Friday, January 11, 2008

US delegation to issue preliminary report on Rule of Law issue

PRESS CONFERENCE: Friday, 11/1/08, 3PM, Holiday Inn, across from the Islamabad Press Club.

Islamabad -- A delegation from the United States National Lawyers Guild will release its preliminary findings regarding the impacts of then Proclamation of Emergency at a press conference in Islamabad at 3pm on Friday. The delegation has prepared a preliminary report concluding that anything short of restoration of the judges deposed on November 3rd will have long-lasting negative impacts on the judiciary and the rule of law in Pakistan. The report is critical of U.S. foreign policy, concluding that the United States’ failure to demand the reinstatement of the deposed judges will negatively impact both the development of democracy in Pakistan and the U.S.’s long-term interests in safety and security. The delegation also noted severe structural and procedural problems in the pre-election climate, including the lack of an independent election commission and an independent judiciary, that are likely to make the holding of free and fair elections impossible.

The delegation's findings are based on over 50 interviews with political party leaders, lawyers, members of civil society, government officials, judges, students and journalists in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad. The report reflects the delegation's findings about the Pakistani judiciary, the freedom and fairness of upcoming elections, and the impact of U.S. foreign policy on security and democracy in Pakistan. David Gespass, the Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild and the leader of the delegation, noted that “As lawyers and law students, we have an ethical and professional obligation to support the struggle for a just and democratic society based on the rule of law wherever that struggle occurs.”

One respondent, Justice Azmat Saeed of the Lahore High Court, who refused to take the PCO oath, stated that “Musharraf said to the U.S.A., ‘I can't fight the war on terrorism with a free press and an independent judiciary.’ But you cannot fight terrorism with state terrorism.”

“Pakistan has become a state where there are suicide bombings going on, where no one is safe. We have now lost more Pakistani soldiers than Americans have lost in Iraq,” noted Imran Khan, leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaaf party. “If you assess the policy now, it has been a disaster for the U.S., and it’s now become an even bigger disaster for Pakistan. And there’s no end in sight. Radicalism and extremism are growing by the day. This is now a monster that could actually destroy our country,” concluded Khan.

Syed Mudasser Ameer, a barrister and a member of the executive committee of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association Action Committee, expressed a common view that “When we used to talk about America, it was just another word for freedom.” But the United States’ continued support for Musharraf has changed his views. “Now, we say it would be better if we were still ruled by Britain, because there would still be rule of law,” stated Ameer.

Justice (ret'd) Jawaad Khawaja of the Lahore University of Management Sciences invited the delegation to visit Pakistan to assess the status of the rule of law and the prospect for fair elections in light of recent attacks on judicial independence. The Law and Policy Department of LUMS founded a new initiative called the Rule of Law Project to serve as an academic clearinghouse for documentation and research regarding constitutionalism and the rule of law in Pakistan. The preliminary report is authored jointly by the delegation and the LUMS Rule of Law Project.

The delegation will return to the United States on Saturday where it will complete its final report for presentation to the United States ongress and the general public.

David Gespass, National Lawyers Guild, (0331) 412-5276, +1 (205)566-2530,
Devin Theriot-Orr, Rule of Law Project, LUMS, (0334) 428-9694,

A page from the diary of a student..

Omer. G
Aai aye haath uthain hum bhi...

Earlier today, as we sat down in our Contracts law class, a terrified girl rushed into the class, quite late and looking baffled. The next moment we realized that she wasn't just appearing baffled to get her late entry excused. "Please call up your dad to check if he's fine. There's been an explosion outside the Lahore High Court. Many deaths and injuries"

There was a moment of silence. Then, the instructor spoke: "No, my dad's else where. Actually... em.." Our lawyer-teacher then instructed his teaching assistant to call up the teacher's father so as to enquire his well being, while the class returned to the labyrinthine world of Contracts Act 1872. I have never had a wonderful time with the intricacies of contract law, but this session became particularly distasteful so I began to think about rivers of blood, and black coats and other evocative images and many other things and very soon the class was over. The instructor's dad was reported to be safe and sound, and he looked quite relieved.

Back at LUMS, things looked just fine. It was a cloudy winter afternoon and the breeze was blowing beautifully. I thought about how the same wind blows all around the country, all around the globe, and brings on its wings, news from distant places. What it does not bring is the smell of blood, even when blood has been spilled just a few miles away.

Later, at around 7:30, a few dozen students gathered in front of the dining hall, in response to the Student Council's call. Many times in the afternoon, recently viewed pictures from the TV screen kept popping up in my mind. Bodies of humans, piled up outside the picturesque High Court building, dressed up in khaki trousers and dark grey shirts, unmistakable members of the dreaded Punjab police. Memories retured from another day, more than two months ago, when tall and strong men, dressed up in similar attire were chasing us like rats in that very premises. They beat up our friends, humiliated us and made us walk with our hands held high, just like prisoners of war in our own country.

But that moment in the cold evening, sitting on the ground, amongst a sober gathering of students, as I raised my hands for fatiha, this is not what I was thinking about. I thought about the families of the deceased and what they must be going through. Nothing should waver us in our resolve to battle every oppressive move made by the state, but that resolve must also not blind us to the plight of human beings on both sides. Our battle is not against innocent human beings; it is against a system that pits some of us against the others, exploiting everyone in the process. It is a battle of ideas of justice against ideas of injustice. More than anything else, those who were killed today were fellow human beings, brothers in Islam, killed unjustly. They deserve all our prayers, all our regards, and the maximum of our support.

The students dispersed after enlisting their names for blood donation and making contributions to the fund that the Student Action Committee promply set up to support the families of the deceased.

Thoughts in the aftermath..

Misha Rehman

In the aftermath of the bomb blast in Lahore, where do we stand in our own country?

For some like Marx, history is a linear progression-from feudalism to capitalism and so on. For the colonizers and now imperialists, man evolved from savages to barbarians to the civilized. Darwin spoke of mankind as ‘survival of the fittest’. Man, the superior of all beings in the universe, adapted and transformed the climate to suit his needs. With the advent of industrialization and the likes, we had technology to mold and change the world. From belief in a supreme being and divine law, the world moved to secularism and modern values. Thus, man has always progressed, to grow to something better, to something bigger than before-so history demonstrates, and so great thinkers tell us.

Have we really progressed, or with the passing of each day are we truly digressing to a world where law of the jungle prevails? Using new tactics and new technologies, which apparently seem to be the constructs of a modern world, our men are destroying our own social fabric, and crippling our own polity. This is the state of Pakistan. This is the day of morbidity where evil has risen. The men are standing translucent; we can see the ironies of life, of politics and statehood in a third world country, which is being dragged by the whims and fancies of everyone in the national and/or international arena, everyone but the people of Pakistan. These evil mongers rise to fill their pockets and cling on to their power. They rise to commit atrocities. They rise to curtail freedom. They rise to end Pakistan.

Let us trace back Pakistan’s steps to August 2006, just a year and five months ago. From the hue and cry regarding cases of the missing people, to the American imposed Islamic fundamentalism and Musharaf’s inception of enlightened moderation; from the killing of the prominent Balochi leader Bugti by the security forces, to the unaccounted raid that killed up to 80 people in Bajaur; from the radical Lal Masjid breathing right under the nose of the government, to the numerous bombings in cities like Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Rawalpindi; from Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry’s unconstitutional suspension by the Dictator-President, to the killings of many Pakistani’s by foreign militants in Waziristan; from the treacherous killings in Karachi during rival protests against CJP’s dismissal, to the shameful deportation of Nawaz Sharif under the orders of the President against the decision of the Supreme Court; from the audacity of the President in wanting to stand in elections as an army chief after eight years of military rule, to the curtailment of media amid growing challenge to this very rule; from the belligerent breach of constitutional provisions by the imposition of a state of emergency, to the unlawful arrests and FIR reports against prominent lawyers, judges, civil servants, and politicians; from the assassination of PPP Chairperson and ex-Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, to the very obvious and shameful cover-up by the army, time and again we have been targeted as a nation. On the 10 of January 2008, we are once again left bruised and battered: "Twenty people have been killed and 60 wounded. Most of the victims are policemen. It was a suicide attack,'' said senior city government official Mian Ejaz after a bomb blast outside the Lahore High Court.

We can not let this go unnoticed, like the parrot that shuts its eyes when he sees a cat, hoping that the cat won’t see him. For if now we can not decide what has to be done, then only darkness prevails. We can not sit idle and wait for the monster to grow. We can not wait for it to engulf us all, for the cat to gulp the parrot down, for the powder keg to explode, for the citizens of a nation to forfeit it all. Not money, not land, no, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about fundamental human rights, I’m talking about freedom, I’m talking about existence in its very basic sense, and I’m talking about life…

“Pakistan”, a term coined by Chawdhry Rehmat Ali, “the land of the pure”.

HRCP calls for reports on Mass Arrests in Sindh

HRCP to collect the particulars of the workers of political parties arrested or wanted, in the current wave of arrests, harassment and intimidation by the local administration

January 10, 2008 Karachi:

In a joint statement issued to the press Mr. Iqbal Haider, Secretary General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Ms. Zohra Yusuf, Vice Chairperson, HRCP expressed grave concern at reports that the government was using the current disturbances after the tragic assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, as an excuse to enter people's homes, arrest hundreds of thousands of political workers and create an environment of fear.

They said that HRCP has decided to collect - to the extent possible - the available data and particulars of the hundreds of thousands of workers of political parties and other citizens arrested or wanted by the local administration in the Province of Sindh on the allegations of arson, loot, dacoities and burning of the private and public properties following the assassination of the PPP Chairperson. HRCP appeals to all political parties, welfare organizations, NGOs and concerned citizens to immediately give maximum possible particulars of the citizens arrested / wanted by the local authorities in the current wave of arrests, harassment and intimidation.

Information should be sent to:

The HRCP Karachi Chapter – Unit # 8, Ilaco House,

Abdullah Haroon Road, Saddar, Karachi,

Phone: (021) 5637131-32, Fax: (021) 5637133,


After receipt of all these details of arrested / wanted / victimized citizens, HRCP would compile the same and release a detailed report.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

LUMS community condemns LHC blast

Lahore 10.1.2008 - The LUMS community strongly condemns the bomb blast that took place outside the Lahore High Court earlier today(Thursday). The students, faculty and staff expressed their grief at the loss of innocent lives and of those doing their duty. Fateha was recited for the victims at a sit in in the evening. The students launched a blood donation drive and a fund raising campaign, urging Pakistanis to unite in their efforts to help the injured and the families of the deceased.