US Lawyers Urge Freedom for Pakistani Attorneys

The lawyers’ protest in Washington

Washington, DC: Some 250 US lawyers protested at the US Supreme Court last Wednesday for the release of thousands rounded up during Pakistan's state of emergency, among them numerous judges and attorneys.
"We are here because we cannot forget the images of hundreds of our brave colleagues assaulted in the streets, carried off in police trucks, and fenced in by barbed wire and concrete barricades," said William Neukom, president of the American Bar Association (ABA), a national organization for attorneys in the United States.
"We, the lawyers of America, call on General Musharraf to restore the Constitution of Pakistan, reinstate Pakistan's Supreme Court justices, and free those lawyers and civil leaders who have been wrongly jailed," Neukom said.
According to another story, Pakistan's breakdown to many Americans “may seem vaguely routine, another eruption in a distant land. But to American lawyers, the events are shocking and immediate.
In part, it is because we see our fellow lawyers and judges in Pakistan doing something dangerous and heroic: standing up to police and soldiers, subjecting themselves to arrest for such ideals as the ‘rule of law’ and an ‘independent judiciary.’
“Their bravery reminds us that these ideals are not abstract at all. They are the difference between nations of justice and law, and unchecked tyrannies. This crisis reminds us how precious, and fragile, the rule of law is in the United States and in all nations.
“This week, lawyers gathered in Washington and states across the country to express solidarity and to stand shoulder to shoulder with our courageous colleagues in Pakistan.
“The American Bar Association and other bar groups have called on General Musharraf to restore the Constitution, re-instate the Supreme Court justices, and free those lawyers he has wrongly arrested. We will continue working until the rule of law is restored in Pakistan.
“As lawyers, we see it as no coincidence that Musharraf targeted his crackdown on his nation's legal community, as well as on the press and other organs of civil society.
“Like a free press, judges and lawyers who are free from intimidation and outside influence are essential checks to raw power. These agents of liberty are a danger to would-be tyrants, and Musharraf has treated them as such.
“When the Soviet Union collapsed, American lawyers helped draft constitutions and train judges whose work would help new democracies emerge.
“We appeared to be at the start of a worldwide flowering of liberty, but today, we increasingly see those gains in jeopardy.
“To advocates of the rule of law, the recent actions in Pakistan are worse than a misfortune; they are a catastrophic reversal of values we hold dear. And in a world threatened by terrorism and rising autocrats, they make our world more dangerous, not less… “
“America's lawyers do not claim expertise in foreign policy. But we can speak for the urgency of standing up for justice and the rule of law.
“The loss of a constitution and the arrest of thousands of lawyers and judges, including those on the Supreme Court, cannot be ignored. Lawful government in Pakistan is the best way to assure security and justice.
“William H. Neukom is president of the American Bar Association.”


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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