Free Speech, Pakistan, Politics

Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Disrespected and Dissolved
(Despite Having a Theme Song)

Pakistan Flag.jpgSeveral of you have requested a post about recent events in Pakistan. So here you go.
Truth be told, what’s going on over there — namely, a wholesale assault on civil society and the rule of law — isn’t typical ATL fodder. It’s deadly serious stuff, so it doesn’t fall under the entertainment prong of ATL’s mission. And it has nothing to do with “NY to 190,” so it doesn’t qualify under this site’s greed promotion function.
But the Pakistani protests are not completely devoid of more lighthearted aspects. Jezebel offers this take:

Is it too obvious that our initial reaction to all those shots of lawyers in protest of military rule in Pakistan was, “Umm that’s sort of hot!” a thought that led immediately to the query, “But are they as hot as those monks protesting military rule in Burma a month back?” Of course it is! And would it be kind of TMZ of us to run a thoroughly meaningless poll wondering what you think about this pressing issue? Very much so!

You can vote in the poll over here.
And there’s more. From a reader:

The Pakistan Supreme Court has an official “50th Anniversary Theme Song” from last year, entitled “And Justice For All.” It even has a bonus video! It’s dreadfully earnest, and is rather ironic given the circumstances.

The new version will be called “And Justice For All — Unless the President Says Otherwise.”

You can check out the video here (wmv file). Even though the Pakistani Supreme Court’s website has already been updated — to show Abdul Hameed Dogar as the “new” chief justice, and to scrub all references to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the other ousted jurists — the video is still available. So enjoy it now, before it gets taken down.
Finally, in a gesture towards real journalism, we present the house arrest order against prominent Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, as well as an email from her.
Check out these items, after the jump.

First, here’s some context, from our tipster:

Asma Jehangir is well-known internationally, was written about at length in a recent New Yorker piece authored by William Dalrymple… So you can find plenty online regarding her….

Oh another detail: civil society people who were meeting at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Lahore were arrested two days ago… The police were originally after the lawyers at the meeting, but ended up arresting school principals, NGO-workers, and even some politically keen housewives. While the lawyers are still in prison, the other activists were released, but not before being required to sign affidavits stating that they will refrain from further activism against Musharraf, the imposition of martial law and the government in general.

Here’s the house arrest order (annotations ours). We like how the government says it’s “pleased to direct” Jahangir’s house arrest. Congratulations, Ms. Jahangir: you’re the lucky winner of liberty deprivation!
Asma Jahangir house arrest.jpg
And here is Jahangir’s email:
Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2007 10:56:39 +0500
Dear Friends,
The situation in the country is uncertain. There is a strong crackdown on the press and lawyers. Majority of the judges of the Supreme Court and four High Courts have not taken oath. The Chief Justice is under house arrest (unofficially). The President of the Supreme Court Bar (Aitzaz Ahsan) and 2 former presidents, Mr. Muneer Malik and Tariq Mahmood have been imprisoned for one month under the Preventive Detention laws. The President of the Lahore High Court Mr. Ahsan Bhoon and former bar leader Mr. Ali Ahmed Kurd have also been arrested. The police is looking or 6 other lawyers, including President of Peshawar and Karachi bar. The President of Lahore bar is also in hiding.
There are other scores political leaders who have also been arrested. Yesterday I was house arrested for 90 days. I am sending my detention order.
Ironically the President (who has lost his marbles) said that he had to clamp down on the press and the judiciary to curb terrorism. Those he has arrested are progressive, secular minded people while the terrorists are offered negotiations and ceasefires.
Lawyers and civil society will challenge the government and the scene is likely to get uglier. We want friends of Pakistan to urge the US administration to stop all support of the instable dictator, as his lust for power is bringing the country close to a worse form of civil strife.
It is not time for the international community to insist on preventive measures, otherwise cleaning up the mess may take decades. There are already several hundred IDPs and the space for civil society has hopelessly shrunk.
We believe that Musharaf has to be taken out of the equation and a government of national reconciliation put in place. It must be backed by the military. Short of this there are no realistic solutions, although there are no guarantees that this may work.
Asma Jahangir
Are Pakistan’s Lawyers As Hot As Burma’s Monks? [Jezebel]
“And Justice for All”: 50th Anniversary Theme Song [Pakistan Supreme Court]

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