Thursday, 22 November 2007

Locked Up: The Conscience of a Country

Pakistan’s military dictator Musharraf unleashed his second martial law primarily to bring down Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Twenty days later, while the media is abuzz with reports of thousands of Pakistanis being released from detention and some are jumping to the conclusion that the emergency is softening up, the man who claims to lawfully be the highest jurist of Pakistan remains under house arrest.

If Sartre was France, Justice Chaudhry is Pakistan.

Musharraf first attacked the Chief Justice of Pakistan on 9 March, when he tried to unlawfully oust him. The ensuing legal battle saw the strongman defeated on 20 July when a 13-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan threw out the general’s allegations, reinstating Justice Iftikhar as the head of Pakistan’s judiciary.

The legal battle for Justice Chaudhry was mounted by a team of lawyers ably led by Barrister Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, who also organized a series of rallies and street protests in support of Justice Chaudhry’s cause.

The general know he could not get at Justice Chaudhry without first putting Barrister Chaudhry away; the Barrister was one of the first to be arrested when the martial law unfolded on 3 March.

With the Justice and the Barrister locked away, how can Bush call Musharraf a “true democrat”, how can Benazir Bhutto and others return to business as usual including preparations of elections and underhand power-sharing deals with the general?

Musharraf has locked up Pakistan’s conscience. Pakistan can neither forget it nor forgive the perpetrator of this crime – or any of his accomplices from Bhutto to Bush.

This blog follows the fate of Pakistan's top jurists and lawyers being held in detention by the martial law.