Monday, July 23, 2007

Why The Pakistani Lawyers' are Still in Revolt

An article in the Friday times [July 20-26, 2007 - Vol. XIX, No. 22,] entitled “The Lawyers on Lahore’s Streets” provides some specifics on why the demonstrations against Musharraf’s government continue, even now, even though the crisis over the Taliban and extremist Islamists in the North West Frontier Province has become another major issue. The authors of the article, Asad Hashim and Sameen Khan, quote from three different lawyers involved in the demonstrations on behalf of the Chief Justice who has been removed by Musharraf for apparently spurious reasons.
Here is some of what they say:
• Mohammed Ahsan Bhoon, President of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, claims “his lifetime devotion to the law was insulted when the judicial institution was challenged in the resignation demanded of the Chief Justice.” The key issue is not the person but the office of Chief Justice that is at stake. He says the office has been ridiculed by the executive branch, which frightens him: “When the highest court is not saved, how can I, as a citizen, feel protected?”
• Salman Raja, Advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan, says “It’s not like the Chief Justice was some kind of a paragon of virtue or brilliance.” But he was trying to do some good as well as furthering his own career, for which Raja does not fault him. The government’s accusations against the Chief Justice were trivial. In fact, he says, the judiciary has been abused and taken for granted since the days of Ayub Khan so that anger for the government’s limitations on the legal practice simply “spilled over” when the Chief Justice was accused.
• Syed Mohammad Nisar Safdar, Advocate, Lahore High Court, told the Friday times that the crisis has been brewing for sixty years: “The Chief Justice today represents the anger of the people . . . his ‘no’ is the ‘no’ of the people . . . He doesn’t even know how to make a speech. He is not a political man, but people are making him a hero because we have been asking for 60 years that the decision-making power should go back to the people and that democratic institutions should be reinstated.”
This movement is indeed serious for Pakistan: If Washington’s policy of supporting Musharraf no-matter-what turns out to enable Musharraf to hold power in the face of such public resentment then we have reason to worry what worse things are in store for Pakistan. The United States ought to be on the side of the public, especially when it is calling for a court system that has the power to enforce the constitution.

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