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Solidarity With Pakistan's Lawyers: If Not Now, When?

JURIST Contributing Editor Ali Khan of Washburn University School of Law says that lawyers around the world should show solidarity with the lawyers of Pakistan in their remarkable resistance to arbitrary power and lawlessness in the wake of General Pervez Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule...


It is time for lawyers worldwide to show solidarity with lawyers in Pakistan who are waging a struggle to challenge the lawlessness of an ugly usurper, a power addict, a man in military uniform determined to undermine a Muslim nation that yearns for democracy.

From the Lawyers of Pakistan...

The lawyers are protesting in the streets of Pakistan because the usurper has suspended the Constitution "in exercise of all powers." The usurper has arrogated to himself the license to "amend the constitution, from time to time, as he deems expedient." When one man can suspend and alter the fundamental constitution of a nation, the abuse of power is unlimited.

The lawyers of Pakistan are putting their lives on the line because the usurper has suspended the basic rights of the people of Pakistan. The constitutional right that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law has been suspended. This suspension means that the government can imprison or kill anyone in Pakistan with no protection of law.

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The lawyers of Pakistan are refusing to submit to the usurper because under the new regime anyone can be arrested without being informed of the grounds for such arrest. No longer does the arrested person have any right to consult or to be defended by a lawyer.

The lawyers of Pakistan are protesting on the courthouse grounds because the usurper has suspended the freedom of movement. Many Supreme Court Justices and politicians have been detained in their houses. Numerous human rights lawyers have been made political prisoners in their own homes.

The usurper has suspended the right to free speech and the freedom of press. The electronic media have been turned off. The newspapers are no longer free to report the crimes of the regime. They are not free to comment on the news or criticize a lawless government. The lawyers are marching in unison because a nation without free speech is a dead nation and a nation without a free press is vulnerable to gross violations of human rights.

The usurper has suspended Article 25 of the Constitution, which says: All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of Law. When the government abandons the equal protection of laws, weak individuals and weak groups are the first to suffer, and suffer the most. The lawyers have taken the vanguard of protest because legal safeguards against blatant discrimination have been removed.

The usurper has fired the Supreme Court Justices who refused to accept unlawful dictation and who demanded that the usurper respect the Constitution.

The lawyers of Pakistan are being beaten, detained, and taken away from their children and families. They have been charged with the crimes of terrorism because they have made a commitment to stand for the rule of law, democracy, and fundamental rights.

The lawyers of Pakistan need the moral support of lawyers around the world.

To the Lawyers of the World...

The lawyers of the world must support this struggle against a lawless dictator and express solidarity with the lawyers of Pakistan.

Global solidarity among lawyers will forge effective resistance to a dictator in Pakistan who has revoked all constraints of law to gratify his infatuation with power.

Global solidarity among lawyers is needed because dictators can rise in any nation. No legal text furnishes security against power addicts who subvert even the noblest constitution to maximize their willfulness.

When the lawyers and judges of the world are fearless and determined to uphold the rule of law, the tide of tyranny can be abated. The power of law lies in the lawyer's commitment to subvert injustice. Lawyers are the guardians of the law.

Global solidarity among lawyers will show to the world that the profession of law anywhere and everywhere stands for the rights of the people, all the peoples, and a right diminished anywhere is a right diminished everywhere. A tyrant tolerated in any nation pollutes the whole world as lawlessness spreads across borders.

Let the lawyers of the world get together in big cities and in small towns. Let them assemble peacefully, exercise free speech, and pass resolutions to condemn the mistreatment of lawyers in Pakistan.

Let the lawyers of the world speak against the suspension of fundamental rights in Pakistan. Let them demand that the Justices of Pakistan Supreme Court be freed from detention so that they can continue their charge of maintaining the rule of law. Let the lawyers of the world petition their leaders to put pressure on the Pakistani dictator to restore the constitution.

If the lawyers of the world do nothing to support the lawyers' resistance in Pakistan, tyranny will be entrenched.


Ali Khan grew up in Pakistan and is a law graduate of Punjab University, Lahore. He is currently a professor at Washburn University School of Law in Kansas. His publications are available here.


November 07, 2007


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