The days after the march

Thursday, March 19, 2009
Kamila Hyat

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

The many who had advised deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to reach some sort of “deal” or “compromise” following the 2008 polls have reason to reconsider their words.

Though in many cases their suggestions were well-intended, meant to bring an end to the political deadlock that gradually grew in the country after the PML-N parted ways with the PPP in May 2008, building towards ever-growing instability, we must be glad the chief justice chose not to listen. His stubborn stand on principles has helped show us all that it is not necessary to make constant adjustments or to make concessions at every stage. While dialogue, negotiation and the building of consensus are almost invariably acts that help resolve crises, at some points we need to stand firm on issues that are important. The refusal to give in made possible the astonishing triumph of people we saw last weekend.

Everywhere in the country, perhaps most notably in Lahore which saw the most action Sunday, there is a new spring in the step of people, a new sense of pride in their achievement as citizens. Video footage is played over mobile phones and hand-held cameras of Hamza Shahbaz, the son of Shahbaz, using his vehicle to ram boldly through buses being used by authorities as barricades while hundreds stand and cheer. Other clips show people in Sheikhpura, in Gujranwala and in other cities commandeering cranes from building sites and using them to calmly shift the giant containers placed along roads by the men of Rehman Malik, at enormous expense, in a bid to stop the marchers. The tactics the government used was no match against a force of people which gained numbers only slowly, but then brought in women, children, teenagers, entire families with it to present an insurmountable challenge to the government. By doing so, people, perhaps for the first time in recent history, demonstrated that they have the power to make a difference and that decisions are not always made in foreign capitals or in offices where men in khaki uniforms pore over shadowy plans and strategies. This is a hugely important discovery.

The prime minister, by springing rather unexpectedly out of the shadows of the Presidency has made his mark; he will be remembered in history for his brave actions when it came to the crunch. PPP ministers who resigned to protest the dictatorial behaviour of the president provided Mr Gilani the pathway along which to walk. Sherry Rehman and Raza Rabbani must be applauded for demonstrating the moral courage to stand by their convictions – and to prove that somewhere within the PPP, the conscience and the desire to stand by people which was a part of the party when it was founded more than four decades ago, still finds at least some place. The challenge for Mr Gilani must be to keep the spirit going. He must now move towards other change aimed at strengthening institutions, bringing them fully into the framework of the 1973 Constitution – still the document that creates most consensus – and establishing the supremacy of a Parliament that has so far played only a secondary role in national events since the last election. There are many indications that this is just what Mr Gilani intends to work towards.

In the Presidency, one wonders what is being said beneath the glittering chandeliers and ornate drapings that cut inhabitants off from reality. Does Mr Zardari realise what immense mistakes he has made? Does he know that an opportunity to claim credit for a judicial restoration was squandered due mainly to foolishness and a feeling of megalomania? Have his coterie of advisors gathered red-faced and offered explanations? Will any of them have the grace to step down? Certainly, the president’s own claims that he had in fact never opposed Justice Chaudhry’s return and was waiting only for Justice Dogar’s tenure to end persuades no one at all. It only leaves everyone in that enormous house on the hill looking sillier than ever. Quite obviously, they were compelled by circumstances and the persuasion of powerful players to put up no hurdles in the way of the judicial restoration and permit the prime minister’s predawn announcement.

Some worrying trends have emerged over the past few days. An attempt was made to play the so-called “Sindh” card, with the president held up as a victim of events, like leaders from the province before him. This is absurd. It is however not an isolated event. According to reports in the Sindhi-language press, President Zardari, at the end of January this year, had lashed out vehemently at a meeting with Sindhi parliamentarians for failing to protect him. Ministers from that province were accused of being too inactive and of failing to appear on TV talk shows to defend the president against mounting criticism. All this is disturbing. There is no doubt that deep tensions exist between federating units. The attempt to use these to meet a personal need or to defend the indefensible is dangerous. It undermines the efforts of campaigners in Sindh, and elsewhere, to draw attention to the very real issues they face. The fact is that the people of Sindh are far too intelligent to be duped in this fashion. The Sindhi media, whose standards in terms of ethics and quality exceed those of many channels broadcasting in national languages, has jubilantly backed the restoration of the chief justice. People everywhere in the province make it clear they can see beyond the narrow boundaries of ethnicity and can assess their leaders on merit.

But this having been said, the fact remains that the provincial strains within our Federation are real. The prime minister and other national leaders, including Mian Nawaz Sharif, need to direct attention towards them and to do more to build national harmony. This is possible only by granting provinces greater autonomy and offering them a full share in decision-making.

For the present, the prospects for Pakistan seem brighter than ever. The new confidence can be seen in many places. Even the Karachi Stock Market has reacted almost instantly, climbing back up several hundred points after weeks spent in a listless slump. In other cities, shop-owners report an increase in sales which they link to the more optimistic mood of people. The key need for leaders is to keep this spirit of hope going, to ensure people remain a part of political life at every level and can be taken along during the days ahead to meet the many challenges that still lie ahead.

We must remember that though an important victory has been achieved, the war on many other fronts continues and can be won only if the momentum that has been built is kept going so that bigger change can also be brought about.


Altaf and Maulana Diesel playing their dirty game to support Zardari.

Altaf Hussain and Maulana Diesel who also played an important role in extending the American Pet Dictator Musharraf’s Role now playing their dirty game again to support another American Pet Dictator (Civilian Dictator this time) by giving the noble lawyer’s movement for the restoration of judiciary and saving Pakistan an ethnic color.

We condemn MQM and JUI role in damaging the federation of Pakistan and also appeal to the civil society to condemn these acts of evilness.

Movement of Restoration and Independence of Judiciary is a movement of All Pakistan from Karachi-Quetta to Khayber-Muzaffarabad and well lead by the lawyer’s of Pakistan who are well supported by civil society, students, political workers and the nation as a whole.

All the bar associations from all over the country playing their role in this movement and leadership of the movement belong to all ethnic identities and this movement is truly a Pakistan movement replay.

We salute the people who are marching for the cause of justice and sincerely wish them best of luck.

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March for Change–>Babar Sattar(The News)

Legal eye

Saturday, March 14, 2009
Babar Sattar

The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He is a Rhodes scholar and has an LL.M from Harvard Law School

The second long march in support of the rule of law movement has begun. The march is scheduled to culminate in a sit-in on the Constitutional Avenue in Islamabad, and is to continue until the judges deposed on Nov 3 are restituted to their constitutional offices. Has an overwhelming majority of our nation been rallying behind the movement merely to seek the reemployment of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry? Is the rule of law movement now a partisan movement seeking the replacement of the Zardari-led PPP government with one dominated by PML-N? Should the long march be denounced because the apprehension of disorder must override any concern for rule of law? Can democracy thrive under a depraved governance structure that engenders a dichotomy between the twin concepts of law and order – that go hand in hand in all civilized societies – and the excuse of instilling order is actually used to thwart the law?

The long march is not about the person of Iftikhar Chaudhry or Nawaz Sharif. It is a march against the status quo and must succeed in order to usher in the much-needed change in the constitutional structure, political culture and social ethos of this country, without which Pakistan will be unable to sustain a moderate society or prosper as a democratic polity. The defiance of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9, 2007, only ignited fires of resentment against the ruling elite for sustaining a justice system that denies the ordinary citizen access to justice. He might not have had an irreproachable past, but his perseverance and his dogged resolve to fight an illegal and unconstitutional act has given this country an opportunity to rally behind a cause that promises a better collective future for all of us. Likewise, Nawaz Sharif might be culpable for meting out highhanded treatment to the judiciary during his last stint in power. But how does that equate the PML-N with the PPP at this time, when the former is standing on the right side of principle seeking to change a fundamental cause of our misfortunes, while the latter has emerged as the intractable obstacle to such change?

This change being sought by the rule of law movement is imperative for five fundamental reasons. One, the Constitution of Pakistan needs to be reverted to its original sustainable form. General Musharraf vandalized the Constitution for a second time on Nov 3, 2007. On that fateful day the General had bestowed on himself the power to single-handedly inscribe changes into our fundamental law, and in exercise of such self-proclaimed power, disbanded the judicature, set-up a new High Court in Islamabad, validated all his illegal actions and gave himself immunity against charges of treason etc. The new Dogar Court that he constituted ‘validated’ his unconstitutional actions in the Tikka Iqbal Mohammed Khan case. While the general’s illegal acts outraged this nation and triggered a chain of events that led to his regime’s demise, this country continues to function under the presumption that his actions of Nov 3 were legal and the changes introduced by him are a valid part of our Constitution. The Constitution thus needs to be cleansed of the general’s adulterous acts, which cannot happen so long as we continue to live with a Dogar Court complicit in the general’s treacherous scheme.

Two, the constitutional structure of separation of powers and checks and balances needs to be given effect. The fundamental rights and liberties guaranteed to the citizens are never self-implementing. An independent judiciary is the enforcement arm of the Constitution. So long as the judiciary remains subservient to the executive and continues to function as an extension of the ruling elite, one can scribble in all kinds of sensible provisions in the Constitution but they will amount to naught. Without a judiciary that has the ability, resolve and reputation of being a neutral arbiter of justice and conscientiously adjudicates the relationship between the institutions of the state on the one hand and between the citizens and the state on the other in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, rule of law will not amount to anything more than the rule of the powerful. If we allow the Zardari-led PPP to stuff courts with perfidious quacks – as obvious from the recent judicial appointments made with the consent and collusion of the Dogar Court – overtime the gap between the law produced by our courts and demands of justice will become so wide that the notion of rule of law in Pakistan will itself become farcical.

Three, we need a constitutional and legal structure that sustains a level-playing field in the political realm. The leaders of the PPP and the PML-N both have tainted pasts, and this nation has not been vying for a return to the kind of corrupt and ineffectual representative governance that these parties punished the country with in the 1990s. The charter of democracy had brought along the hope that our mainstream parties had learnt from their past mistakes, agreed to let bygones be bygones, compete fairly within the political arena, and move forward with a clean slate. The NRO, however, was the first infraction. The PPP leadership got into bed with Musharraf who wiped clean its past sins through an unscrupulous and shameful edict. This left the Sharif’s out in a lurch, with the swords of Damocles hanging over their heads.

The Zadari-led PPP went back to the dirty political games of the 1990s once it decided to abuse the instrument of the law to cut the Sharifs to size by getting them declared ineligible for public office. If the Sharifs have a blemished past, so does Zardari – and one that is much murkier. Probably all our politicos will be rendered ineligible to hold elected public office if we strictly enforce the qualification requirements for such office enshrined in our Constitution. Our nation has thus been willing to give politicians with tainted past another chance, frankly, for want of options (as there is no short-cut to democracy) but with the hope that they will be willing to reform themselves and their sordid ways. Thus, if democracy is to have a chance in this country, we cannot allow one political party to establish a stranglehold over our skewed legal and judicial structures to entrench itself in power and outlaw the opposition.

Four, we need to reform our democracy and system of governance to ensure that the policies and actions of elected representatives reflect popular public opinion. Khaki saviours still have a controlling role in Pakistan in this day and age because there isn’t much distinction between the style and system of governance that subsists under military dictatorships as opposed to that practiced by civilian autocracies voted in during democratic times. The rule of law movement has sustained itself for two gruelling years and the ideal of constitutionalism that it is struggling for resonates with ordinary people. All opinion polls conducted in Pakistan since Nov 3, 2007, establish that an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis supports the restitution of the Nov 3 judiciary. And yet we have a popularly elected party in government that has willingly inherited the abhorrent policies and tactics of the dictator it replaced and refuses to give effect to the unmistakable will of the nation it claims to represent. If the growing gap between the popular will of the nation and the narrow self-promotional policies of our ruling elite is not bridged, the continuation of civilian autocracy in democratic garb will end up discrediting the desire for democracy itself in this country.

And five, we need to re-instil morality and ethics in public life. Over the last year we have witnessed a free fall in the standards of morality exhibited by holders of public office. To err is human, but to gloat over deliberate wrongdoing and use deceit as a favoured political tactic cannot be acceptable. A representative government that introduces a code of conduct for public life that celebrates and rewards indiscretions, corruption and malice cannot be a harbinger of hope for the future of democracy or rule of law in this country. If we accept Mr Zardari’s broken promises, his refusal to honour binding commitments, and his choice of lackeys smeared in scandal for elevation to revered public offices, it will not be too long before all sensible distinctions between right and wrong in public life get wiped away.

Now we are essentially being told that our perverted ‘ground realities’ have become so entrenched that in order to preserve order and peace in the society we should compromise the principle underlying the rule of law movement instead of changing the ugly reality. This must not happen. If we sacrifice principle on the altar of expediency at this critical juncture, we might not get another opportunity to redeem the soul and spirit of this nation through a peaceful mass movement led by the educated middle class of this country.


9 March,2009–>Join the Long March for the freedom and restoration of judiciary.

Dear Readers,
During the early period of Islam a woman of the Makhzoom family with good connections was found guilty of theft. For the prestige of the Quraish, some prominent people including Asama Bin Zaid interceded to save her from punishment. The Prophet refused to condone the crime and expressed displeasure saying, “Many a community ruined itself in the past as they only punished the poor and ignored the offences of the exalted. By Allah, if Muhammad’s (my) daughter Fatima would have committed theft, her hand would have been severed.
The Qur’an says: “We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, that men may stand forth in Justice.” (Al-Hadeed 57:25). It is not only for the holy messengers of God, but this commandment has been for the people in general too. Qur’an commands: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (Al-Maidah 5:8).
As I am writing this hundreds of people are being killed, wounded, hunted, tormented, ill-treated, delivered up to the most intolerable and hopeless anxiety and destroyed morally and mentally, and there is nothing in sight at present to arrest this spreading process and prevent it from reaching us. It is spreading fast! It is time for the Pakistanis in general and youth especially to act and try to be part of the struggle initiated by honorable Chief Justice of Paksitan Iftikhar Muhammad chaudhary for independent judicial system in Pakistan. One “NO” on march 09, 2007 started an unprecedented process of social transformation at a massive level in Pakistan.
As the result of that process nation got rid from a military dictator and a new government established in Pakistan on the promise of undoing the wrongs done by the military regime. The new government led by Mr. Asif Ali zardari broke all promises and the leader of lawyer community Mr. Ali ahmed kurd has to call for another long march on March 09, 2009.
Together, we the people of Pakistan has successfully outset many military and cicivilain dictators before and this time again if united for a “Just” paksitan we can write a new history. Let us make a resulotion that we will not sit in rest till we got things in order in our country. Let us make this country of Peace, love, harmony and beauty. Let us start this with the first step of independent Judiciary.
Let me assure you if we run away from the disorder prevailing in our country now, it will follow and get us. We have to face it. We have to solve it, or be destroyed by it. It is as urgent and comprehensive as that.
I invite you all to be a part of this long march with your maximum energies and support. I have developed this web site for you all to provide a platform to discuss and share ideas for a better understanding to make this “LONG MATRCH” a “FINAL MARCH”
Yours in struggle for a Just Pakistan
Muhammad Asif Riaz

for further details plz visit

Lawyers for another long march–>9 March 2008 date is announced

It’s good to see the spirits are still high and the momentum is still on for the great lawyers movement for the independence and restoration of judiciary in Pakistan.

Keep it up and InshaAllah success will be there for the right and just cause.


Lawyers to march on Islamabad in March(The News)

The legal fraternity had announced another “Long March” on March 9, 2009, to seek the reinstatement of deposed chief justice of Pakistan (CJP), Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

“Lawyers will start a long march throughout the country and assemble on March 9 at Islamabad’s constitutional avenue,” Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Ali Ahmed Kurd told journalists after the National Coordination Council (NCC) meeting in Karachi. He categorically said that lawyers would stage a sit-in in front of the Parliament House. When asked about the duration of the sit-in, however, he said that it would be specified later.

Flanked by NCC leaders Chaudhry Aitazaz Ahsan, Rasheed A. Razvi, Munir A. Malik, Sardar Ismatullah, Latif Afridi, Mohammad Ali Abbasi and others, Kurd said that injustice and lawlessness could not be stopped until an independent and fearless judiciary was restored. He appealed to the lawyers, students, civil society, political parties and workers to join the long march, head towards Islamabad and stage a sit-in for the restoration of the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

Former SCBA President Chaudhry Aitazaz Ahsan provided details of the NCC meeting. He said that the council members had taken stock of the existing state of the lawyers’ movement for the reinstatement of all judges of the superior courts who were made non-functional on November 3, 2007. He also announced that an All-Pakistan Lawyers Convention will be held at Lahore on January 24.

Ahsan said that another lawyers convention will also be held at the national level on February 18, on the first anniversary of the general election that was the outcome of the lawyers struggle. The date and place of the convention would, however, be announced later, Ahsan said, adding that with a view to mobilise the masses to participate in the long march, the NCC shall form committees to liaison with the civil society, students and political parties that share their goals.

He said that the lawyers meeting also deplored the government for not honouring its promises for the reinstatement of the deposed CJP and giving confirmation to steps taken by the previous regime under the November 3 Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) by reappointing deposed judges through fresh oaths.

Ahsan said that the lawyers still stood by their commitment and were starting the long march to “save the country.” Their objectives are still relevant today and will be continued till the independence of the judiciary and the restoration of rule of law, he said, adding that the deposed CJP had dedicated the awards that he received during his US visit to the people of Pakistan in general, and the legal fraternity in particular.

The lawyers’ leaders also condemned the government’s attempts to throttle the lawyers’ movement by threatening the disbarment of Bar leaders and activists engaged in the struggle. They resolved to defend them before every appropriate forum.

They also congratulated the lawyers’ leaders who were elected as office-bearers from different bar associations and said that the lawyers would continue their struggle until its logical outcome.

Dharna: sounds better than it is–>A very sensible article by Ayesha Ijaz in The News

Dharna: sounds better than it is
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Ayesha Ijaz Khan

The writer is a London-based lawyer.

The lawyers’ long march was a highly successful show of strength and a clear message to those in power that backing down from the promise of the Bhurban Accord will result in dire political consequences. It is slightly unfortunate, although perhaps unavoidable given the large numbers involved and the democratic nature of this movement, that there was much ado about the difference of opinion on how to culminate the protest. With the majority of the senior leadership in favour of dispersing the crowd at the end of the three-day agitation, some from within the legal fraternity were disappointed that there was no call for a dharna, or sit-in, till their demands were met. As a lawyer who, since the inception of this movement, has whole-heartedly supported the demands of the legal fraternity and the courageous stand of its participants in the face of adversity, I would have to say that the decision not to go for dharna was a wise one.

I fully understand and sympathise with the frustrations of the lawyers, in particular the junior lawyers, who have been the backbone of this movement and without whose exceptional valour and willingness to sacrifice and endure hardship it would have been impossible for this movement to gather continued momentum. However, would a dharna have helped or hurt the movement?

It is wishful thinking, and perhaps a little naïve, to think that a few days of dharna would result in immediate restoration of the judiciary and Mr Musharraf’s resignation. No one expected the long march to conclude with a meeting of the demands. However, those of us supporting the movement did wish for a large show of strength. A clear demonstration that public opinion is on our side. In reality, we got more than that.

We did not only get a large sea of people come out in support of our demands, we also managed to change some people’s minds. Those who previously argued with me about the importance of this movement, now acknowledge that they have the ability to mobilise large crowds. More importantly, some who were previously on the fence or non-committal about their support to the restoration of the judiciary, or at least of the opinion that it was not possible “in a place like Pakistan,” are now rethinking their position. Still others have finally acknowledged flat out that this movement stands for principles and that it is worth supporting.

Let’s assume for a minute now that a call for the dharna had been given. The overwhelming majority of the people would have left; a few would have stayed. It is quite likely that authorities would have tried to forcibly evict them, as is often the case with sit-ins. This would have created a law-and-order situation that would have led those who have recently enlisted their support to this cause to turn against it. They would have used those examples to deride the movement and its leadership. The government would have come out and given its side of the agitation and how they had to put an end to it for the sake of rule of law, and thus in the eyes of some at least the movement would have lost its moral high ground.

The fact that three days of mass agitation and the participation of 500,000 people in Islamabad ended without incident is a huge victory! No one can point their fingers at this movement because nothing went wrong! The Western press did not cover the march as they should have, but that is good news. With the exception of the alternative media, they generally like to cover Pakistan when things are going haywire. Of course, The New York Times will run an article on Dr A Q’s nuclear network but remain guarded about the strides made by the lawyers. If, however, things had gone wrong, they would have been there with their cameras and microphones. It would have been yet another story on how Pakistan is uncontrollable and may even have resulted in a statement from Mr Musharraf harping on how he is still required if things are to be kept smooth. Instead, the lawyers and many others who participated should congratulate themselves that he has not got that chance and has instead been besieged into silence.

Those who called for the dharna are nevertheless admirable because they exhibited clear readiness to put country before self, to endure extreme hardship for the sake of what is right. But they must preserve their patriotic strength and not risk burnout at this stage. Sit-ins were a common form of agitation in the American Civil Rights Movement when blacks sat in at white-only establishments in a plea for an end to segregation. Inevitably, they clashed with the authorities, who tried to forcibly evict them. The idea was to evoke enough sympathy for the deprived so that public pressure would result in overturning the discriminatory laws. More recently, the longest sit-in at Harvard University lasted three weeks and the protestors emerged victorious as they had agitated for an increase in the pay of the lowest paid workers at the university to $10.25 per hour.

In both cases, however, it should be noted that those sitting in had a very close personal nexus to the demand. If the demand is broad enough, such that it effects the future of 160 million, then perhaps a sit-in may not even be the most effective mechanism of achieving the goal, as it may not evoke as much sympathy on the part of others as a sit-in needs to in order to be effective.

Sit-ins and hunger strikes are also very common in India, as dharna was used frequently by Mr Gandhi in the Indian Independence Movement. It thus continues to be a key form of agitation in India today and almost inevitably results in clashes with law enforcement authorities there. Thus, the idea that a dharna could have been peaceful is also highly unlikely. India’s longest sit-in, and perhaps the longest the world has seen, continued for over a decade and resulted in no solution. The demand was for the promotion of Indian languages and an end to the elevated status of English in India. It started in 1988 and by 1999 seven students who had suffered because they had not been selected in the civil services only because they could not clear the mandatory English exam still continued to sit-in. The authorities let the seven souls be and civil society brought them food, but their demands were not met.

It is therefore, in my opinion, a good decision that the lawyer community took by deciding against dharna. There are far more effective ways to continue to apply pressure on the powers that be. Pakistanis have already sent a loud and clear message to Mr Zardari: If they can long march in the heat of June, they can certainly do it at any other time of the year. So beware!

The discussion of whether or not a dharna was appropriate was nevertheless important because it is essential to evaluate all options. As the lawyers’ movement enters its second year, it is impossible for it to be monolithic on every little issue. It is crucial only that there is no ideological difference with respect to the restoration of the Nov 2 judiciary without any ifs, ands or buts, and of that there is no risk. Differences on how to achieve that goal, the modus operandi, make for healthy debate and are not cause for concern or disunity in the ranks.

Mr Zardari, however, has far more to fear. With more and more members and workers of the PPP speaking out in support of the lawyers’ demands, he faces isolation, not just in the country but also within his party. Had the Mohtarma been alive, she would have been too politically astute and reached a consensus position far before the long march even took off. Time is running out for Mr Zardari.

The writer can be contacted through her website: