Lawyers change history

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 08.11.08

The lawyers in the US pay tribute to the Pakistani lawyers’ movement striving for the
supremacy of the Constitution and independence of the judiciary. This has been stated by
the former Vice-President of Supreme Court Bar Association, Sahibzada Anwar Hameed
who has just arrived back from the US. Hameed is glad at the way the lawyers in the US
appreciated the Pakistani lawyers’ movement and gave him a standing ovation when he
was invited to speak to National Lawyers’ Guild of America (NLGA), Detriot, in October
2008. The points mentioned by Hameed in his address are worthy of inclusion in the
column of today.

The independence of Pakistan took place as the result of the altruistic and indefatigable
efforts of the great Quaid, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who happened to be a lawyer; it was the
vigour of arguments and the might of dialogue – the instruments of a lawyer – that made
birth of Pakistan possible. Unfortunately, after just four to five years of independence, these
instruments were put aside to become rancid. Instead, the vigour of clout and the might of
gun started ruling the country. The political horizon was transformed into the political arena
in the true sense of words. Both civil and military administrators appeared and disappeared
into oblivion, no doubt, but by so doing they undermined the basic rationale for creation of
the country: a country where the voice of the people would stand supreme and where
everyone would be equal in the sight of law.

Deprivation of a true democratic experience was the major disservice done by the military
dictators in the name of ‘national interests’ – which is now the hackneyed term making the
people laugh at the user. Twenty four out of sixty years of Pakistan were devoured by
undemocratic dispensations the major chunk of which was shared by the military rules.
Consequently, democracy could not take its natural height to be called an evolved form of
democracy as being practised in other countries which got independence almost at the
same time to that of Pakistan. The resultant mentally infantile and physically dwarf is the
form of democracy staring the Pakistanis in their face. It is yet a great challenge for the
Pakistanis to run a country through democratic means forgetting the hiccups experienced in
the form of the military rules. But this is not the end of the story. The attached dilemma is
that no one knows when the next martial law steps in and smothers democracy to take
another round of nine or ten years. The uncertainty in this regard keeps the ruling
government unnerved and unsettled.

But the gravity of the problem is deeper than that. Absence of democracy led to fall of the
Eastern Wing of Pakistan, called now Bangladesh, in 1971. Interruption in the continuity of
democracy has been making the rest of Pakistan, the existing one, to face not only the
challenge of disintegration but also of implosion – in fact, the former challenge is reinforcing
the latter one. In the post-1971 era, the ideology of Pakistan as a cohesion force was
replaced with the military as a cementing force forgetting the fact that it was the military rule
that led to separation of one half of the country in 1971. That is to say, the idea that the
military can work as a gluing factor in keeping the ethno-linguistically diverse units united
failed. The flip side of the matter is that democracy was never given a chance to act as an
adhesive force. The same is the problem that has beset Pakistan today.

In absence of democracy, the executive played a major role by not only peddling an
authoritarian rule in Pakistan but also by subjugating the judiciary in one way or another. In
the past, the role of the judiciary (Supreme Court) was degenerated to conferring legitimacy
on the anti-democratic bids of the executive. Nevertheless, November 3, 2007, changed the
face of the judiciary. On that fateful day, first time in the history of Pakistan, most of the
judges of the Supreme Court refused to surrender to the dictates of the executive working
in the person of a military ruler, General Pervaiz Musharraf. Sixty judges of the Superior
and Higher Judiciary preferred to face the consequences of their denial to stamp legitimacy
on the dictatorial rule of Musharraf. That collective stance rejuvenated the mood of the
demoralized nation who later on bolstered up the bar and the bench in its struggle for
independence of the judiciary – the struggle, enfolding a non-violence disposition in its
nature – is unprecedented not only in the history of Pakistan but also in the history of the
world. That is how, the society feel proud of the lawyers who bore the brunt but did not
submit to the brutality inflicted on them by the military dictator, Musharraf. February 18,
2008, gave Musharraf the first taste of a humiliating defeat when the PML-Q, the political
party he was supporting to extend his own rule, was reduced to its size in the general
elections. Subsequently, Musharraf resisted his departure for six months but at last he
cowed into licking the wounds inflicted on him by the sacrifices of the lawyers, across the
country, for the cause of independence of the judiciary.

Today, Musharraf has taken refuge inside the walls of the Army House, Rawalpindi but the
struggle for independence of the judiciary is still continued unabated. The ultimate
objective, restoration of the pre-Nov-3 (2007) judiciary, is yet to be materialized in the true
sense of words. The movement of the lawyers is still supported by the civil society and most
of the political parties – except those who have vested interests in the presence of a pliable
judiciary.

In their speeches, the President of the NLGA, Margery Cohen, and the Vice-President,
David Gespass, assured the Pakistani lawyers of every possible support.

Back to columns in 2008