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Sisters Head Lawyer-Led Pakistan Cause

Posted Jul 18, 2007 7:04 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In addition to Pakistan's suspended top judge, two sisters, both attorneys and longtime political activists, are among the emerging leaders in a lawyer-led movement to promote judicial independence and a more democratic government.

Government gadflies since the 1970s, Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani have been audited, arrested and shot at. But, despite scoring some important legal victories along the way, they say they have never been more hopeful that significant change is on the horizon, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) in a page one story.

The democracy movement ignited in March after Pakistan's President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf (a key U.S. ally), first tried to persuade Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry to resign and then suspended him for alleged misconduct. That suspension is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule as soon as Friday.

Demonstrations and rallies followed, catapulting Chaudhry into the role of national hero for upholding judicial independence and the rule of law in a country ordinarily dominated by its military rulers. It also apparently has made him a target for violence in a near-civil war situation that has recently developed in Pakistan—there was a suicide bombing yesterday at an Islamabad lawyers' rally where he was scheduled to speak, for instance, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post. The death toll from that bombing is now reportedly 17, according to Bloomberg.

Earlier in the week, Jahangir, 55, was dancing in the streets of Lahore with other lawyers at another rally for Chaudhry, who wasn't injured in the subsequent Islamabad bombing. "I feel very optimistic for the first time," she says. "It's a different Pakistan."

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