Clearly demonstrating their iron will to return to the rule of law and reassert the independence of the judiciary, the people of Pakistan took to the streets last week, led by a great movement of lawyers; they were ready for the long haul.
The announcement Monday by the prime minister that deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry would be reinstated came as a clear concession by the government of Asif Ali Zardari, to the will of the people. This reinstatement is clearly a historic victory for the peop of Pakistan¡Xan even greater victory than the resignation of the dictator Pervez Musharraf in August 2008.
We congratulate the people of the country and the lawyer¡¦s movement and offers its best wishes to Chief Justice Chaudhry, who will now have a further opportunity to work toward the improvement of the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
The lesson from Pakistan is that the preservation of the rule of law and democracy is the only way to preserve national security. Military dictators and other conservative elements have tried to create anarchy and chaos under the pretext of fighting terrorism and safeguarding national security. In fact, the period of anarchy and chaos only enhanced corruption and the personal gains of a few at the risk of creating a virtual hell for the remainder of the population.
A situation similar to this has also taken place in neighbouring countries and the rhetoric of national security has been used to undermine freedom of expression and association. Illegal arrest and detention under various pretexts have become the normal way of life in the South Asian region.
Small cliques that act as ruling regimes have enhanced their capacity for corruption, while the rest of the population has been reduced to poverty, and have resorted to every form of abuse of power. Against this background extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances have increased.
The emergence of regimes that have no respect for the law is the bewildering spectacle arising in many countries of the region. All those who stand for law and order are being treated as subversives and every attempt is made to dampen the courage of lawyers, journalists, intellectuals, civil society activists and all such public-spirited persons.
It is in this context that the wisdom, courage and boldness of the great movement of lawyers in Pakistan and the people who supported them must be seen. They were put in a do-or-die situation, with the tyranny of dictatorship backed by the police and military on one side, and a bold and daring struggle for the rule of law and judicial independence on the other.
The outcome is a credit to the leaders of the lawyer¡¦s movement, many courageous judges, including Chief Justice Chaudhry himself, and millions of people in the country who chose to place the national interest first and make a sacrifice to preserve the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
Naturally this is a moment of celebration, and there is every justification in a historical sense for such celebration. However, it should also be a moment for fresh resolve to complete the task so well begun, which is to face up to the restoration of the rule of law in the country.
Those who have faced the agony of anarchy and chaos know the value of the rule of law. Therefore the people of Pakistan now have the opportunity to apply the lessons they have learned in a bitter struggle against tyranny, corruption and abuse of power, by creating the foundation for the rule of law.
National security without rule of law is a great bluff. The people of Pakistan have been able to call this bluff. It should now become the heritage of the people not to allow the rule of law to be sacrificed in the name of national security or anything else. The people were able to drag down a dictator like Musharraf and get the government to keep its promise to reinstate the judges, including the chief justice, all by way of peaceful agitation. Such people have all the resources they need to transform their country into a modern rule-of-law democracy where independent judges, and not military regimes, will be the arbiters of the human liberties of the people.
The people of other countries in the region have a great lesson to learn from the people of Pakistan, and in particular, the lawyer¡¦s movement.
Posted on 2009-08-13