Monday, March 16, 2009

Chaudhry, Asan, and Kurd: Heroes for Today

Huge news. Today dawns as a very good day in government, and that would be in the government of Pakistan. While the press has regaled us with unending stories about terrorists in that far off land, the three gentlemen, pictured above, have been working day and night for the restoration of the rule of law in a country considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world.

To the left is Iftikar Chaudhry, Pakistan's former Chief Justice, who will be restored to that position on March 22, 2009, following almost a year and a half of political action on his behalf. In the center is Aitzaz Ahsan , former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. To the right is Ali Ahmad Kurd, cuurent president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

When former Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, imposed an "Emergency" in late 2007, he removed Justice Chaudhry from his position as Chief Justice. Other judges who failed to swear a loyalty oath to Musharraf were removed as well. Thousands of lawyers were arrested, including those above. The American Bar Association and bar associations in the UK and Europe rallied their members on behalf of Chaudhry and the Rule of Law in Pakistan, and Chaudhry garnered numerous international awards.

The removal of judges and jailing of thousands of lawyers marked the beginning of the end for the unpopular Musharraf, who resigned in August of 2008.

After the election in February, 2008--the original date postponed by Musharraf-- the succeeding government, headed by Benazir Bhutto's PPP (Pakistan People's Party) failed to restore the judiciary. Despite renewed calls for restoration following Musharraf's resignation, nothing was done. There was outrage from many of the educated and politically interested, in particular, thousands of members of Civil Society and hundreds of lawyers. Aitzaz Asan and Ali Kurd, two of the most vocal advocates for the restoration of the judiciary, continued to encourage their countrymen. All three gentlemen suffered threats, house arrest, and government threats in Pakistan, but continued to work on behalf of their cause.

Today, Pakistan is jubilant with the news of the restoration. As the United States will also benefit from courts that follow the law rather than decision by phone-a-friend, we should rejoice as well.


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