NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD STRONGLY CONDEMNS STATE OF EMERGENCY IN PAKISTAN, URGES BUSH TO SUSPEND AID
Marjorie Cohn, NLG President, [email protected] edu, 619-374-6923
Jeanne Mirer, NLG International Committee, [email protected] net, 212-473-8700
The National Lawyers Guild strongly condemns the State of Emergency imposed on the people of Pakistan and the attacks on lawyers and the judiciary. The NLG demands that President Musharraf immediately withdraw the emergency declaration of November 3, 2007, the Provisional Constitutional Order No. 1 of 2007 (PCO), which suspends Pakistan’s Constitution. This declaration includes suspension of the right to life and liberty, freedom of speech, assembly and association, and equal protection of the law, all of which are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry is being held under house arrest, and over 2500 lawyers in different parts of Pakistan including the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association and other leaders of the Bar including officials of the Democratic Lawyers Association of Pakistan, have been detained. Journalists said the government ordered that journalists who brought “ridicule or disrepute” to Musharraf could face three years in prison.
The real motivation for the PCO is not to defend the country against “Islamic extremists” but to maintain Musharraf in power. The State of Emergency was declared after the Supreme Court indicated it would overturn the results of the illegitimate election that preserved Musharraf’s rule. Musharraf seeks to prevent public protests that lawyers and political parties were organizing.
The lawyers and the judiciary are resisting efforts by Musharraf to violate Pakistan’s Constitution and to interfere with the judiciary. The NLG salutes the lawyers of Pakistan for their principled stand in upholding the Constitution, independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law. The NLG supports the call by the lawyers of Pakistan to refuse to practice before judges who have agreed to take oath under the PCO. The PCO has been held to be unconstitutional and illegal by a 7-judge bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court. Chief Justice Chaudhry and other judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts who have refused to take oath under the illegal PCO continue to hold office and cannot be removed.
The NLG demands the immediate release of the lawyers and others from custody and/or house arrest and withdrawal of all restrictions illegally imposed. The NLG further urges President Bush to discontinue all aid to Pakistan until the state of emergency is lifted, the Constitution is no longer suspended, and Musharraf provides assurance that the January 2008 elections will proceed as planned.
Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.