[JURIST] Riot police and blockades prevented former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile] and hundreds of supporters from marching Thursday to the home of ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], who has been under virtual house arrest since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's November 3 declaration of emergency rule. Sharif and his supporters disbanded peacefully. Meanwhile lawyers across Pakistan engaged in new anti-Musharraf protests [AP report] in Islamabad and a number of other cities Thursday and continued to stay away from the courts, demanding an end to emergency rule, restoration of the constitution, and reinstatement of the dismissed judges. Pakistani lawyers' groups have urged a boycott [JURIST report] of the upcoming parliamentary elections on the grounds that transparent and fair elections are impossible given the state of emergency rule [JURIST news archive] in Pakistan. AP has more. The News has local coverage.
Also Thursday, Pakistani Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan sent [News report] a letter [text] to the country's legal community considering the effectiveness of the boycott call in various political scenarios:
in the context of ultimately achieving our one point goal of restoring the pre-November 3 status quo and the fact of a form of elections being upon us, ...I propose the following:Ahsan went on to propose that lawyers and bar associations press electoral candidates to take an oath to advance and support motions, resolutions and laws to reinstate the ousted judges at the risk of being denied lawyer's political support. He concluded:
ONE: Our stand for boycott would be vindicated if ALL major parties also boycott.
TWO: Our stand would also be vindicated if even one of the two major political alliances (ARD or APDM), decides to boycott.
THREE: IF however ALL major parties decide TO CONTEST elections, we must devise a strategy to use the momentum to our own advantage. How? My proposal is that:
In situation THREE the hustle and bustle of the nation-wide election campaign may suck in all politically active persons within a few days. Local issues, of roads, water, sewage, schools and other services, may begin to engage people seeking promises of redress of their immediate miseries. Our one demand may go onto the back-burner of the public mind. People will become pre-occupied with other issues. That is what the regime is counting upon.
What then must be done in situation THREE (and ONLY in situation THREE)? We have to keep the issue of the deposed judges alive. We have to keep the spotlight on our demand.
We have a nation-wide network of District Bars. We can make it worth their while for candidates to adhere to our aspiration of restoration of judges. In the process we can, across the country, create a significant and vibrant political activity. And we will also keep the initiative with us. I am sure that within days candidates of parties already committed to the restoration of judges and independent candidates will be jostling for time to take the oath before the full blaze of the media. I can see them printing photos of the oath-taking ceremony on their posters and publicity material to assure the voters that they are committed to us. It will keep the issue of the deposed judges right up-front, and may be make it the most inescapable electoral issue.
We are today contesting the most unique case in the history of the world. In this case, our professional fee as lawyers is whatever this country has given each of us to date and our client are 160 million people. But our clients interest, our nations interest, we must, safeguard at all costs. If one unarmed lawyer could win the independence of this country, I do not see any reason why we, thousands of lawyers, should not be able to achieve victory.
If we put out hearts and souls into this perfectly legitimate and peaceful enterprise we will prevail. We shall overcome.