Standing Up for Rule of Law in Pakistan
We have witnessed with admiration and empathy the heroism of lawyers and judges in Pakistan as they squarely faced beatings and stood up to soldiers and police to defend the rule of law. The dissolution of the Supreme Court, the silencing of a free press, and in general, the loss of democratic order have plunged that country into legal chaos.
The struggle of the Pakistani lawyers reminds us that the ideals of freedom and the rule of law are not abstract concepts, but are very real lines that stand between justice and tyranny. Their stand demonstrates how fragile the rule of law is in all nations, including our own.
As lawyers, it is no surprise to us that Musharraf targeted his crackdown on his nation’s legal community among other aspects of civil society. Musharraf has treated the law, as well as the judiciary and free press, as dangers to his rule and curtailments to his power.
In Pakistan and elsewhere, lawyers are the keepers of democracy. In our own nation, lawyers built our democratic society, founded on the rule of law, and continue to play a vital role.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, American lawyers helped draft constitutions and train judges whose work would help new democracies emerge. Although we appeared then to be in the midst of a worldwide flowering of liberty, increasingly we see those gains in jeopardy.
The recent actions in Pakistan embody the reversal of values we hold dear. And in a world threatened by terrorism and rising dictators, they make our world more dangerous, not less.
It is too easy to ignore the events in Pakistan because they are happening so far away. What the terrorist events on Sept. 11 showed us, however, is that we do not live in isolation. We live in an increasingly global society and we are more interconnected as human beings than ever before.
The American Bar Association and other bar groups call on President Musharraf to restore constitutional law and reinstate the Supreme Court justices, and to free those he has wrongly arrested.
Those messages have been reinforced by lawyers in cities across the globe since Musharraf declared a state of emergency in his country. The protests continue this week as we continue to express our solidarity with our courageous counterparts in Pakistan.
As lawyers, our goal is not just to support the rule of law, it is to stand up for our beliefs in basic human rights — the right to feel secure in our own homes, the right to work in safety and the right to freely voice our views.
The injustices in Pakistan cannot be ignored. Lawyers the world over must not rest until democracy and the rule of law have been restored in Pakistan.