keeps in touch. “In 2019, I visited Nepal and met with my friend who I met in DTP training. It was great catching up.”
Waheed, a former businessman, came to the law profession with a dream to defend the rights of poor and underrepresented populations in Pakistan. However, many challenges persist.
“For example, there are cases of converting children to Islam in Pakistan and Child Marriages in Pakistan, but judges are afraid to address those cases because of the conservative religious forces. Eventually, I realized that in Pakistan getting justice is a difficult proposition. We have courts of law here, not Courts of Justice.”
Waheed was arrested at the Lahore high court premises in 2007 for protesting military ruler Parvez Musharraf. He was handcuffed and tortured before landing in jail for nine days. “That was the most honourable moment in my life. I was arrested for demanding the rule of law in my country.”