November 24, 2008
A Resolution by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Resolution of the Fourth Regional Consultation on an Asian Charter for the Rule of Law in support of the lawyers’ movement in Pakistan
We assembled jurists, lawyers and legal academics from throughout Asia gathered in Hong Kong on 17-21 November 2008 for the Fourth Regional Consultation on an Asian Charter for the Rule of Law unequivocally pledge our support for the lawyers’ movement in Pakistan. We applaud the heroic 18-month struggle of the lawyers committed to the rule of law in Pakistan, and recognize the sacrifices they have already made and are making for the sake of an independent judiciary. The struggle is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan.
The peaceful protests of the lawyers have reinvigorated Pakistan and given a new impetus to the movement. The people have witnessed and rallied behind the protests. They saw lawyers beaten and fired upon, arrested and barred from their profession. Many have lost their livelihoods. Yet, looking at the actions taken so far by the ruling government, the goal still seems very far away, and activist lawyers continue to be persecuted. The present government’s current agenda suggests that there is little hope that Chief Justice Iftekhar will be restored in the near future.
The current persecution must stop. Recently the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), under pressure from its Chairman, the Attorney-General for Pakistan, has suspended practising licences of the Presidents of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association and the Multan Bar Association and another 10 lawyers in retaliation to their activism, which is getting increasingly aggressive to the discomfort of the government. The lawyers and judges of Pakistan have been wronged, and lack of redress leaves them with little choice. After a countrywide protest on the first anniversary of Musharraf’s state of emergency, more than 100 lawyers were booked on charges of agitation and disturbing the peace.
The dodging tactics of the new government also threaten to damage the rule of law in the country even further. They discredit the supremacy of the judiciary and the civilian rule of the country. In this way the present Government is playing into the hands of those military generals who do not want a free and independent judiciary and want the status quo to continue, giving them another opportunity to take over absolute control over the country.
In these circumstances, affirming our solidarity with the lawyers’ movement for the establishment of the rule of law in Pakistan, which is a movement possible only through an Independent Judiciary, we
1. Demand that all judges deposed unconstitutionally, including Chief Justice Iftekhar Muhammad Chaudhry, are restored immediately to their rightful constitutional positions, as on November 3, 2007, when the state of emergency was imposed.
2. Condemn the series of new cases registered against lawyers and office-bearers of various Bar Associations: these are lawyers charged with agitation for action taken in defence of the imperilled judicial independence.
3. Demand that the military’s unconstitutional and illegal changes be reversed, and a constitutional amendment bill be introduced after broad public consultation and extensive parliamentary debate, in order to restore the 1973 Constitution to its original position with a liberal parliamentary structure including the repeal of the notorious 17th Amendment and the Federal Shariat Court as well.
Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid (retd.), Supreme Court of Pakistan
Dr. Chandrasekharan Pillai, Dean, Kochi, University of Science & Technology, India
Mr. S. Ashiq Raza, High Court Advocate, Pakistan
Mr. Chung Mi Hwa, Lawyer, Former Vice President, Lawyers’ Association for a Democratic Society, Rep. of Korea
Mr. M. Shamsul Haque, Advocate, Supreme Court, Bangladesh
Ms. Phromlak Sakpichaimongkol, Lawyer, Lawyers Council of Thailand
Mr. Jijo Paul, High Court Advocate, India
Mr. Asep Rahmat Fajal, Director, Indonesian Legal Roundtable
Mr. Rishikesh Wagle, Lawyer, Nepal
Mr. Basil Fernando, Director, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong & Attorney-at-Law, Sri Lanka
Mr. Bijo Francis, Progamme Officer, South Asia Desk, Asian Human Rights Commission & Lawyer, India