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US, UK Lawyers to Pakistan: Reinstate Rule of Law

Posted Nov 9, 2007 12:40 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Following Pakistan's suspension of the constitution, firing of numerous appellate judges and arrest of as many as 3,000 lawyers during the past week, bar associations throughout the United States and the United Kingdom have called upon the country's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to reinstate the rule of law.

In a letter to Musharraf, William H. Neukom, president of the American Bar Association, says the ABA is "gravely concerned" by such recent developments and "respectfully urges" him to restore judicial independence and, by extension, the rule of law.

Barry Kamins, president of the New York City Bar Association, also wrote to Musharraf, condemning the firing of numerous Pakistan supreme court judges, and urging the release of individuals, including judges and lawyers, being detained without charges, among other concerns, reports the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Similar statements were made by the National Lawyers Guild in a press release. It called for the U.S. to suspend financial aid to Pakistan until the situation is rectified and supported a move by many of Pakistan's lawyers to refuse to practice before new judges replacing those who were fired by Musharraf.

Among those in the U.K. offering "strong criticism" of Musharraf’s actions and his treatment of the legal profession are the Bar Council of England and Wales, the Association of Muslim Lawyers, the Law Society of England and Wales, Justice and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, reports the London Times.

“Events in Pakistan must be of concern to everyone who supports the rule of law, and they underline once again that the rule of law is nothing without lawyers," said Andrew Holroyd, president of the Law Society, commending the "extraordinary courage, fortitude and bravery" of Pakistan's legal profession.

"They have rightly demonstrated against the government measures. The suspension of the constitution, the denial of fundamental rights and repeated attacks on the judiciary removes any semblance of a just and civilized society,” Holroyd said.

As detailed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, 3,000 of Pakistan's lawyers--a quarter of the country's 12,000 attorneys--reportedly were arrested and jailed during the past seven days, following attorney-led protests of Musharraf's dismantling of the judicial system and what amounts to the imposition of martial law.

Although Musharraf promised to hold parliamentary elections before Feb. 15 and resign his military leadership role (it is allegedly unconstitutional for him to be president while he also is a military commander), his government has meanwhile started arresting political opponents for treason.

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