Constitutional Law

As Musharraf Exits, Pakistan Lawyers Seek Trial and Restoration of Judges

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As Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, resigned from office today, lawyers whose protests for over a year helped achieve this situation celebrated. They also called for the restoration to office of dozens of appellate court judges he removed last November.

“Hundreds of lawyers gathered in the courtyard of the Lahore High Court after as soon as Musharraf announced his resignation and said it was a moment of ‘relief’ and liberation for lawyers and the nation,” reports the Post.

However, the situation also is an important test of the democratic process that began with parliamentary elections earlier this year, lawyers said. They asked for the appellate judges removed by Musharraf after he declared a state of emergency and imposed what many considered martial law in November to be restored to office within three days, the newspaper writes.

Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the country’s Supreme Court Bar Association, set a 72-hour deadline for the deposed judges to be restored to office, and called for renewed national protests by lawyers if that doesn’t occur, reports the Daily Times. He also called for his fellow lawyers to celebrate a “Day of Deliverance” tomorrow.

Ruling coalition leaders met today to discuss how to deal with the appellate judges, but reached no resolution, reports the Times of India. The newspaper says they plan to meet again tomorrow.

Although other appellate judges have been put into office, one possible solution would be to retain all the judges, writes the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:

“As for the future of the judges, Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who was deposed by Musharraf in 1999, has insisted on the reinstatement of the 57 supreme and high court judges, including the chief justice. Sharif co-leads the governing coalition that engineered Musharraf’s ouster. The other co-leader, Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who was assassinated in December, believes that judges appointed during the emergency should also be retained.”

While earlier coverage has suggested that Musharraf could avoid impeachment and other court proceedings by resigning, current news accounts say that some lawyers are calling for Musharraf and his aides to be tried on charges that could potentially include treason. Among those that are reporting this development are another Daily Times article and the Post article.

Pakistan’s lawyers have been demonstrating for the rule of law since March 2007, when the chief judge of the country’s supreme court was initially removed from office by Musharraf.

Additional coverage:

Wall Street Journal (sub. req.): “Lawyers Exult As Protests Bear Fruit”

The Nation: “Judges restoration within 3 days: Aitzaz”

BBC: “Pakistan faces era of hope and risk”

International Herald Tribune: ” Challenges for Pakistani coalition after Musharraf resignation”

Voice of America: “Pakistan’s Musharraf Steps Down After Consulting With Legal Advisors”

Washington Post: “Musharraf Resigns as President of Pakistan” “Pakistan’s Musharraf Says He Will Resign Today”

Updated at 3:27 p.m., Aug. 19, 2008, to include link to Wall Street Journal article.

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