PAKISTAN: Restore the judiciary and end militaristic tyranny in Pakistan

The legal community of Pakistan has rejected a government offer for talks, while demanding the withdrawal of the reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the formation of a national government to hold general elections within three months time. The convention of lawyers, which was meeting in Peshawer, the capital city of North Western Frontier Province, has also asked President Gen Pervez Musharraf to step down and demanded that he be tried for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution. The legal conference also appealed to all political parties to end their assemblies and join the lawyers struggle to removal the government.  They have also demanded the immediate release of all missing people who have been abducted by all military and intelligence agencies, while lodging formal criminal cases against those responsible for the abductions.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) fully supports the demands of the legal community and urges all civil and political organizations in the country to engage in this social movement against the militaristic tyranny that has destroyed total credibility of every institution in the country. After seven and half years of military rule in Pakistan, the people must take back control of their own judicial system and not allow the authoritarian government to through justice out the window.  The government and its ministers must also cease the harsh action of using the police to publicly beat any lawyer or journalist who questions the regimes intentions.

Journalists are being beaten by police on a regular basis. One television station was ransacked by the police force even in the presence of the Minister for Information who could not stop the attack. The police treated the minister as if he was a person of no value. More than one dozen journalists were beaten by police and several lost their camera. About 35 journalists were also arrested during and after the protests that involved lawyers, activists, civil society groups, as well as political parties. Even the President of Pakistan has had to apologise to the Geo Television network that was attacked by the police in the capital Islamabad.

One television program was stopped by the Pakistani regulatory authority (PEMRA) for discussing the removal of the chief justice. At the same time, this television program reproduced filthy language of the federal law minister against the family of an editor of a prominent English newspaper during a live discussion on Voice of America (VOA). The newspaper had written a story about the crises after the removal of the chief justice with a headline saying “A big arm in the law minister”. The federal minister openly said in an assertive way on the VOA program that he will put his long arm in the family of the person who says that “a long arm in law minister.” This demonstrates the ministers promise to silence the media. On March 9, when the president dressed in Army uniform and removed the chief justice, the Law Minister justified the removal and said it was very constitutional; however, on March 16 he took a 360 degree turn and announced that the chief justice was sent on forced leave by the president of Pakistan. The question of whether or not the chief justice’s role is still functional has remained unanswered.

The president of Pakistan sees the conspiracy behind the judiciary assertion, as conspiracy against his government. Not having any concern over the use of brutal force against the legal community, President General Musharraf is only concerned of why his actions against the judiciary have been criticised by the lawyers. He supposes that what ever his actions are, are in the greater interests and no one should criticise this because as being the Chief of Army Staff, he is the protector of the country and the protector must be obeyed in any situation.

Meanwhile, when the government in Pakistan begun realising that it was losing its total control over its citizenry, it started pressurizing the Supreme Judicial Council to delay the proceedings against the chief justice so that the legal community will exhaust themselves and their struggle for the restoration of the rule of law will subside. The government has also not allowed the chief justice to address the Lawyers’ Convention which is being held in different areas throughout the country. While speaking from the Supreme Court on 22 March 2007, a government spokesman threatened Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry with a statement, saying not to ‘politicize’ the reference against him by addressing different bar associations in the country. The spokesman, named Arif Chaudhry said, “It would be in his own interest that such a sensitive issue is not politicized”.

The Asian Human Rights Commission also commends the courageous action of more than a dozen judges and government law officers for their resignations and their refusal to work with the government of General Musharraf.

In light of the mishandling of this judicial crisis, the government’s continued use of brutal force against lawyers, journalists, politicians and human rights activists, there now a moral obligation for the administration to step aside and give power back to the people of Pakistan. Therefore AHRC urges General Musharraf Government to step down and hand over power to the Chairman of the Senate to conduct free and fair elections within 90 days from taking power.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-062-2007
Countries : Pakistan,