A symbol of resistance

The legal fraternity observed November 3 as a ‘black day’ across the country to protest against the imposition of emergency three years ago by former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. When the general asked Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry to step down in March 2007, CJ Chaudhry refused to do so. He was then suspended and his case sent to the Supreme Judicial Council by Musharraf but after immense public pressure, he was reinstated in July. Once the CJ was reinstated, the pro-active judiciary became a threat for Musharraf as he perceived that if his presidential elections were legally challenged, the courts would rule against him. This led him to make a pre-emptive move; thus the emergency on November 3, 2007.

Despite our judicial history not being an exemplary one, Justice Chaudhry’s historic defiance of Musharraf, a military dictator, became a symbol of resistance. After Musharraf stepped down from his presidential post, the PPP government procrastinated in restoring the deposed CJ and his colleagues. The lawyers’ movement kept rallying till the incumbent government was forced to restore the CJ. After the restoration of the judiciary in March 2009, we saw that the judiciary started to assert itself. The thrust of the judiciary’s assertion was by and large against the sitting government. The rest of the public suffered as the Supreme Court (SC) spent a considerable amount of its time hearing the NRO and 18th Amendment cases. A conflict between the judiciary and the executive loomed. Fortunately, both sides drew back from the brink. Those forces seeking an extra-democratic change were disappointed.

Asma Jahangir’s win in the recent presidential elections of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) is a historic turn. Ms Jahangir has always been against military dictatorships and anti-democratic policies. On November 3, Ms Jahangir said that she would resist any unconstitutional attempt against the judiciary from the executive but she also warned that the lawyers would not tolerate if the judiciary indulged in any extra-constitutional move. After the restoration of the judiciary, some lawyers unfortunately became partisan in favour of the bench. This was not a healthy trend since lawyers are meant to play an intermediary role between the litigant and the courts so that justice can be delivered. It is hoped that now all state institutions would work within their parameters, which is integral to a democratic process.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


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