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Pakistan cabinet approves changes to lawyers act, establishes rights commission

[JURIST] The Pakistani cabinet led by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile] Wednesday approved changes to a statute governing the country's lawyers and endorsed a draft bill that would establish a new National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR). The changes to the Legal Practitioners Act of 1973 [text, PDF] would undo an amendment [JURIST report] to the Act promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive] following his November 3, 2007 declaration of emergency rule [JURIST news archive]. In particular, they would reduce the power of superior court judges appointed by the government to discipline and even disbar lawyers for "professional or other misconduct." The establishment of a National Human Rights Commission is intended to bring Pakistan in compliance with a UN General Assembly resolution requiring members to set up official human rights bodies. The Daily Times has more. The News has additional coverage.

In the wake of the initial amendment to the lawyers' statute the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) derided it as unconstitutional and canceled the membership of then-Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum. Asma Jahangir [official profile, PDF], the chairwoman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [advocacy website] was placed under house arrest [order] for two weeks shortly after the emergency was declared.

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