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Op-ed: Standing Up for Rule of Law in Pakistan

•  Ethics     updated  2008/04/08 09:40


We have witnessed with admiration and empathy the heroism of lawyers and judges in Pakistan as they squarely faced beatings and stood up to soldiers and police to defend the rule of law.  Thedissolution of the Supreme Court, the silencing of a free press, and ingeneral, the loss of democratic order have plunged that country intolegal chaos.

Thestruggle of the Pakistani lawyers reminds us that the ideals of freedomand the rule of law are not abstract concepts, but are very real linesthat stand between justice and tyranny. Their stand demonstrates howfragile the rule of law is in all nations, including our own.

Aslawyers, it is no surprise to us that Musharraf targeted his crackdownon his nation?s legal community among other aspects of civil society.Musharraf has treated the law, as well as the judiciary and free press,as dangers to his rule and curtailments to his power.

In Pakistanand elsewhere, lawyers are the keepers of democracy. In our own nation,lawyers built our democratic society, founded on the rule of law, andcontinue to play a vital role. 

When the Soviet Unioncollapsed, American lawyers helped draft constitutions and train judgeswhose work would help new democracies emerge. Although we appeared thento be in the midst of a worldwide flowering of liberty, increasingly wesee those gains in jeopardy.

The recent actions in Pakistanembody the reversal of values we hold dear. And in a world threatenedby terrorism and rising dictators, they make our world more dangerous,not less.

It is too easy to ignore the events in Pakistanbecause they are happening so far away. What the terrorist events onSept. 11 showed us, however, is that we do not live in isolation. Welive in an increasingly global society and we are more interconnectedas human beings than ever before.

TheAmerican Bar Association and other bar groups call on PresidentMusharraf to restore constitutional law and reinstate the Supreme Courtjustices, and to free those he has wrongly arrested.

Thosemessages have been reinforced by lawyers in cities across the globesince Musharraf declared a state of emergency in his country. Theprotests continue this week as we continue to express our solidaritywith our courageous counterparts in Pakistan.

Aslawyers, our goal is not just to support the rule of law, it is tostand up for our beliefs in basic human rights ? the right to feelsecure in our own homes, the right to work in safety and the right tofreely voice our views. 

The injustices in Pakistan cannot be ignored. Lawyers the world over must not rest until democracy and the rule of law have been restored in Pakistan.


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