America and the Rule of Law in Pakistan
JURIST Special Guest Columnist Saeed Malik, a US citizen who is the younger brother of former Pakistan Supreme Bar Association president and lawyers’ movement leader Muneer Malik, says that the Obama Administration should support Pakistan’s lawyers and civil society by pressing Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate the country’s ousted chief justice and fully restore the rule of law…
A year ago I wrote that Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorial rule over Pakistan was destined to end up in the dustbin of history. In a transparent process to clear the constitutional hurdles to his third term as president, Musharraf in November 2007 fired the Chief Justice of the country and suspended the constitution. This was an act so brazen that sixty of the Chief Justice’s brethren on the benches of various Pakistani federal and provincial courts resigned in protest. The subsequent movement by Pakistan’s lawyers to restore the independence of the judiciary is well known to everyone.
The Bush Administration, in its characteristically short-sighted approach to foreign policy, turned a blind eye to Musharraf’s massacre of the judiciary, abandoning the protesting lawyers and civil society. Forget the moral indefensibility of a stand that sides with those who muffle the voices of those seeking the rule of law; a popular and just movement is like a volcano and cannot be stopped. Musharraf clung to power for a few miserable months while American popularity in Pakistan fell to single digits.
And here we are again! I have argued before that without a free and independent judiciary any experiment in democracy will quickly implode. The Bush Administration’s model of hybrid democracy in Pakistan is in shambles again. In early 2008 elections were held in Pakistan and a new government was installed, but the judicial crisis was left to fester. Without an independent and credible judiciary, even an elected leader turns corrupt and dictatorial. Case in point: Pakistan’s current president, Asif Ali Zardari.
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