[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] Friday praised Pakistan's lawyers for standing up for the rule of law and emphasized the county's need for an independent judiciary as a guard against overreaching executive power. In a statement to JURIST, Leahy said:
The protest by Pakistan's lawyers [earlier this month] was an iconic moment about the importance of the rule of law, and the whole world was watching. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee I see every day the importance of an independent judiciary in our own country and in our system of government. We depend on our courts to defend the Constitution and to act as a check on the abuse of executive power. Without an independent judiciary we would not have a democracy. The people of Pakistan need an independent judiciary as much as we do.Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official website] similarly called on Pakistan to reestablish judicial independence [JURIST report], saying that an independent judiciary is just as important as free elections to a democracy.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf dismissed 14 Supreme Court judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], in the wake of his November 3 declaration of a state of emergency [JURIST report], replacing them with lower court judges seen by many to be more loyal to the president. On Thursday Musharraf pledged to end emergency rule and reinstate the suspended constitution on December 16, but officials say he will not reinstate the ousted justices [JURIST report]. Legal observers in Pakistan tell JURIST that while the country's main political parties are jockeying for position in the upcoming parliamentary elections, neither one is likely to champion the reinstatement of the deposed judges or the larger judicial independence issue, leaving that in the hands of the lawyers movement.