I was deeply honored to be asked to write a foreword for this book. Muneer A Malik has captured and analyzed the Pakistani lawyers’ movement of 2007 in an outstanding manner. The outrage by lawyers against the dictatorial actions of General Musharraf was spontaneous. The refusal of the Chief Justice to succumb to the pressure of a military dictator was inspiring. It triggered an immediate reaction throughout the legal fraternity of the country. We were fortunate that leadership like Muneer A Malik and his other colleagues steered the movement with courage and vision. The movement’s aim is to establish the rule of law which cannot be achieved under undemocratic systems. As such, the goal of the movement is not only to restore the dignity of the courts and the judges that have been deposed but also to reinforce the dignity of Pakistanis. It is vital to have freedom and to be able to live in a democratic environment.
The deposed judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are now role models for young lawyers. The Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, is now a symbol of this movement. At the time of writing, he – along with his family – has just been released from house arrest. Ironically, the judiciary in Pakistan was historically notorious for advancing the interest of the military. The notion of “law of necessity” was coined by the judiciary to perpetuate the power structures. Hopefully, this may change now.
The emergency of November 3, 2007 was no surprise to some of us. Our instincts told us that dictators may make a retreat for a while but they will hit back hard at those who challenge their authority. Once the television channels went off the air on that day, the writing was on the wall. It was a long haul to come for many judges, lawyers, journalists, human rights and political activists. While many of my colleagues were arrested and taken to prisons, I was put under house arrest on November 3 for twelve days. Muneer was critically ill and was freed on 29th November 2007 after he was hospitalized. Tariq Mehmood, Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmed Kurd also made outstanding sacrifices and were only freed months later.
I have participated in a number of movements for the restoration of rights but the Pakistani lawyers’ movement was one of the finest. It taught us a few lessons but also reinforced our belief that the democratic structure of the bar made it possible for us to have a broad based movement and a common agenda. The bar has a legacy of upholding the values of democracy and has supported all types of activists – for example women, trade union, political or human rights activists – in promoting fundamental rights. As an 18-year-old petitioner in the case of Asma Jilani v. The Federation of Pakistan, I received the support of senior members of the bar at that time. The Supreme Court declared that the “law of necessity” would no longer apply to “usurpers” of power. I recall that a number of journalists predicted that extra-constitutional interventions would not be possible any more. Regrettably, our recent history has proved the contrary. Constitutions cannot enforce themselves, neither can courts remain effective unless and until there is a vibrant civil society. I trust that the lawyers’ movement is a new chapter in our history. Pakistanis may no longer look to authorities to grant them any rights but it is the peoples’ power that will be the ultimate guarantor of freedom.
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