Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Engaging with Political Parties - Detailed Account of A talk organized by the CCP at LUMS

Omer. G

LUMS, JUNE 22nd: A long and engaging talk was organized at LUMS by "Concerned Citizens of Pakistan", a civil society organization, galvanized into action in the aftermath of the imposition of emergency on November 3. The arrangement was unusual in that the CCP had booked an auditorium at LUMS – only those on the SACLUMS mailing list were invited. So many outsiders came in that most students, like myself, had to keep standing. The talk will be aired by Aaj TV (we weren't told exactly when), although with some modifications because the whole thing would violate the new censorship laws. The talk went on so long that I must admit that my account cannot do justice to all its twists and turns.

The Talk was titled: "Importance of rule of Law for society" A CCP representative opened the show, after which Talat Hussain conducted its proceedings. The talk started with Dr. Pervez Hassan, a representative of the lawyers' movement(also a trustee of LUMS). He was sitting in lieu of Tariq Hassan, who couldn't come but had sent a 12-page paper to Dr.Hassan so that his position may be represented. Dr. Hassan's speech focused around the need for upholding the constitution and restoring the judiciary. He also said that the Lawyer's Movement had not ended: it will pick up strength once again, after the elections.

The second speaker was a member of Tehrike Insaf, Ahsan Rasheed. He said that when they were founding their party, many years ago, they had chosen the idea of Rule of Law as their party slogan, even though it wasn't fashionable back then. Every idea had a time and now the time for this idea had come. He felt that Musharraf was dragging Pakistan on the path to authoritarianism like Islam Karimov, Husni Mubari and Robert Mugabe have done elsewhere in the third world. He also stated that, in the coming general elections, he expected a maximum turnout of 10 to 15% ( I feel like placing a bet against him :-) His other concern besides uphold the judiciary's cause was to save the federation.

Justice(r.) Fakhrunnisa Khokhar spoke on behalf of PPP because all other senior PPP members had turned down the invitation. After paying rich tribute to the lawyers' movement (she, herself, was badly beaten up on Nov 5), she said that her party believed in contesting the elections and then championing the cause of the judiciary. She said that within the river there is a whirlpool - to bring change one had to jump into it; it couldnt be done from the outside.

Next spoke Chaudhry Ahsan Iqbal of PML-N, perhaps the most impressive speaker in the house. He told us that he had come all the way from his campaigning activities in Narowal to address this gathering because of the respect he had come to develop for the civil society of Pakistan and for LUMS. (After the event, he declined my request for an interview because he couldn't spare time from his campaigning.) He congratulated civil society for finally waking up and standing for the cause of Pakistan. He said that the best thing that had ever happened to Pakistan was this: people would not even bother so much as to go and cast their votes are now fighting the battle for Pakistan and facing jails. He said that societies have survived with poverty and ignorance but never without laws. He added that the law is the shield of the poor against oppression because the rich can protect themselves by other means like money and influence, but the poor can only seek the law's help. It is particularly impressive that today the elite is coming out to protect the shield of the poor – the law. He announced that PML-N candidates would publicly take an oath on Feb 5 to pledge support for the cause of restoring the judiciary after getting elected. He concluded by saying that he had looked at the CCP's objectives and, for a moment, he thought it was his own party's manifesto (there is much truth in this statement, by the way.)

Hamid Khan was the last speaker of the house. He bagan by prasing the lawyers' movement and, in particular, Justice Khwaja, the Head of LUMS Law School (my school!) who resigned in protest against the humilating treatment met out to the Chief Justice. Hamid Khan's key addition to the discourse was his contention that if the Parliament was to restore the judiciary, it would be an insult to the judiciary, becasue the judiciary was not just above the executive but also above the legislature. The judiciary, therefore, had to be restored before the elections.

The Q and A session was long, heated and colourful. Most of the questions attacked the politicians, alleging that the political parties were corrupt, colluding with the army and betraying the people and the cause of rule of law. At times, the booing and jeering got so loud that Talat Hussain had to intervene reminding this very educated audience that democracy entailed giving others a chance to, at least, state their argument. In general, the speakers tried to clear the parties' position on various issues. Ahsan Iqbal from PML-N managed to answer almost all questions quite gracefully because, after all, his party's current manifesto is based upon the civil society's slogans. He did face trouble when somebody mentioned the assault on the Supreme Court during Nawaz Sharif's second term in office. He replied by saying that it was party blown out of proportions by the agencies and, partly, a mistake. Talat Hussain intervened saying that he had been present at that event and was convinced that the Sharif government was involved.
Justice Fakhrunnisa from PPP, on the other hand, had a harder time and, by the end of it, she had almost reached breaking point. Her best rebuttal to all of this criticism against PPP was her continual referral to the fact that she, and countless other PPP workers, also braved atrocities to stand with the cause of rule of law. It reminded me of Nov 5: at the High Court protest , we were hiding from the charging police batallion, along with Dr. Pervez Hassan and others. Outside, Fakhrunnisa Khokhar, the old lady was, true to her word, was suffering police brutality, amidst choking levels of tear gas. The audience, however, had not seen those scenes. In the close comfort of PICIC hall, they mercilessly grilled her, making it clear that they were disgusted with the PPP's deal-making politics in the recent past, and the PML-N's similar conduct in the years before Musharraf.

Aasim Sajjad, a LUMS professor, and Athar Minallah, a lawyer and activist, reminded the audience that the future of democracy is inextricably linked to politics, politicians and political parties. In the past, the army has systematically maligned politicians, assuming for itself the role of the messiah. By its sceptical and contemptuous attitude, the civil society today is again falling into the same trap. If democracy is to survive in this country, we must all learn to respect politics and politicians and realize that political parties are, after all, comprised of politician wo are from amongst us, and, just like us, they are prone to human errors. It is by engaging empathetically with them and by trying to help them in bringing positive change that we can contribute to the country's future. By contemptuosly dismissing them, we are only easing the army's path, leading to the destruction of this country.

The Faez Isa lecture on 'You and the Constitution'

Friday, 25 th January 2007, at 6 p.m.

Venue: Shirkat Gah Office, Meeting Room (1st Floor), 2 Bath Island Road , Parin Lodge, (near Bridge Store) Karachi.

Our Constitution hasn't been much help to us lately, has it?
In fact, it hasn't been of any help for most citizens for most of our history – the reality just hit us when projected on private TV channels.
How do we prevent our country being run like a private corporation sans transparency and accountability, to profit the few at the cost of the public?
How does the constitution protect our sovereignty? For that matter, how can we be sovereign if the commons, public goods, public property and other national assets are unduly privatized and re-colonised?
What is or should be a constitutional stand on labour, natural resources, women, the marginalised, the minorities, the poor, equal rights and opportunities, and the re-distribution of wealth ?
Was the Constitution rendered meaningless when the dispensers of justice were arbitrarily dispensed with, and obstructed from participating in the electoral process?Is revolution the only answer?
These and other questions will be answered and discussed at an Info and Q&A session with Qazi Faez Isa, Barrister-at-Law andAdvocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Organised by The Green Economics & Globalization Initiative, SHIRKAT GAH in collaboration with the PEOPLE'S RESISTANCE.

We urge you to come, inform yourself, ask questions, and raise your issues.

Two leading Pakistani lawyers to receive 3rd Asian Human Rights Defender Award

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Today, January 23, 2008, the Board of Directors of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is pleased to announce that it has decided to grant its 3rd Asian Human Rights Defender Award jointly to Muneer Malik, former President of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, together with his successor, Choudhry Aitezaz Ahsan.

The award is in recognition of the historic leadership role that the lawyers of Pakistan have had in fighting against military dictatorship there during the past year, spearheading the protests against General Pervez Musharraf's unconstitutional removal and illegal confinement of Chief Justice Iftekhar M. Chaudhary on 9 March 2007.

The lawyers' movement has attracted interest and immense support of people from all walks of life in Pakistan and the scheme to remove the chief justice was thwarted, although he was again illegally removed from his post, along with 55 other senior judges, including 13 from the Supreme Court, when Musharraf seized power through an unconstitutional declaration of emergency rule at the end of the year.

The lawyers, judges and others of Pakistan have been making great sacrifices to defend the independence of their judiciary as a last bastion against the otherwise unchallenged power of the military. This struggle is continuing today.

The 3rd Asian Human Rights Defenders Award is thus awarded to these two leading lawyers both in recognition of their personal sacrifices as well as to them as representatives of the entire people's movement against dictatorship in Pakistan.

For his leading role in fighting against the removal of the chief justice and promoting the struggle for an independent judiciary, Muneer Malik was arrested and drugged, causing him to suffer renal failure. He is still recovering today.

Choudhry Aitezaz Ahsan has been kept under detention since the emergency was imposed on 3 November 2007. The two lawyers' leadership, courage and unswerving commitment to their profession, their integrity and their country are strongly symbolic of their cause.

In them we acknowledge and award all of the lawyers, judges and others who have refused to bow down to the immoral pressure of military force, including all of those dismissed from their posts and kept in their houses. They stand today as the representatives of civilised society and institutional commonsense in Pakistan, in stark contrast to the barbarism and primitive feudal order represented by Musharraf and his allies.

By making this award we also again emphasise that the international community is obliged to support the people of Pakistan at a time that they are faced with the very real threat of being subjected to the sole authority of a merciless and self-interested executive authority. We call upon others to join with us in open expression of support for these lawyers and their struggle.



The Asian Human Rights Commission recognises that human rights and liberties are expanded most by persons willing to make a sacrifice in the defence of these principles. Society is obliged to recognise and honour such sacrifices. For these reasons it has chosen to present awards to human rights defenders at opportune moments. Nominees must be exemplary human rights defenders with whom--or on behalf of whom--the AHRC has worked intensely over some time, and for whom the symbolic act of receiving the award will be significant. Nominations may be submitted to the AHRC executive director by anyone, at any time. The Board of Directors reserves the exclusive right to accept or reject any nomination.

The inaugural AHRC Human Rights Defender Award was presented to Michael Anthony Fernando in 2003, in recognition of his struggle for basic freedoms in Sri Lanka. Fernando served a nine-month jail term for contempt of court arising from a fundamental rights case in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. He was jailed because of his determination to uphold principles of liberty with an uncommon sense of courage, seriousness and self-sacrifice. The UN Human Rights Committee ultimately held that his imprisonment was a violation of his rights under international law. See further:

The second Human Rights Defenders Award was made posthumously to Somchai Neelaphaijit, a lawyer from Thailand, for his work on behalf of torture victims as a result of which he was abducted and forcibly disappeared by a group of police officers who have never been punished. The award was made in recognition both of his work as well as the emerging movement in Thailand, led by Somchai's wife, Angkhana, to acknowledge and establish a system of accountability relating to disappearances in Thailand. See further:

Canadian, Dutch and Hong Kong lawyers conclude that Emergency Measures are illegitimate

A Joint Statement by the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) , the Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L) and the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and the Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L) call for:

The immediate unconditional release of all jurists arrested under preventative detention measures, including: Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar; Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry, removed from office by the Musharraf regime; Ali Ahmed Kurd; Justice (retired) Tariq Mahmood and others.

Strict adherence by the State and state officials to all Pakistan laws in force prior to November 3, 2007 and to applicable international standards protecting the independence of lawyers and judges including those embodied in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyersand the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.

Strict adherence by the State and state officials to all Pakistan laws and to applicable international standards governing the humane treatment of prisoners, including the universal non-derogable prohibition against torture and denial of due process;

The immediate re-instatement of and adherence to the Constitution of the Republic or Pakistan and The rescission of all laws that came into force under the authority of the Proclamation of Emergency Declaration of November 3, 2007, the Provisional Constitutional Order No. 1 of 2007 and the Oath of Offices (Judges) Order, 2007 Reinstatement, prior to elections, of all judges removed from office subsequent to the Emergency Declaration and removal from office of judges appointed in their stead on conditions that are reasonable fair.

Judicial Independence

Judicial independence in Pakistan was effectively destroyed by recent measures taken by the Musharraf regime. The resulting absence of an independent judiciary violates the fundamental duty, accepted as jus cogens and binding on Pakistan, to afford at all times, including during legitimate states of emergency, "all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

The non-derogability of judicial independence is a requirement of common sense and is also the foundation of all international and domestic human rights and humanitarian law and is secured by many instruments including all four Geneva Conventions, (common article 3), Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Basic Principles on the Role of Judges )

Without an independent judiciary, there can be neither free and fair elections nor trials in Pakistan. The thousands of charges laid in the aftermath of the murder of Benazir Bhutto cannot be lawfully determined unless and until judges removed in November are reinstated and proper safeguards of their independence are recognized by the government of Pakistan. Proclamation of Emergency fails to meet UN legitimacy test and violates the law LRWC, the ALRC and L4L reiterate earlier statements (November 5th, 6th, 13th, 26th and 29th) condemning as a violations of both Pakistan law and of international laws and standards binding on Pakistan:

a) the suspension of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; and,

b) the Proclamation of Emergency of November 3, 2007; and,

c) the Provisional Constitutional Order No. 1 of 2007; and,

d) the Oath of Offices (Judges) Order, 2007; and,

e) the arrest, detention and removal from office of jurists suspected of opposing violations of the law by the Musharraf regime.

To be lawful and legitimate the imposition, duration and removal of emergency measures by Pakistan or any other state, must meet the 10-principle test of the United Nations standards. The Proclamation of Emergency of November 3, 2007 fails to meet all 10 of the UN criteria for legitimate emergency measures: the emergency measures declared in Pakistan on November 3, 2007 fails to meet the tests regarding legality, proclamation, notification, time limitation, existence of exceptional threat, proportionality, non-discrimination, compatibility, concordance and complementarity with international law and preservation of non-derogable rights.

Access to judicial safeguards of non-derogable rights remains an absolute requirement during emergency measures. Actions that compromise or destroy judicial independence, such as those taken by the Musharraf regime, render even emergency measures that meet UN standards, illegal. LRWC, the ALRC and L4L therefore take the position that all laws brought into force and all state actions taken in reliance on the legitimacy of the Proclamation of Emergency of November 3, 2007 must be considered as enacted and done without legal authority and therefore as null and the appropriate remedies must be taken to restore the law and redress violations.


Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of Canadian lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by providing support to lawyers and other human rights defenders in danger because of their advocacy. LRWC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Earlier LRWC statements on Pakistan:

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) is a Hong Kong-based NGO with General Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The ALRC was founded in 1986 by a prominent group of jurists and human rights activists in Asia and is committed to the development of legal self-reliance and the empowerment of people. The Centre promotes the respect of human rights in the region through the strengthening of institutions of the rule of law, notably the police, prosecution and judiciary. It also seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues by the bar and other legal bodies and personnel, at the local and national levels and to promote rights in the region through advocacy, research and publications, such as Article 2.

The Dutch Lawyers For Lawyers Foundation (L4L)('Stichting Advocaten voor Advocaten') is committed to enable lawyers, throughout the world, to practice law without improper interference and to this end, supports lawyers who are under threat or attack in the exercise of their profession while working for the protection of human rights. L4L, established in co-operation with the Dutch Bar Association, the Dutch affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, and the Dutch Institute of Human Rights, regularly reports on the situation of human rights lawyers.


Lawyers Rights Watch Canada,;; +1 604 738 0338

Asian Legal Resource Centre, Mr. Basil Fernando, Executive Director, Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339,;

The Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation, Ms. Judith Lichtenberg; +31 (0)6 11 30 6378,;

Massive anti-Musharraf protest in London

A massive protest is being planned against Musharraf in UK. All concerned, students, lawyers, civil societies, political party workers, etc. are invited to come to this protest. If you are in or around London on the 28th, please try to come. The plan is to bring people from all backgrounds holding the flags of their political parties or the flag of Pakistan in case you don't support any political party to represent the much united resistance movement against Musharraf. Please circulate this mail widely. As with any protest, numbers matter!






Date: Monday January 28th 2008

Time: 11.30 AM

Location: 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA

Tube: Westminister Station


CCP Convention in LUMS - account

The convention organized was an immense success. So many people showed up that we did not have seating place. Many were standing around or sitting on the floor or stairs in the auditorium. The next convention therefore will be organized in an even bigger hall. The attendance was over 200 people.

The convention began by Hamid Zaman addressing the audience and introducing the host, Talat Hussain. Following that, the panelist began by giving their viewpoint on the matter of the restoration of the judiciary. Retired Justice Fakhrunnisa from PPP and Ahsan Iqbal from PML-N both promised their party's commitment to the cause of the people. Retired Justice Fakhrunnisa declared her commitment to the struggle for the restoration of the judiciary, and stressed that after elections her party will do all in their power to get the judiciary restored. She said Benazir gave her life for the struggle of democracy, and democracy is not possible without the restoration of the judiciary. Hence, PPP will first and foremost work towards that.

Mr. Ahsan Iqbal declared the recent mobilization of the civil society and students as nothing less than marvelous. He said that throughout history, countries have survived poverty, hunger, illiteracy etc but never has any country survived without justice. He said that the lack of justive effects the poor and the middle classes the most, as they are unable to shield themselves from those with power. He declared that today, the civil society and the students have stepped forward to become that shield. He pointed to the historic nexus between the judge, the general and the Jageerdar and said that for the first time in the history of Pakistan, a judge dared defy this nexus and give hope to the desolute and oppressed masses. He said that Nawaz Sharif himself will administer an oath to ALL party nominees in front of the Public. This oath will profess the utmost commitment of each to the restoration of the judiciary and the constitution. He said that Pervaiz Musharraf insulted 160 million people in his address in Europe when he declared Pakistanis as undeserving of democracy, and that Pakistanis deserve it as much as any other country. He declared Musharraf as obsessed with power.

Mr. Hamid Khan, representing Mr. Tariq Hassan in the convention, began by historicizing the lawyer's movement. That it had begun since the first coup by Musharraf. He strongly denounced any system of which Musharraf was a part of, and added that when Benazir made a deal with Musharraf, it was a most painful moment in the lawyer's movement. He blamed this deal for the fact that Musharraf was able to remain on his seat post March 9. He therefore also denounced the current elections taking place under Musharraf's biased government. He also said that had all the parties boycotted elections from the beginning Musharraf would have been unable to retain any power and that Political parties should have only contested elections on the condition that Musharraf resign.

Dr. Parvaiz Hassan, representing Mr. Tariq Hassan in the convention, said that the so-called deposed judges are not under the law deposed. They are still legally the judges. He declared that the only solution to the problem of the repeated coups by the military is via recourse to the article 6 of the constitution. He said that Musharraf should be tried before the courts (once the judges have been reinstated de facto) for high treason. He also said that not only Musharraf but the PCO judges should also be held accountable. He stressed that unless this process of accountability begins in the country, there is no hope.

Mr. Ahsan rasheed representing PTI, stressed that these elctions are neither free nor fair. He emphasized the principled stance of his party in this regard. He said that his party now had an expanded electoral base, and stood to win many more seats, but purely on principles has decided to boycott the elections. He said that Imran Khan was offered to become part of the Musharraf government previously as well, but had refused each time.

The talk was very charged with emotions. A lot of people denounced Musharraf. Many also said that we will now hold the political parties equally accountable. PML-N and PPP were also questioned on judicial independence during their terms in power. Retd Justice Fakhrunnisa responded by saying that her party never deposed any judges. And Mr. Iqbal said that Nawaz Sharif was the first Prime Minister of Pakistan to ever present himself in front of the court. He, however, also stated that his party has learned from their past mistakes and was willing to improve hand in hand with the people. This was appreciated by many from the civil society that at least an acceptance and willingness to improve has been expressed. The general consensus of the convention was that Musharraf must immediately resign, that no power sharing agreement with him was acceptable and that the judiciary must be restored. PPP was also asked to give an official firm stance on the issue of the judiciary and to administer a similar oath as the PML-N. All politicians were asked to give an oath that if they are unable to restore the judiciary they will resign from politics.