PAKISTAN: The Pakistan Lawyer’s Movement — An Unfinished Agenda

Muneer A. Malik


Published by Pakistan Law House

A book on one of the most amazing movements in the defense of democracy, rule of law and human rights to emerge in recent times is the Pakistan Lawyer’s Movement. This is one of the rarest movements that has successfully challenged a military dictatorship while at the same time developing a civil society to strengthen the constitutional framework of the country on the basis of the separation of powers and the establishment of checks and balances. It has also changed the image of the ‘black coats’, lawyers, who are generally perceived as politically and socially apathetic, who are mostly interested in their own welfare. This movement has been able to establish the capacity of lawyers to effectively challenge a collapsing system of the rule of law and to emerge as a resilient profession committed to upholding the independence of the judiciary and the dignity of the law.

The author of the book is himself one of the mentors and a leader of the movement who has struggled in the most creative manner to develop the strategy of the movement. Muneer Malik is a well known lawyer who was the chairperson of the Bar Association of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The account of the movement coming from him is a useful guide to the understanding, not only of the lawyer’s movement but also the dynamics of the politics and law in Pakistan.

Even beyond the expectations of the author, by the time this book was out in print Pakistan’s one time big man, General Musharraf had resigned from his position in the face of the massive upsurge that arose against him.

The following is an extract from the author’s preface to this important book.

Who would have thought on 8th March 2007 that General Musharrf’s grip on power could be seriously challenged? With confidence bordering on cockiness, his allies taunted the opposition parties that they would elect General Musharraf as President in uniform not once or twice but as long as it was expedient. The opposition was seemingly all at sea lacking the will to mobilize the people of Pakistan to stand up for the Rule of Law. All of a sudden, as if struck by a bolt of lightning, a defiant “No” changed the dynamics of the power game. Since 9th Match, the Black Coats of Pakistan waged a relentless struggle to change mindsets. We had to teach the common man what justice really meant, who was the oppressor and who could deliver them from oppression. We preached that the realization of their fundamental rights was inextricably intertwined with the existence of an independent judiciary in which every judge across the land is pro-people with the courage to say that enough is enough – that all men and women, no matter howsoever high or howsoever low, are equal in the eyes of the law; that it is no longer acceptable that the weaker sections of society should remain in bondage as if they were subjects of some colonial power, that the people were sovereign masters of their destiny and captains of their fate and that the rulers were there to serve them and not to lord over them.. Our fight was to change mindsets within the judiciary so that they may liberate themselves from the reviled and thoroughly discredited doctrines of the past that were used time and again to justify the militarization of the institutions of state. We had to change the mindsets of our politicians – that political power emanates from the people and not from foreign capitols; that they turn anti-people when they welcome military takeovers or share the crumbs of power with usurpers; that democracy and tolerance are inseparable twins and that they must strive to strengthen institutions and not men. We wanted our armed forces to know that we honour the soldier who has laid down his life for the defense of the country but that we are bounden to resist when the watchman forcibly takes over the master’s house and that their guns should be pointed outwards to defend the frontiers of our lands rather than pointing inwards at the people they have sworn to protect.

And indeed what an incredible movement it has been. Putting personal interest aside, the overwhelming majority of lawyers galvanized the masses and paved the way for the political leadership to assert the supremacy of civilian institutions. We did not rest with the restoration of the Chief Justice to his rightful position but went to met out the cause of the injustice that pervades our society. It is our position that this injustice rests on the foundations of arbitrary and dictatorial rule and in order to establish a just society we must uproot the old foundations.

I have often been asked that judges were sacked on previous occasions as well and why was it that only this time was such an incredible movement launched. My answer has always been that the legal fraternity has raised its pretest in the past as well but this time the turf was different. In the age of information -and globalization the media is a key player. Muzzle them if you want but you can never shut them off completely and when you muzzle them you only strengthen the belief that the truth is being suppressed. We acknowledge that but for the courageous media that carried our message to the people of Pakistan and abroad, ours would have been an extremely difficult if not impossible straggle. We gratefully acknowledge the role of civil society, the political leadership, and the political worker in strengthening our hands.

I am also asked whether the judiciary post – 20th July threw caution to the winds and moved too fast before consolidating its gains. My answer has been that it was a catch 22 situation in that the people’s expectations from the judiciary had never been higher, in fact so high that if it failed to deliver it risked being accused of regression and if its image suffered it risked being attacked again by the executive. Accordingly it had to grapple with some issues which the parliament tiled to look into though duty bound to do so. The case of missing persons is a classic example – when the judiciary intervened it was accused of releasing terrorists and this absurd charge became one of the bases for the imposition of Emergency and the resort to the extra-constitutional steps taken on 3rd November. History teaches us that a tottering dictatorship will use three to crush resistance to its will but it also teaches us that the just cause of the people will ultimately prevail. The results of the general elections are now in and we have seen the massive rejection of General Musharraf and his collaborators. We were buoyed with the victory of the democratic forces and were confident that together we would see the restoration of the pre 3rd November judiciary. We are dismayed at the breach of the Murree Declaration and the proposed constitutional package but we refuse to give up. The Long March has renewed our vigour and determination to press ahead with our movement

In the process of our struggle we have learnt some invaluable lessons too. We have learnt that we have no monopoly on wisdom and that it is for the Political leadership of this Country to navigate the ship of the state to the safety of the harbor. We are conscious of the dangers ahead and the need to consolidate our gains, to move forward but with unity of purpose and to tread with caution whilst we consolidate our gains.

The idea of penning my reflections came to me as I lay on my concrete mattress in a cell at Attock jail. As a chronicler who was in the midst of events, I cannot help being inundated with the emotional undercurrents of the Lawyer’s Movement. It is my perception of the events as I saw them and I will be the first to concede that others may disagree. My perception may be tainted by my belief in the righteousness of our cause.

The book may be obtained from:

Pakistan Law House
GPO Box 90
Pakistan Chowk
Karachi 74200

Phone 2212455, 2639558
Fax 2627549

Ground Floor
1st Shop Micop Centre
1 Mozang Raod

Phone 7242995

Ground Foor Shope No 5
105 Wasil Plaza
Fazl-e-Haq Road, Blue Area
Phone 987 969 8372 15 6


Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-022-2008
Countries : Pakistan,