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]

Friday, March 7, 2008

Judiciary row Pakistan’s internal matter: US (as if all other matters are not)

Judiciary row Pakistan’s internal matter: US: Amnesty announces awards for lawyers, judges

Source: Dawn

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, March 5: The White House has said that it will not get involved in the judiciary-executive dispute in Pakistan because it views this as an internal matter of that country.

“That will be a topic that the Pakistanis need to address, not the United States,” said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino when asked if President Bush will use his influence to get the former chief justice released and the judiciary restored to its pre-Nov 3 status.

Ms Perino told a news briefing in Washington that Pakistan already has a parliament elected on Feb 18 and the newly elected leaders “are working on the changes that need to take place” to settle such disputes.

However, at a short distance from the White House, leaders of Pakistan’s lawyers’ movement received a rare honour from Amnesty International for their struggle to restore the rule of law in their country.

Amnesty International gave two awards – one for judges and another for lawyers – at a ceremony also attended by a delegation of lawyers from Pakistan.

“Amnesty International, USA, salutes the judges and lawyers of Pakistan who stood up during the recent state of emergency in defence of an independent judiciary,” said a citation etched on the plaques.

Hamid Khan, former President of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, told the gathering that the US should use its influence to get the sacked judges reinstated.

The judges, he said, were sacked because they attempted to restore the independence of judiciary and not because they were releasing terror suspects, as some in the United States believe.

Mr Khan said if the US wanted to stay neutral, it should also stop supporting the Musharraf government.

He noted that while the Bush administration never shies away from expressing its support to the Musharraf government, it refuses to back the cause of the judiciary whenever this issue is raised.
Mr Khan claimed that the Musharraf government was using its influence to break up the PPP-PML-N alliance and bring a government that would agree to work with President Musharraf for the next five years.

“But the Feb 18 elections have shown that the people do not want him,” Mr Khan said. “He should step down in the greater interest of the country.”

The US administration, he said, should not try to prolong President Musharraf’s stay in power and “instead of supporting an individual, it should support the people of Pakistan”.

Sahibzada Anwar Hamid, former vice president of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, advised the US administration not to allow the fear of terrorism to prevent it from seeing the changes sweeping through Pakistan.

“If you look closely, you will see that people not only voted against the ruling party; they also voted for an independent judiciary,” he said. He argued that at least in Punjab, political parties benefited from the pro-judiciary sentiments stoked by the lawyers’ movement and if the new government fails to restore the judiciary, they too will become unpopular.

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