You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pakistan votes for Israeli resolution


Pakistan on Tuesday surprised the Muslim nations by voting for a resolution sponsored by Israel in a committee of the UN General Assembly. Most Muslim countries abstained.

Although the resolution sponsored by Israel and European nations related to “agricultural technology for development,” most Arab envoys said that until the issue of occupied territories was resolved, they cannot support any Israeli-sponsored resolution.

The resolution was adopted with 118 in favour and 29 abstentions. Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman hailed the adoption of the resolution saying that a new spirit of cooperation existed among member states. He chastised South Africa for voting against the resolution.

No one from the Pakistan mission was available to comment on the vote. Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram was away in Bali (Indonesia) to attend the UN climate change meeting.

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Police campaigning for PML-Q!

Police at work in Lahore. If you needed visual proof of pre-poll rigging here it is. The bicycle is the
symbol of Musharraf’s PML Q. So much for Musharraf's claims about fair elections! Every instrument of state will be used to ensure the results are according to Musharraf's plan, his life depends on it as he knows he violated Article 6.

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Aitzaz is not alone ...

Source: The News

Expressing solidarity with the judiciary and barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, the P-M-L-N leader Zafar Ali Shah has withdrawn his nomination papers from three constituencies of the National Assembly.

Talking to Geo News in Islamabad, Zafar Ali Shah announced that he had withdrawn his candidature from Islamabad and Rawalpindi constituencies to follow a boycott call from the thousands of lawyers from across the country. He said he hoped P-M-L-N would not expel him for going against the party's line of action.

(In my opinion those who feel guilt and have some 'self respect', are going to boycott these fraudulent elections just like Aitzaz and Zafar who are withdrawing from the election despite the fact that their parties are desperately going for it)

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The Selection Commission of Pakistan

Source: Nai Tazi

Of the many gifts given to the nation by the Election Commission of Pakistan in 2002, there were some 68-odd fake degree holders and an equal number of those who were either loan defaulters or had their loans written off. Many others had the dubious distinction of being wanted in criminal cases. It was common knowledge that fake bachelor-degree certificates were officially provided to many from the king’s party while ‘madressah sanads’ were overnight upgraded to degree level to accommodate a large number from the religious clan. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) raised no voice against this official lowering of education standards. The Election Commission conveniently looked the other way when scrutinizing the credentials of these parliamentarians, as they were badly needed to act as rubber stamps in Pakistan for the next five years.

As expected, many of these con men rose to great heights, becoming heads of various ministries, chancellors of universities and governors of provinces. Thus for five long years, the people of Pakistan were forced to suffer these spurious MNAs and MPAs who floated in the corridors of power in the same ratio as the spurious drugs in the market.

There were citizens who repeatedly approached the Election Commission and the Higher Education Commission to review and scrutinise the credentials of these shady individuals and unburden the conscience as well as the exchequer of Pakistan, by unseating those whose degrees were fake or had issues with loan defaulting or indulgence in crime.

Despite these repeated requests, the Election Commission and the HEC refused to budge. Their response was bureaucratic and clerical, indicating utter disinterest and helplessness. The fact that these two commissions were ultimately and solely responsible for weeding out this junk never dawned upon them and they kept on feigning naiveté each time the matter was brought up before them.

It is once again the winter of elections. We have the original judges under house arrest, a PCO-ed Election Commission and a brand of new judges intoxicated with the ‘PCO elixir’ that provides job security for the next five years or the next PCO, whichever comes first. The eligibility of candidates and their credentials are being scrutinised under the umbrella of a ‘Personal Constitution Order’ (PCO). We are therefore utterly vulnerable to the insatiate appetite of a single person who would like to have a parliament that could obligingly indemnify his acts of playing football with the Constitution. The fake degrees, the loans and the crimes of candidates would hardly be issues of consequence before such an obsequious ‘PCO-compliant’ Election Commission. Thus we will once again suffer the calamity of fake degree holders, loan defaulters and criminals who will be our rulers for the next five years.

It is precisely for this reason why we as citizens ought to insist on a retroactive recall of the PCO, the restoration of the judiciary and holding of elections under an impartial Election Commission. We must demand that the Election Commission should ask all potential MNAs and MPAs to submit their original degree certificates, which should be passed on to the HEC for scrutiny and clearance. Likewise the State Bank should scrutinise these gentlemen for loan defaults, the police for criminal cases and the tax department for payment of due taxes.

Finally, these documents, facts and figures should be publicized in national newspapers for the public to know the profile of their future leaders, and to point out the erroneous declarations, if any. The Election Commission and HEC must be held accountable if it is discovered at a later stage that a bad fish was allowed to pass through their net.

The people of Pakistan must vote for only those political parties who insist on retroactive recall of the PCO, restoration of the judiciary and an independent Election Commission as a prerequisite for the January election. Not willing to undertake these steps would only mean yet another five years of misrule by spurious politicians, whose fake degrees and criminal cases were conveniently overlooked by the 2007 Selection Commission of Pakistan.

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Normal service will not be resumed any time soon in Pakistan

For that reason alone — although there are others — the West should not buy Musharraf’s line that he is now returning things to normal, that he is draining the heat from the crisis, and that the elections due in January will be free and fair.

Giving the green light to private media is one of Musharraf’s bravest achievements. Like trying to push forward women’s rights, it underpins his claim to being liberal, modern and having Pakistan’s best interests at heart. Even while his military rule stifled the rest of political life, the new channels he licensed gave space to the pent-up views of a very verbal country, where people are fluent in putting words to their predicament.

This week, in reversing his past courageous policy and ordering new permanent curbs on the channels, Musharraf has created an explosive new focus of opposition to his rule. It is as damaging to the stability of the country as the jailing of protesting lawyers and will undermine the claim that the elections will be fair. It would be a serious mistake for the US and Britain to let this pass.

The two dozen new private television channels that have leapt into existence in Musharraf’s eight-year tenure constitute an extraordinary phenomenon. Cookery, films, showbiz, and music tumble over each other.

Half consist just of news, spliced together with hyper-talkative political chat shows, whose hosts, dressed in sharp dark suits, have become nationwide stars. They summon political figures from across the country to their sofas, and criticise everything from the vanity of Benazir Bhutto’s rally on returning from exile to Musharraf’s attack on the judiciary.

They are just extending their reach out from the cities, but in a country where only half can read, they brought politics alive, and their potential impact is huge.

This week Musharraf insisted that if the stations wanted to return to the air, they had to sign a code of conduct promising not to broadcast anything that “defames or brings into ridicule the head of state” (Musharraf). The stations have been told to drop about half a dozen of the best-known hosts and anchors. There are also guidelines against insulting the military and against covering live events, such as rallies by the opposition or lawyers.

Even though Musharraf has ordered Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the country’s leading politicians, not to hold big rallies, for fear of terrorist attack, he has now removed the means of campaigning over the airwaves.

The effect has been crippling. Most of the channels are back, but without their freedom to comment, and film of live events is noticeably absent. Geo TV, one of the largest networks, is still off the air; its owner, Jang Group, the largest media company in Pakistan, has refused to agree to the curbs.

The press, so far, has escaped such restrictions. Musharraf has apparently reckoned that as it lacks the impact of television, and given the low literacy rate, he does not have much to fear from it. Musharraf, in his eight years, had scarcely tried to curb the press, in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, and previous military regimes. But the threat must be there, given his treatment of television.

The response of Britain and the US to the new curbs has been silence. They appear to be so glad that Musharraf has eased Pakistan back from last month’s extravagant drama that they will overlook such infringements of the democratic ideal.

They should not. Pakistan’s media, in the absence of a free opposition, has been one of the few checks on the military Government. By removing it now, Musharraf undermines the ability of politicians to campaign properly, and will store up explosive opposition to his own presidency.

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Lawyers stage protest rally in Lahore

LAHORE, Dec 13 (APP):

The lawyers of Lahore Bar Association and High Court Bar Association staged a joint protest rally against the imposition of emergency and sacking of judges on Thursday. The rally started from Aiwan-i-Adal and terminated in front of the Punjab Asembly building. The protesters were carrying placards and banners inscribed with different slogans in favour of independence of judiciary and supremacy of law. They were joined by the members of the civil society at the GPO chowk where its participants staged a sit-in for half an hour. The speakers urged all the political parties to boycott the upcoming election for the sake of democracy and independence of Judiciary in the country. During the protest ttraffic remained disturbed for two hours. Some protesters also burnt the banners of the main political party which backs president Musharraf.

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Govt. to lift ban on third time premiership

Source: GEO News

LAHORE: The government has decided to lift ban on holding the prime minister’s office for third time, sources said. An ordinance has been prepared to lift ban on holding the premiership for third time, high placed sources in the federal government said. The ordinance will be enacted along with lifting of the emergency rule. The law will be enacted through a presidential decree, sources further said.

In the upcoming constitutional package various new laws will be introduced including the issue of judges salaries and pensions, the sources added.

At least now we can have a clue of why "some" political parties are not paying much attention on the people's demand for "reinstatement of pre November 3rd judiciary". These are bunch of businessmen who only know how to maximize their personal benefit they has nothing to do with the people kind of creature, though they keep talking about 'awam' (people) and 'jamhooriat' (democracy) but ...

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Official election results ready

By: M.Ziauddin

LONDON, Dec 10: The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), now minus the Jamaat-i-Islami, is expected to hold the balance in the next National Assembly as the January 8 elections are estimated officially to throw up largely a hung house.

These estimates which the PPP and the PML-N sources here believe have been drawn up by the intelligence agencies in the first week of the current month have given the PML-Q 115 seats followed by PPP (90), MMA (45), PML-N (40), MQM (20) and ANP (12) in a house of 342.
These estimates are said to have been made on the basis of the 'strength' of each party constituency-wise plus individual candidate's own 'ability' to pull voters and the political affiliation of the nazims in the constituency.

The sources who did not wish to be identified alleged that the official plan was to rig the polls in such a way as to deny a clear majority to any of the contesting parties so as to place President Pervez Musharraf in a position of cobbling together a coalition of his choice which, according to the American script, is a coalition of the PML-Q and the PPP.

However, if the PML-Q and the PPP wished to make their own governments without the other, which many here fear is what the two parties would try their best to achieve first, Musharraf's desire and American script notwithstanding, they would need to enlist the support of the MMA because a coalition of the PPP, PML-N and ANP would fall short by 30 votes, if the above official estimates come true, while the PML-Q would require another 17 votes to form a government even after the addition of 20 each from the MQM and smaller parties like PML-F and PPP (Sherpao) etc.

But then since a coalition with the MMA would not make Washington all that happy, Musharraf would probably try his best to scuttle any such move either by the PML-Q or the PPP, sources said.

This, they said, would then lead to a long drawn political wrangling and intense attempts at horse-trading which they fear would finally culminate into invalidation of January 8 elections and the president calling for fresh elections in June.

They, however, did not rule out the possibility of the original official estimates undergoing further changes in the remaining three weeks to the polls which could swing in favour of the PPP and the PML-N in case the two succeeded in forcing the government into accepting some of their demands included in the Charter of Demands.

Or, they said, the PML-Q in panic fearing losing their voters to the PML-N could go on a spree of rigging full throttle undermining the very credibility of the elections both inside and outside the country, to be followed by a kind of Orange revolution a la Ukraine which again could to lead to fresh elections in June.

Sources said that even if there was no Orange revolution the new government led by the PML-Q with a single digit majority would not last long unless of course it enlists the support of the MMA even at the cost of annoying the US.

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Most want Musharraf to quit: A credible poll

The first comprehensive public opinion poll conducted in Pakistan since President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency last month has found that 67 percent of Pakistanis want him to resign immediately and that 70 percent say his government does not deserve re-election.

The poll was conducted by the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit group based in Washington that is affiliated with the Republican Party and promotes democracy abroad.

for details of this poll visit New York Times' Relevant Page

Poll Resutls: Emergency S

An immensely informative article about recent poll results in the country. Shatters various myths, confirms some perceptions and leaves some questions unanswered.

Why no protests against emergency?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007Dr Ijaz Shafi GilaniA key political question on the political situation prevailing in the country is whether elections should be boycotted or not. Politicians are divided on the subject (as evidenced most recently by the PML-N's announcement on Sunday that it would go ahead and participate in the elections). And interestingly, so is the public. A recent poll showed that a majority (56 percent) was in favour of boycott, while 41 percent favoured participation in the election – the remaining three percent were undecided. The opinion was sought in mid-November from 1,369 men and women across the large and small cities, towns and villages of all four provinces. My experience shows that public views on a subject such as this, where political leaders are themselves divided, are flexible, if not volatile. So we might witness a change in it as the political situation evolves. The poll did not find a noticeable difference between rural and urban views on this subject. If anything, the pro-boycott sentiment in rural areas was higher than in urban. But this might change as and if the national mood for election picks up, and if key political leaders make up their mind to go ahead with the elections. What is the public response to restrictions on private TV channels? To begin with, the judiciary and the media are the two major gainers in public opinion and trust during the last one year. As opposed to this, institutions of the state, government, parliament, the police and the army, have all lost out. A survey measuring change in trust in institutions shows the following gains and losses in public trust over a period of roughly two years. The gainers were the judiciary, by 17 percent and the media, 12 percent. The losers were: government, 41 percent; parliament 22 percent; the police 24 percent and the army 12 percent. These polls were carried out by the International Republican Institute among cross-sections of 1,000 or more men and women.On the specific issue of restrictions against cable TV, a Gallup Pakistan straw poll showed that 80 percent of Pakistanis opposed the restrictions against Geo and ARY-One (both were off the air at the time the poll was held). Eighteen percent were in favour of the prohibition and the remaining were undecided. When asked should their transmissions be resumed or not, an even higher percentage, 88 percent, responded in the affirmative, 10 percent said they should not be restored while two percent were undecided. Another question raised by some is: Are people really bothered by emergency rule? Does it affect their lives in any way? Opposition to the imposition of emergency remained unchanged. It was slightly higher, at 71 percent, towards the end of November than at the start of the emergency, when it stood at 68 percent. But views were more complex on whether emergency rule affected people's personal lives. I composed these phrases to describe the variety of moods and asked our sample which one captured their state of mind.Forty-two percent of the respondents agreed with the following phrase: "The current state of affairs in the country bothers me, but that does not affect my day-to-day life." Thirty-eight percent said that were "bothered" and that it also "adversely affected my day-to-day life." And, finally 18 percent said that the emergency was "not much to be bothered about."These statements may or may not reflect the reality of people's lives. But those are their perceptions. Roughly one in five believes the country is doing fine. The remaining four are equally divided between those who feel emergency rule in the country adversely affects their personal lives, and others who feel bothered, but say it does not affect them personally. I would tend to infer from this that the people of Pakistan are not apathetic to what is happening around them. There is a relatively high level of awareness and consciousness about how they are governed and nearly 40 percent have a perception that the suspension of constitutional government affects their personal lives. The sentiment runs across the country, including the rural areas. Opinion research does not support the thesis that constitutional government is a concern of the urban intellectual class while the ordinary people are interested in their daily chores. Firstly, ordinary citizens seem concerned, and secondly, a near- majority appears to draw a link between governance and the rigours of daily chores.There is still another popular question by those who say they are at a loss. They see widespread disapproval of emergency rule, and yet very few are on the streets agitating against it. Why this mismatch and what explains it? When asked in the poll whether it was right (advisable) or wrong to organise agitation and rallies against emergency rule, the replies were sharply divided between those who favoured agitation (43 percent) and those who were against such an approach (40 percent) – this despite the fact that 71 percent in the same group oppose emergency rule. This means that a large section of opponents of emergency rule do not favour active agitation against it. Why? Unfortunately, this is a matter of speculation since I have no data to explain it empirically. Perhaps there is a sense of insecurity about the country and a fear of anarchy. It could also relate to a low level of trust in the political leadership which would organise the agitation. The alternatives to politicians in the public space, such as lawyers, students of elite schools and the media, are appreciated but perceived to be distant. One could also suggest that there is a new heightened sense of civic awareness, as a result of which street agitation is not seen as the appropriate channel to express political opposition. There is also the argument that the choices have been reduced to highly civic and decent democratic disputation on the one hand and armed resistance on the other. The middle ground of civil-disobedience- type agitation on the streets has been squeezed out. Presently Musharraf's government is witnessing both. A silent but widespread civic dissent against martial law is prevalent across the country and a violent armed resistance exists on its tiny and remote periphery in the Tribal Areas and Swat. Since the middle ground appears to have been squeezed out, a vast majority of civic dissenters are cautious that innocent agitation and civil disobedience could unknowingly swing to the other end of the pendulum. One may be giving too much credit to the wisdom of the ordinary dissenting man and woman, but apparently they are fearful of anarchy, while the rulers' actions make them wonder whether they should really come out on the streets and launch an agitation. Nevertheless, the basic contradiction remains that while most people are opposed to emergency rule the streets are empty.
The writer holds a doctorate from MIT and is a specialist in public opinion research.

Talk and Tea with US Senators

By: Umar G
Date: 12 December, 2007

This afternoon, quite unexpectedly, SAC representatives were invited to a meeting between civil society representative and United States Senators visiting Pakistan. The invitation came to us the way most invitations travel in the political circles here: someone knows someone who knows someone else who know… all the way between the sender and the recipient. In any case, at around two in the afternoon, as the air was abuzz with the blithe news of the imminent release of our fellow students from jail, we hitchhiked our way to a house somewhere close to Pace in Liberty Market. A beautifully young lady with lots of make-up dressed up in a black business suit ushered us inside the house. By our left a saw one of the beautiful private garden that I have ever seen and in my mind flickered a glimpse of that eternally-sought Eden. But the next moment we were led into a grand house and then a grand drawing room beyond which a swimming pool could be seen.

The room, however, was completely NGO-aunty-infested. At first, I felt trapped in yet another elite NGO-aunty tea party but further conversation marginally corroded my mental stereotype. After another hour or so, the senators arrived and the meeting formally began. The four senators (senators of their own states, not federal senators) were young men in their early thirties and had been selected from amongst a large number of candidates to spend a week or so in Pakistan trying to understand the country better. The moderator was the owner of the mansion, the young lady who had ushered us in. Besides three students, Anushay, Ammar and myself, there were lawyers, middle-tier representatives from the PPP and PML-N, journalists, representative of HRCP and Human Rights Watch and a couple of film-makers.

It would be pointless to give you a minute-by-minute account of the meeting. Besdies, I don’t remember all the stuff. I can only offer snippets. First the arguments, then the people.

The civil society representatives offered the usual story: martial law is in place, the judiciary has been destroyed, rights and freedoms are minimal and Musharraf is banking on nothing less and nothing more than his American support base. It is bad because the US professes to be the champion of democracy and liberal values but its acts destroy the claim. It is against US interests because with the current configuration of power, America’s War on Terror and support for Musharraf is alienating the civil society; without the civil society’s support, banking on the military alone, the US is highly unlikely to make much progress in fighting extremism.

The students added the point that without a strong and independent judiciary all governments tend to turn authoritarian and arbitrary. Therefore, if freedom and responsibly, good governance are to take root and survive in Pakistan, the illegally dismissed judges must be restored. Elections are part of the solution but democracy is incomplete without getting the judges back.

The Senators recognized the outrage against US polices amongst the civil society in Pakistan. However, they felt that given its security concerns, the US had no choice but to back the military in Pakistan which is, among other things, crucial to the supply chain for waging war in Afghanistan. They expressed the fear that if the US withdraws its support for Pakistan Army, the Saudis (whom they termed the biggest supporters of terrorism in the world and Islamic Fundamentalists) would fill in the vacuum. This, they believed, would put Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in even more dangerous hands. Again and again, the Senators kept insisting that instead of crticising US policy, Pakistanis should provide alternative policies.

To this, the representative of Human Rights Watch and a few journalists responded by saying that the American aid did not have to withdrawn immediately. It would be a gradual process whereby the US should negotiate with not just the military in Pakistan but with the civil society in order to come to any settlement. Also, right now even moral support in terms of a statement of two followed by some action will boost the courage of relevant actors. At least the US should stop make such irresponsible claims like saying that the judges issue is a mere Supreme Court reshuffle and elections will be free and fair. In the longer run, US security will remain in danger as long as common people hate it and resent its policies.

A lot of usual questions were asked and answered. The Senators did, however, raise two points which I consider quite enlightening. I felt that these questions caught almost all of us off guard and we need to think deeply about them. Why did the civil society not rise against the martial law in 1999, but rose up now? How are judges selected in Pakistan? If the government handpicks the judges, why is it still so outrageous when it makes them take a new oath or fires them? I do not mean to suggest that we have no answers to these questions, but I do feel that we need to reflect more deeply upon these key points.

As to the people, two of the senators stood out: Senator Pippy, ex-armyman, more than six-feet talk and very strongly built, he was a very sharp Republican. His questions were ruthless but relevant. The leader of the group, however, was a very sweet, good-looking and suave Democrats, who quiet but perceptive demeanour but deep eyes inspired a lot of respect. He was quite understanding, and at the end of the meeting, profusely thanked us terming this their ‘most lively’ meeting in Pakistan, yet. Ali Dayan from Human Rights Watch was very articulate and appeared fairly seasoned in tackling US politicians, appealing to just the right things. Later, over a cup of tea, he told me that he felt that the senators were ‘gaon kay loag’ (villages) from small states, and he had dealt with bigger fish before. Aitzaz Ahsan’s son, a lawyer working with the UN was also there and he grilled the American just as his father used to grill the Attorney-General in the Supreme Court, before Nov 3.

Then, of course, there was our unforgettable hostess but I have mentioned her elsewhere…

Throughout the meeting, waiters - some dressed up in fancy sherwanis and turbans, others in ragged clothes - kept roaming miserably from one person to another, distributing tea, sandwiches, patties, pastries and delicacies of all sort and the senators kept refusing to accept their generosity. In my heart, I could feel the contempt that this must have inspired in the Senators. They must be sharing my contempt for the rich in Pakistan who have the guts to blame America for hypocrisy while, in their own houses, they do the same – talk of justice and rights, but engage in ruthless exploitation of the laboring class; tell the American to respect other humans, but force their own servant to work in harsh and humiliating conditions. Are we any better than the military? Why should the Americans leave the reins of power in our hands? Is it the perpetuation of our power and privilege that we are fighting for? I don’t have any quick answers. But as my eyes wandered from our beautiful and eloquent young hostess to the senators and back, I felt these questions plague my mind.

At the end of the meeting, business cards were exchanged. Asma Jehangir had come by then. As we stood outside the house, waiting for a rickshaw, all the aunties had left in their big cars. A rickshaw was hard to find. The weather was lovely, windy and Islamabad-cold and we were anxious to join our recently released friends at the Hunger Strike Camp outside the Press Club. We had with us a chatty, young, Lahori lawyer, who had spent a week or so in jail. Like most Lahoris he had quite a few stories to share…

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‘No comments on PCO because I am still SHC chief justice’

Dec 10: The lawyers’ struggle against the arbitrary dismissal of judges is, in fact, a struggle for the enforcement of the fundamental right of access to justice and other basic human rights, deposed Sindh High Court chief justice Sabihuddin Ahmed told a seminar in the bar room of the Sindh High Court on Monday.

Justice Ahmed was warmly welcomed and profusely garlanded when he arrived at the SHC Bar Association premises to address the seminar entitled ‘Role of Lawyers for Enforcement of Human Rights in Pakistan’ in commemoration of the 59th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

SHCBA President Rasheed A. Razvi also read out a paper reiterating the Bar’s resolve “to face any consequence in seeking the restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary”.

Justice Ahmed refused to comment on the Provisional Constitution Order in reply to reporters’ questions after the seminar, saying that they might be misconstrued as a judicial pronouncement because he was still the chief justice of the high court. The seminar was attended by a large number of lawyers, including bar representatives. Pakistan Bar Council member Hafiz Abdur Rehman Ansari came from Lahore to express solidarity with the Karachi lawyers.

Recounting the history of justifiable rights and liberties in Pakistan, Justice Ahmed said fundamental human rights were made enforceable under the 1962 constitution following a campaign launched by lawyers. Representative rule is also a basic right and the bar associations employed their collective strength to protest against the perversion of this right in the 1964 presidential election and the 1977 parliamentary polls.

By far the most effective campaign launched by the legal fraternity, he added, was the one following the filing of a reference against the chief justice of Pakistan on March 9. The principle that a judge suspected of misconduct should be proceeded against before the Supreme Judicial Council has never been doubted. It was the suspension of the CJ through the non-existent inherent powers, the maltreatment meted out to him and the informal detention imposed on him that aroused the indignation of lawyers and the public at large.

These actions were perceived as an attack on the very basic right of access to justice. The independence of judges is co-related to the security of their tenure and no judge can be fearlessly independent unless he is assured that he cannot be removed until and unless specific allegations against him are proved before a tribunal of his peers. No judge, he said, can give fair and impartial decisions if he thinks that wrong decisions will land him in detention.

About the role of the judiciary, he recalled that the 1969 Supreme Court judgment in Shorish Kashmiri’s case declared that the burden to prove legality of detention without trial was invariably upon the detaining authority. Subjective satisfaction of the authority was insufficient and adequate objective grounds had to be shown. Under Article 199, Justice Ahmed said, it is the duty of high courts to interfere when a government functionary is refusing to carry out his lawful duty.

In the 1988 Benazir Bhutto case, he further recalled, the Supreme Court gave meaning and content to the directive principles of policy, which embody socio-economic rights enunciated by the universal declaration of 1949. The rights and liberties, the SC held, should guarantee freedom not merely from arbitrary restraint but also freedom from want, from poverty and destitution and from illiteracy and ignorance. The judgment commenced the SC’s suo motu human rights jurisdiction.

Those who were not prepared to accord economic, social or cultural rights the status of human rights, Justice Ahmed said, could not reconcile to the newly-defined role of the judiciary. They thought these matters reside exclusively in the domain of executive policy. The courts could no longer confine their inquiry to the legality of the exercise of authority; they were, as a matter of duty, required to see that the public power was exercised fairly and honestly, he said.

SHCBA President Rasheed Razvi said for the first time a large number of judges have shown their resolve or an independent judiciary by not taking an oath under the PCO. A heavy responsibility has fallen on the lawyers’ shoulders to fight for the rule of law and independence of the judiciary. The current ‘martial law regime’, he said, has also struck hard on the press and electronic media and the lawyers were determined to fight for the cause of freedom of expression also.

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