Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Who Is Defending the Rule of Law?

General Musharraf's murderous thugs are pictured beating the lawyers who are refusing to accept his usurpation of power. Right now they and the judges refusing to take new oaths of allegiance to a corrupt and illegitimate regime are the only defence to the total abandonment of the rule of law.

Pakistan's coup d'etat demonstrates a cavalier attitude to the rule of law, which is the only barrier to authoritarianism, even dictatorship. While Pakistan's move towards democracy has been hesitant at best given its virtual enslavement to the 22 high echelon families, it did possess a constitution, a legal system, an active legal profession, and a respected judiciary.

Now we find because the Supreme Court was about to carry out its mandate and declare Musharraf ineligible for election, he's grabbed power and tried to immobilize the only group that has the strength to resist him. I can't imagine lawyers in this country or the United States taking similar action. I do applaud the lawyers in Pakistan.

Finally, I'm ashamed of my government and that of the US for condoning these actions. This leaves Pakistan's lawyers on their own as the sole defenders of the rule of law.


Richard Sál said...

It seems to me the most ridiculous thing about this state of emergency is the actual ‘emergency’. In the history of flimsy pretexts there hasn’t been a flimsier pretext. The way in which he completely ignored the Pakistani constitution was artful, the sheer audacity of disregarding the law in any shape or form is quite frankly, amazing (almost as much as the fact that he will go unpunished for this). Not all that surprising though. This and the international reactions are symptoms of an even bigger problem. They mention the rule of law, how it needs to be respected. Whilst others talk about the need for President/General Musharraf to become more of a president and less of a general. That’s nice, it really is. But it will still be the same person. The same person who just suspended the constitution and arrested anyone brave or stupid enough not to be thrilled about it. This is the person that is meant to bring Pakistan towards democracy.

It just goes to show if you talk about fighting terrorism and occasionally mention things like elections and democracy you can get away with anything. Just like President/General Musharraf has, again.

Radha D said...

Hi John,
Thought you might be interested in this mail from Pakistan. Asma is a lawyer who has consistently defended human rights issues in Pakistan.

News and press release from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP):

- Late Evening News, Nov.6, 2007: 55 arrested HRCP activists has been released from sub jails today at 7:30pm by the order of Home Secretary

- Lahore November 6, 2007:
The Chairperson, Secretary General, Director, Vice Chairpersons and all members of the Council of Human Rights Commission have issued the following statement:

A grave situation has been created by the army chief's desperate act to retain all power in his hands. The imposition of the new martial law regime has been unanimously denounced by public opinion at home and abroad. The brutal actions against judges, lawyers and civil society organizations have not silenced people's demand for a transition to democracy, and restoration of the independent status of the judiciary and rule of law. Unless all the steps taken after the proclamation of martial law, in particular the purge of the judiciary, issuance of PCO, restrictions on the media and attacks on the people's right to political activity and debate, are rolled back neither democracy nor peace will return to the country.

There is no doubt that a proper transition to democratic governance will be possible only after a free, fair and transparent election. The fact however remains that for quite sometime the regime has been doing everything to ensure that a democratic choice is not possible. The way General Musharraf maneuvered to get himself elected by a captive and about-to-expire electoral college made the general election largely meaningless. The imposition of the so-called emergency has eliminated whatever little chance of a proper transition to democratic rule had survived.

HRCP is alarmed at the violence meted out to the lawyers' community and civil society activists. A large number of them, including women, have been arrested. Bar leaders, including Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, Muneer A. Malik and Tariq Mahmood are detained and being harassed by the intelligence agencies. The line of attack on them suggests sinister designs to persecute them. Mr. Ali Ahmed Kurd former vice president of the Pakistan Bar Council is in the custody of intelligence agencies and is kept incommunicado. These lawyers are leaders of public opinion and they have an important role to play in the present hour of the nation's trial.

HRCP demands that the proclamation of November 3 and all actions taken under it must be withdrawn and cancelled forthwith and conditions created for a free exercise of the people's choice. Without these essential steps elections will only perpetuate autocracy and injustice.


Chairperson - HRCP

Mr. I. A. Rehman - Director, Syed Iqbal Haider -Secretary General, Mr.
Shahid Kardar - Treasurer,
Mr. Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani (Advocate) - Vice-Chairperson Balochistan, Ms. Zohra Yusuf - Vice-Chairperson Sindh, Mr. Kamran Arif - Vice-Chairperson NWFP, Ms.
Hina Jilani -
Vice-Chairperson Punjab, and HRCP Council Members Mrs. Surriya Amirrudin, Ms. Rahila Durrani, Mr.
Tahir Husain Khan, Mr. Malik Adeel Mengal, Mr. Habib Tahir, Mr.
Afrasiab Khattak, Advocate, Ms.
Musarrat Hilali, Mr. Sher Mohammad Khan, Ms. Salima Hashmi, Dr.
Mubashar Hasan, Dr. Mehdi Hasan,
Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhry, Ms. Shahtaj Qizilbash, Mr. Nadeem Anthony, Mr. Attiq-ur-Rehman, Advocate, Ms. Uzma Noorani, Mr. Rochi Ram, Ms. Perveen Soomro (Advocate), Mr. Ali Hasan, Mr. Jam Saqi, Mr. Ronald de Souza, Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin, Mr. Amarnath Motu Mal, and Mr. Asad Iqbal Butt.

Valentina Azarov said...

What good can international law find in a forceful conceptualization exercise?

This is an impeccable example of why and when we need definition and borderlines. The international community has been reluctant to define "terrorism" since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the follow up Resolutions of the UN Security Council (1373 and 1386). The resolutions reluctantly accepted the right to self-defense in cases of attacks by non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, and declared the global fight against terrorism that should be led cooperatively by the international community of states. This opened the floodgates at full width to allow all of us to be drowned by our own negligence.

Could we have expected no less from a child than to take innocently what he is given, uninformed and oblivious to its potential self-harming purposes?

The international community indeed did make notable efforts to come to a conclusion on the ambits and scope of the notion ("terrorism") hoping to then proceed to devise international mechanisms for its effective fight ; these would include obligations that states would voluntarily incur in order to ensure that they do not harbour, aid or abet terrorist groups or cells.

Maybe it was out of exaggerated optimism that the international community decided to abandon this endeavor (appearing fruitless at the time) in hope that something better would come along. Maybe also in hope that international custom would form its own ways ; relying cluelessly on the faded magic of inductive reasoning. What did come along is a number of leaders intelligent, whilst also curageous, enough to use these undefined domains that form an instrument promising everlasting power and control. Musharraf has just given us an incommensurable example of what one can do with this tempting tool.

It is probable to take us to the spheres of psychology, anthropology and conceivably even phenomenology if we indulge in a discussion of the implications incurred by society as a result of a breeding of a sensation of risk, fear and the creation of a state of panic. It is these very simple emotions that have allowed for so much in the past and will continue to do so as long as humanity exists within its self-depriving societal structures.

One could ask, whether in the sociological context or the purely theoretical realm, definition is vice or virtue? A critical thinker would elude to patterns of objectification and labeling reoccuring as a social trait. On the international paltform, in one of the most dangerous fields of law (that of the laws of emergency), how can we, as an international community of states and non-state actors, allow hereby for even greater fragmentation.