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Lessons from the Lawyers' Movement

By Ali Wyne

Although the battle in Swat has understandably captured international attention, it is more a commentary on Asif Zardari's unusual incompetence than it is a reflection of Pakistan's systemic challenges. One can better understand those challenges by considering the outcome of the lawyers' movement.

There was widespread agreement within and outside of Pakistan that Iftikhar Chaudhry's reinstatement as chief justice marked the beginning - albeit fragile and uncertain - of the country's democratization. In reality, however, it reaffirmed the need for (at least) three basic principles to inform Pakistan's political development. First, the rule of law is little more than a rhetorical construct if leaders violate it to maintain power and opponents support it to achieve power. Second, tactics matter. The lawyers' movement helped to bring Zardari to power by opposing Pervez Musharraf; now it is boosting Nawaz Sharif's clout by opposing Zardari. If it does not recalibrate, it may well continue to elevate the very opposition figures who will undermine the rule of law once they acquire power. Third, the divides that must exist for representative institutions to emerge - whether between leaders and opponents, or bureaucrats and activists - lose their meaning if those on either side are rewarded for subordinating principle to ambition.

It is useful to go back ten years in Pakistani history.

Recent events notwithstanding, Musharraf and Chaudhry were once close allies. On January 26, 2000, Chaudhry swore a new oath of office affirming Musharraf's decision to suspend Pakistan's constitution; he was subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court. Four months later, he joined the court's 11 other justices in declaring that the general's takeover through force was legal. On April 13, 2005, Chaudhry was one of only five justices to oppose petitions that challenged Musharraf's constitutional amendments and validate Musharraf's right to serve concurrently as army chief and president; less than a month later, he was appointed chief justice.

The relationship between the two soured when Chaudhry ruled against the government's privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation. Musharraf's subsequent actions - firing Chaudhry on March 9, 2007, declaring a state of emergency on November 3rd when his presidential eligibility was challenged, and sacking Chaudhry again after the Supreme Court had reinstated him - turned Pakistanis against him, thereby emboldening Zardari and Sharif. The two formed a coalition government shortly after Musharraf resigned, only to have it collapse a week later. Sharif claimed that Zardari had reneged on their agreement to restore the judges whom Musharraf had deposed during emergency rule.

Zardari did not vocally support the lawyers' movement while pressing for Musharraf's ouster, because he recognized that an independent judiciary could examine the October 5, 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance that immunized all government officials who served between 1986 and October 12, 1999, when Musharraf took office. Nonetheless, Zardari supported the movement to the extent that it weakened the general and improved his own political prospects.

Pakistanis began pressuring him to reinstate Chaudhry shortly after he took office. Zardari heeded those calls not to advance democracy, but to maintain power (indeed, many suspect that he preconditioned his decision on receiving protection from Chaudhry's "judicial activism"): only a month into his presidency, after all, his approval rating had fallen to 19%.

Like Zardari, Sharif aligned himself strategically with the lawyers' movement, and has already accrued considerable dividends as a result. Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani invited him to join the cabinet so as to restore the image of the Pakistan People's Party, but Sharif rejected the offer, thereby enhancing his reputation as the upstanding outsider. He is also garnering support abroad. Sharif has been meeting with senior officials in the Obama administration to discuss possible mechanisms of Pakistani-American cooperation against the Taliban, cooperation that, some analysts argue, his inclination towards Islamic rule could facilitate.

Notwithstanding these endorsements, Sharif's record gives reason for pause. On November 28, 1997, hundreds of his supporters stormed the Supreme Court while it was hearing a corruption case against him. Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was subsequently removed from office, and Sharif was exonerated of the charges that the court was considering. Less than two years later, Sharif cracked down on the Jang Group's publisher for not firing or demoting several journalists who had published exposes of his administration's corruption. The Supreme Court rendered a judgment in favor of Jang and demanded that the government allow newsprint to be sent to the group's headquarters. Sharif contested the ruling and had officials impound its newsprint supplies. Such abuses compelled many Pakistanis to embrace the coup that brought Musharraf to power.

Going forward, it would be mistaken for Pakistanis to support Sharif on account of Zardari's ineptitude - it is precisely this manner of expediency that has stunted Pakistan's advancement. Now is the time to call out all opportunists, no matter what stripes they may now be wearing.

Ali Wyne is a researcher in Washington, DC.

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Comments (7)

alibryan20 Author Profile Page:

The discussion at the hand is about 'far reaching effects of lawers movement in pakistan' not suggestions of dismantling pakistan(like its a apple pie to divide)..
Some movements achieve their goals instantly but very few bring the chance for a fresh new start. Pakistan and its masses have been ravaged by military dictators and their foriegn allies for more then 3 decades, and throughout the repeated episodes of generals taking over the powers of the governing by direct or indircet help of foriegn powers (mainly u.s.a) masses lost the will to stand up against these military dictators. But it all changed when the highest judicial officer of pakistan defied a U.S backed dictator and thus started a mini revolution. People in pakistan have started showing more then intrest in their countrys day to day affairs after their trust was restored along side with an independent judiciary. The fact of matter is, law and high judiciary of pakistan have been saved by the masses, now its judiciary's turn to save the country and unite the nation.

DOUGLASFIELD2 Author Profile Page:

WILL THE INTERNATIONAL WORLD BE AS GRACIOUS WITH THEIR $$$ FOR POORER AMERICANS ???


SOMEHOW OUR U.S. CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD HAVE DECIDED AND APPROVED CURRENT LEGISLATION TO SPEND 50 BILLION AMERICAN TAX $$$ IN THE INTERNATIONAL FIGHT AGAINST AIDS OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS BEFORE TAKING CARE OF OUR OWN POORER AMERICANS HERE AT HOME FIRST !

MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS ARE UNABLE TO AFFORD PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION IN THEIR CIVIL,CRIMINAL AND FAMILY COURTS OF LAW ALL ACROSS AMERICA CAUSING TREMENDOUS HARDSHIPS NATIONWIDE,BUT THESE GREAT MINDS and callous hearts IN OUR AMERICAN CONGRESS HAVE FOUND OTHERS WORLDWIDE MORE NEEDY THEN THEIR OWN CITIZENS WHO ARE BEING FALSELY INCARCERATED,WRONGFULY EXECUTED,LOSING THEIR HOMES OR APARTMENTS,LOSING CHILD CUSTODY OR VISITATION WITH THEIR CHILDREN ETC...

NOT BEING AFFORDED PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION BY OUR U.S.CONGRESS HAS CREATED A TOTAL BREAKDOWN OF THE AMERICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM FOR OUR POORER AMERICANS BECAUSE THE AMERICAN COURTS PUNISH ALL OF US LITTLE PEOPLE IF WE ARE NOT ASSISTED WITH PROPRER LEGAL COUNSEL.
IT IS A KNOWN FACT THAT OUR AVERAGE MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS WITHOUT PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION IN ALL OF OUR AMERICAN COURTS OF LAW LOSE THEIR LEGAL CASES TO THE BETTER FINANCED WHO ARE ABLE TO AFFORD LAWYERS.


LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS IS NOW ACTIVELY IN THE HUNT FOR INTERNATIONAL COUNTRIES AND LEADERS WORLDWIDE TO HELP RAISE 5 BILLION DOLLAR$ FOR OUR SLIGHTED POORER AMERICANS WHO HAVE HAD THEIR OWN AMERICAN CONGRESS TURN THEIR BACKS ON THEIR DESPERATE NEEDS IN NOT AFFORDING THEM PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION.

TROY DAVIS AND MUMIA ABU - JAMAL ARE 2 PERFECT EXAMPLES OF AMERICAN CITIZENS WHO NEVER HAD PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION AFFORDED THEM BY OUR U.S. CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD IN THEIR INITIAL CRIMINAL TRIALS IN (GEORGIA AND PENNSYLVANIA) WHO MIGHT VERY WELL HAVE TO PAY THE ULTIMATE PRICE OF POSSIBLY BEING FALSELY EXECUTED IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

THIS IS THE FIRST OF MANY WWW INTERNATIONAL PLEAS BY LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS FOR OTHER LEADERS AND COUNTRIES TO HELP RAISE THE NEEDED MONIE$ TO CORRECT THESE BLATANT INJUSTICES THAT HAVE BEEN INFLICTED ON POORER AMERICANS FOR THE LAST FEW DECADES.

LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS HAS MANY OTHER WRITTEN ARTICLES THAT CAN BE VIEWED WITH ANY WWW SEARCH ENGINE BY OUR NAME OR OUR TELEPHONE NUMBER.

LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS IS A WWW LOBBY GROUP OF VOLUNTEERS THAT SING OUT ABOUT THE DECADES OLD NEGLECT,ABUSE AND INJUSTICES BEING INFLICTED ON OUR POORER AMERICANS THAT HAVE BECOME CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY ISSUES FOR THE INTERNATIONAL WORLD COURT TO INVESTIGATE.


lawyersforpooreramericans@yahoo.com
(424-247-2013)

clearthinking1 Author Profile Page:

Jamil51,
I am not a paid blogger. However, I do try to write comments with mostly facts and data and some interpretation and opinion.
If you know facts that contradict what I have written, then please write them (e.g. if the population of Hindus has increased in Pakistan in the last 60 years). You can, of course, also write your opinion and let others judge.

Your statement that my comments need no attention is interesting and revealing. People who read these comments can judge for themselves.

jamil51 Author Profile Page:

clearthinking1

As far as I know you are a paid blogger hence your comments are useless and need no attention

clearthinking1 Author Profile Page:

Islamic Pakistan as a nation has failed and must be dismantled.

Pakistan as a nation is failing miserably, and it is a failed society based only on hatred and anger.
ECONOMIC FAILURE: Pakistan is bankrupt. Even all the loans from IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, London Club, overt and covert aid from US, and repeated refinancing of the debt have not worked.
MILITARY FAILURE: 4 wars have been lost by Pakistan. Bangladesh was freed in 4 days. The military is demoralized and cannot even control its own territory.
SOCIAL FAILURE: the miserable poverty and exploitation within Pakistan is shocking. The Honor killings and treatment of women is unacceptable.
POLITICAL FAILURE: The military coups, suspension of constitutional law, murders of Bhuttos (father and daughter) reveal no evidence of a modern political culture or democracy.
EDUCATIONAL FAILURE: The lack of modern schools and scientific education shows no potential for Pakistan to develop economically or politically in the future. The madrassas are where terrorists are openly bred.
CULTURAL FAILURE: A nation that looks the other way as terrorists and murders are being trained openly is morally bankrupt. Every Pakistani knows whats been going on in their country, and one must assume they approve of the violence in their heart.
Holbrooke and Obama need to dismantle Pakistan like Holbrooke did with Yugoslavia. 4 Ethnic states - Baluchis, Pashtuns, Punjabis, and Sindhis.

clearthinking1 Author Profile Page:

Experiments in political science are difficult, but Pakistan and India are a rare example. People of the same DNA and genes that share common languages, rituals, and cultures (e.g. Punjabi, Sindhi, etc..) are separated by religion. In just 60 years, there have been clear results.

India (based on Hinduism and Vedanta) is a tolerant, pluralistic, vibrant, nonaggressive democracy. Progress is seen in politics, economics, education, etc... India has had Presidents who are Muslim, Hindu, Dalit, female; Prime ministers who are Sikh, Hindu, female; Defense ministers who are Christian, Hindu, Sikh; powerful politicians are even Italian Catholics like Sonia Gandhi. More progress needs to made in many places in Indian society, but even in America Blacks had very limited rights till the 1960's and now Obama is president. Tolerant peaceful cultures make progress.

In contrast, Pakistan has become an increasingly intolerant and violent society. Pakistan used to have 40% Hindus 60 years ago, and now it is only 1% Hindu. The treatment of women and honor killings in Pakistan are inexcusable.

juvenalahore Author Profile Page:

To be sure, governance during Nawaz Sharif's two stints as prime minister left much to be desired. Since the military coup that ousted him in 1999, however, Sharif has evolved into a credible democrat. His leadership during the movement for an independent judiciary was exemplary--his party resigned on principle from the federal government in April 2008 and, eleven months later, he personally led a march on the capital despite substantial personal peril. His continuing unconditional support for Zardari's government in the center is the pillar holding up elected government in Pakistan.

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