Who Defends the Rule of Law?

The pictures of lawyers being beaten by police in Pakistan is both terrible and laudatory. General Musharraf's coup d'etat is a blatant attempt to undermine the rule of law. And that is one of the very few things that keeps us sane and free. Get rid of it and we have nothing. That is why I am ashamed that the US and UK governments still support Musharraf. In the battle over public opinion they have lost the plot. If the only way an alleged "war on terror" can be fought is by succumbing to arbitrary abuses of power, then we were defeated long ago.

This is the second time the chief justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has been illicitly removed from the court. The general couldn't face the court's likely decision to remove him from the electoral race because he holds civilian and military positions which the constitution forbids.

I admire the judges who are refusing to take their "new" oaths of allegiance and the lawyers who are taking to the streets. They are true heroes. And they are taking serious risks to their lives, physically and spiritually. How many lawyers in the US or UK would come out in defence of the rule of law? Could we imagine the American Bar Association or the Law Society or the Bar Council urging its members to strike and rebel? Hardly.

There aren't many cause lawyers around here, but almost every lawyer in Pakistan is one.


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