LAWFUEL – A lawyers’ mutiny is making history in Pakistan, writes Ali Khan of Washburn University School of Law in Jurist.
The sight of a “strong and honest” Chief Justice leading the nation’s lawyers to oust a military ruler who seized power by removing a democratically elected government makes a fabulous story. The story is even more engaging because the national Parliament elected by the people is playing dead. And the two popular leaders (former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto) who could have led the masses in this urgency live happily in exile.
The Parliament’s failure to mediate the crisis has forced lawyers across the nation to stage a mutiny against what they call “the usurper of the ship,” President Pervez Musharraf. The lawyers are hoping that Musharraf and his crew will jump ship and float away, perhaps to bountiful America.
A senior Supreme Court advocate in Pakistan tells me that this is the first time in Pakistan’s history that lawyers have dropped their conflicting political affiliations and forged an unprecedented professional unity to restore the rule of law. More than 80,000 lawyers are acting in solidarity to challenge arbitrary powers that the President exercises on a regular basis with no constitutional authority. The suspension of the Chief Justice on March 9 was the President’s most blatant act to intimidate the judiciary. The edifice of law cannot stand and the state cannot survive, says the senior advocate, when the President wearing the uniform of the Army Chief summons the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) into a military camp, grills the CJP in the presence of others including some generals, and then orders his suspension. This Presidential vaulting, I am told, is too much for the lawyers to let stand.
In his petition to the Supreme Court challenging his suspension, the CJP paints the picture of an arrogant President who humiliated his person and his office – “crimes” tantamount to “the subversion of the Supreme Court.” On summoning the CJP on March 9, the petition discloses, the President “fervently persuaded him to resign” and made a good many offers to sweeten the forced resignation. The President was “most upset” when the CJP refused to resign. A chain of punitive events followed. The CJP was first detained and prevented from leaving the office for several hours. Later, the CJP and his family were falsely imprisoned in their house. The telephone lines and television connections were cut off to isolate the CJP from the world. Even the Supreme Court brethren could not visit him. The CJP’s cars were fork-lifted from his residential premises. On the order of the Supreme Judicial Council, which met the same day in “unholy haste,” the CJP’s entire staff was taken into custody, harassed, and interrogated. “What was the purpose,” asks the CJP?