ASIA/PAKISTAN: Reinstate the ousted Supreme Court and prevent the plunge into lawlessness

Every move that General Musharraf has taken for the singular purpose of his own survival has plunged Pakistan into a greater state of lawlessness. Strangely, General Musharraf seems to believe that the independence of the judiciary is an obstacle to stability. One of the major reasons for imposing the emergency, which is another name for martial law, is to make the country’s Supreme Court inoperative. Quite openly, he has appointed alternative judges who he quite unashamedly expects to confirm his election as a president, thereby bringing the courts under his complete control. The complete control of the judiciary is something that is considered an imperative in the new political scheme he has introduced to Pakistan.

During the weeks of the emergency General Musharraf asked the press in public whether it is democracy that is important or the nation. He went on to answer his own question: it is the nation. Quite clearly he considers democracy as a danger to what he refers to as ‘the nation’. In dealing with the judiciary he has taken this a step further. He also considers rule of law as a danger to the nation. Thus, he is clearly giving expression to a conception of state which neither recognizes democracy or rule of law. He expects the very fabric of the Pakistani society to go through a fundamental change where it has to follow what a single ruler thinks fit for the nation. The closest parallel that exists for that kind of nation in the present context is North Korea.

The people of Pakistan and the international community are forced by General Musharraf to consider one important question: can there be any credible form of rule of law without the independence of the judiciary. In fact, the people of Pakistan as well as the international community should have considered this issue at a much earlier stage. Now to ignore this question would imply extremely frightening consequences. As for the people of Pakistan it can be said that during 2007 they did try to grapple with this problem by trying to save the judiciary for the purpose of protecting the security of their country from the descent into a lawless place. Their judges, lawyers and literally millions of people went into the streets in order to defend the ousted chief justice, Iftekhar Choudry. They succeeded temporarily. It was then that General Musharraf unleashed emergency rule and displaced the judiciary but to do that he had to crackdown and imprison thousands of lawyers and political protestors. However, despite of all the protests and international condemnation General Musharraf is determined to bring the independence of the judiciary to an end.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has previously observed on many occasions that in recent times one of the prominent strategies of tyrants has been to displace judicial institutions and thereby to make the rule of law a practical impossibility. There is very little meaning in having laws if they are not administered through a credible system of the administration of justice. There is no better way to destroy a credible system of the administration of justice than to eliminate all possibilities of the independence of the judiciary. It is only independent judicial institutions that make the proper operation of the rule of law possible. To remove this is like halting the functioning of the spring in a clock thereby making it dysfunctional.

General Musharraf’s ideological claim is that he is no friend of terrorism and even further that he is the best option available for Pakistan and for the international community to fight against terrorism. However, nothing supports terrorism more than lawlessness and General Musharraf, in creating a state of lawlessness in the country, has become the best friend that any group of terrorists might have. The resulting anarchy not only makes the lives of the people of Pakistan harder by creating enormous difficulties in all areas of normal life and social order, but by such anarchy the climate that is most conducive to terrorism is also created. 

The people of Pakistan, including the political parties are today engaged in a critical struggle against the political scheme of General Musharraf. They demand the lifting of the emergency and the reinstatement of the ousted chief justice and the Supreme Court judges who refused to take oath under the emergency regulations. In this extremely critical moment the fight for democracy and rule of law are now in the hands of these protestors. Their protests are not only legitimate but are also very vital in preventing the final collapse of Pakistan into a lawless place. 

The international community has not yet shown adequate will to ensure the reinstatement of the ousted Supreme Court of Pakistan and to prevent the scheme of the appointment of a completely subservient judiciary by persons hand picked by the General. It is incomprehensible as to how the international community could think of General Musharraf as a protector of stability of Pakistan and as a necessary ally in the fight against terrorism. Such an ideological stance is divorced from reality. The stability of Pakistan depends on creating the possibility of the rule of law through the protection of the country’s judicial institutions. To allow these judicial institutions to perish and hope that there will still be stability is a pipe dream. 

The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally supports the struggle for the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Pakistan and condemns the violence unleashed by General Musharraf against the country’s premier judicial institution which is the supreme court of Pakistan. The AHRC calls upon the international community to unequivocally support the struggle of the people of Pakistan to defeat the political scheme of General Musharraf.

One day history will judge as to whether, at the point of Pakistan’s final plunge into lawlessness, it was still possible for something to be done and whether the international community did everything it could to prevent it or just contributed to the collapse by their silence. The simple test of what might happen is as to whether the ousted Supreme Court of the country will be reinstated or not.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-277-2007
Countries : Pakistan,