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ABA President Asks Attorneys to Sign Pakistan Petition

Posted Dec 4, 2007 5:22 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The president of the American Bar Association is calling on fellow attorneys to sign an online petition seeking the restoration of the rule of law in Pakistan.

“I urge you not to look aside, as if standing up for the rule of law is somebody else’s job. Add your name, be seen and be counted,” says President William H. Neukom in an ABA press release today. Already, more than 10,000 have signed the petition, which can be viewed online at the ABA website.

A recent lawyer protest march in Ottawa over the situation in Pakistan may have been the first such event in the history of the Canadian Bar Association, according to Law Times.

On its website, the CBA also is urging lawyers to sign a petition and additionally provides information, including addresses and a model letter, about writing Pakistan officials.

As detailed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, suspended the country's constitution and removed numerous appellate judges from office on Nov. 3. They included Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the supreme court, whose role in promoting an independent judiciary had previously made him a national hero and put him at odds with Musharraf.

Massive lawyer-led protests resulted in Pakistan from Musharraf's actions, and at one point more than 25 percent of the country's attorneys reportedly had been jailed. In response, the ABA, among other bar groups, has raised objections and organized peaceful protests. An ABA-sponsored march on Washington, D.C., was held Nov. 14, as Pakistan's judicial system remained in a chaotic state.

Allthough Musharraf gave up his previous role as the country's military leader and promises to hold parliamentary elections soon, he has otherwise continued on the course he set Nov. 3 and at least some judges and attorneys there apparently remain under house arrest or in jail. Among them, according to the Hindu: Aitzaz Ahsan, who heads the nation's Supreme Court Bar Association.

Today, the country's law ministry retired 24 appellate judges and fired three supreme court judges, including Chaudhry, without granting them retirement, reports the Daily Times of Pakistan.

The ABA petition calls for Pakistan to reinstate the constitution, restore supreme court judges to office and free judges and lawyers who have wrongly been jailed.


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