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]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Restoration of Judges and Democracy" convention at LUMS

By: SAC Correspondent

The convention organized was an immense success. So many people showed up that we did not have seating place. Many were standing around or sitting on the floor or stairs in the auditorium. The next convention therefore will be organized in an even bigger hall. The attendance was over 200 people.

The convention began by Hamid Zaman addressing the audience and introducing the host, Talat Hussain. Following that, the panelist began by giving their viewpoint on the matter of the restoration of the judiciary. Retired Justice Fakhrunnisa from PPP and Ahsan Iqbal from PML-N both promised their party's commitment to the cause of the people.

Retired Justice Fakhrunnisa declared her commitment to the struggle for the restoration of the judiciary, and stressed that after elections her party will do all in their power to get the judiciary restored. She said Benazir gave her life for the struggle of democracy, and democracy is not possible without the restoration of the judiciary. Hence, PPP will first and foremost work towards that.

Mr. Ahsan Iqbal declared the recent mobilization of the civil society and students as nothing less than marvelous. He said that throughout history, countries have survived poverty, hunger, illiteracy etc but never has any country survived without justice. He said that the lack of justive effects the poor and the middle classes the most, as they are unable to shield themselves from those with power. He declared that today, the civil society and the students have stepped forward to become that shield. He pointed to the historic nexus between the judge, the general and the Jageerdar and said that for the first time in the history of Pakistan, a judge dared defy this nexus and give hope to the desolute and oppressed masses. He said that Nawaz Sharif himself will administer an oath to ALL party nominees in front of the Public. This oath will profess the utmost commitment of each to the restoration of the judiciary and the constitution. He said that Pervaiz Musharraf insulted 160 million people in his address in Europe when he declared Pakistanis as undeserving of democracy, and that Pakistanis deserve it as much as any other country. He declared Musharraf as obsessed with power.

Mr. Hamid Khan, began by historicizing the lawyer's movement. That it had begun since the first coup by Musharraf. He strongly denounced any system of which Musharraf was a part of, and added that when Benazir made a deal with Musharraf, it was a most painful moment in the lawyer's movement. He blamed this deal for the fact that Musharraf was able to remain on his seat post March 9. He therefore also denounced the current elections taking place under Musharraf's biased government. He also said that had all the parties boycotted elections from the beginning Musharraf would have been unable to retain any power and that Political parties should have only contested elections on the condition that Musharraf resign.

Mr. Parvaiz Hassan, representing Mr. Tariq Hassan in the convention, said that the so-called deposed judges are not under the law deposed. They are still legally the judges. He declared that the only solution to the problem of the repeated coups by the military is via recourse to the article 6 of the constitution. He said that Musharraf should be tried before the courts (once the judges have been reinstated de facto) for high treason. He also said that not only Musharraf but the PCO judges should also be held accountable. He stressed that unless this process of accountability begins in the country, there is no hope.

Mr. Ahsan rasheed representing PTI, stressed that these elctions are neither free nor fair. He emphasized the principled stance of his party in this regard. He said that his party now had an expanded electoral base, and stood to win many more seats, but purely on principles has decided to boycott the elections. He said that Imran Khan was offered to become part of the Musharraf government previously as well, but had refused each time.

The talk was very charged with emotions. A lot of people denounced Musharraf. Many also said that we will now hold the political parties equally accountable. PML-N and PPP were also questioned on judicial independence during their terms in power. Retd Justice Fakhrunnisa responded by saying that her party never deposed any judges. And Mr. Iqbal said that Nawaz Sharif was the first Prime Minister of Pakistan to ever present himself in front of the court. He, however, also stated that his party has learned from their past mistakes and was willing to improve hand in hand with the people. This was appreciated by many from the civil society that at least an acceptance and willingness to improve has been expressed. The general consensus of the convention was that Musharraf must immediately resign, that no power sharing agreement with him was acceptable and that the judiciary must be restored. PPP was also asked to give an official firm stance on the issue of the judiciary and to administer a similar oath as the PML-N. All politicians were asked to give an oath that if they are unable to restore the judiciary they will resign from politics.

(Although video of this event will be televised in an episode of 'Live with Talat', on Aaj TV, but we will also post here the UN-CENSORED videos of the event, in a couple of days)

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