4 Pakistan Activists Charged With Treason; Will Lawyers Be Next?
Four Pakistani men were charged today with treason for making anti-government speeches in the city of Karachi.
If convicted, the three politicians and a union leader potentially face the death penalty, reports the London Times. Although these are the first reported treason charges amidst ongoing attorney-led demonstrations focused on the nation’s legal system, the newspaper notes, “(e)ight lawyers were also being sought in Karachi for allegedly distributing anti-Musharraf leaflets.”
As discussed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, the country has been under what some consider martial law since Saturday, when the country’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution, and fired the chief judge of Pakistan’s supreme court, as well as numerous other appellate judges. Since then, 3,000 of the country’s 12,000 lawyers reportedly have been arrested and jailed following protests of the new regime, as the fired chief judge, Iftikhar Chaudhry, calls for continued defiance.
Although Musharraf said the state of emergency was necessary to combat terrorism, it is widely perceived as an effort to prevent the supreme court from invalidating as unconstitutional his re-election as president last month while simultaneously retaining his military leadership. Especially since an abortive effort by Musharraf in the spring to suspend Chaudhry, the nation’s attorneys have been at the forefront of efforts to uphold the rule of law against Pakistan’s traditionally military-dominated government.
Musharraf has now reportedly agreed to hold parliamentary elections before Feb. 15 and give up his military position.