Constitutional Law

March on Washington Nov. 14 to Support Pakistan Lawyers

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Updated: In a highly unusual move, the American Bar Association is spearheading a lawyers’ march on Washington, D.C., tomorrow that is also being promoted by state and local bar associations throughout the country. It is intended to support protesting lawyers in Pakistan, who have been at the forefront of efforts to persuade the country’s president to reinstate the rule of law and the constitutional government he suspended ten days ago.

As detailed in a press release, the march is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Library of Congress. From there, the group—which is expected to be dressed in black business suits, like protesting lawyers in Pakistan—will proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

After protests by Pakistani lawyers last week, many of which were responded to with beatings, tear gas and arrests, other bar associations throughout the world have objected to the country’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and scheduled events of their own. Hundreds of lawyers reportedly rallied today at the New York County Supreme Court building in Manhattan, for instance, according to the New York Personal lnjury Law Blog, which features a photograph of the event.

At least one, the Austin Bar Association in Texas, is also suggesting an action tomorrow that all members can take: “In a quiet gesture of respect, and in honor of all those who risk life and liberty to take a stand for justice, Austin lawyers are asked to wear black suits and white shirts on Wednesday, Nov. 14,” says President Jo Ann Merica, in a written statement. “May we all be granted the strength and courage to make the sacrifices that they have.”

“Over the last few days, brave Pakistani lawyers have dressed for work and headed to court knowing that they would be met by policemen’s batons and tear gas instead of their clients. These lawyers went to work anyway because of their belief in the rule of law,” said ABA President William H. Neukom in a statement last week.

“It is time for us to demonstrate that we share Pakistani lawyers’ commitment to justice. Please wear your black suit and join lawyers in Washington, D.C., or in your community as we walk to court on November 14. Together, we will show that Pakistan’s lawyers are not fighting alone.”

Additional bar association statements have been posted by the ABA and the New Hampshire Bar Association.

As detailed in earlier posts, as many as 5,000 of Pakistan’s 12,000 lawyers reportedly have been arrested and jailed, following Musharraf’s imposition of what many consider martial law Nov. 3. Lawyers there have been at the forefront of protests demanding reinstatement of the constitution and the rule of law, and former supreme court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry—one of numerous appellate judges reportedly fired and put under house arrest by Musharraf—has called for continued resistance.

(Updated at 8:15 p.m., central time.)

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