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American Bar Association

ILRC Rule of Law Series: Spring 2008 Panel

Title: Justice and the Rule of Law: The Case of Pakistan

From top to bottom: Don DeAmicis, program chair; Justice Fakhruddin Ebrahim, of Pakistan; Justice Nasira Iqbal, of Pakistan

In collaboration with the Asia Pacific, the International Human Rights, and the International Judicial Affairs Committees, the ILRC co-hosted a showcase program on Justice and Rule of Law: The Case of Pakistan on April 2, 2008. The first of two panels, this program focused on the effects of President Pervez Musharraf's actions in November 2007 and the unfolding aftermath. Panelists discussed the legality of the state of emergency order, the suspension of elections, the importance of restoring and upholding the independence of the Pakistani judiciary and the importance of granting due process to those legal professionals and others who were detained indefinitely.

Justice Fakhruddin Ebrahim, former judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, was joined by Justice Nasira Iqbal, former judge of the Lahore Court, and Douglass Cassel, human rights law professor at the University of Notre Dame. William H. Neukom, President of the ABA, moderated the session and Don DeAmicis provided the introductory remarks.

The panel began with Justice Ebrahim echoing some of the words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburgh Address, “government of the people, by the people and for the people." The Panelists shared the challenge of reaching the aspirations of Lincoln. The Constitution of Pakistan was established in 1973 after 25 years of consensus building. President Musharraf brazenly suspended it twice since coming to power in 1999. Moreover, in November 2007, he declared a state of emergency after implementing amendments to increase his power and disabling the independence of the judicial system. Both panelists from Pakistan agreed that to restore order, the independence of the judiciary must be re-established, the original Constitution should be reinstated without Musharraf's amendments, and a formal trial of Musharraf needs to occur.

Pakistani leaders emphasized how important the moral support of the ABA and similar organizations has been in attracting media attention to the turmoil in Pakistan. This attention inspired the people of Pakistan to oust Musharraf from office and facilitated the release of judges who were detained by the former President.

Besides the proper restoration of government, the War on Terror was another focus of discussion. Both Pakistani leaders agree that fighting terrorism is important, but believe it should be done in a manner that is less destructive since their people are on the frontlines of the conflict. Justice Iqbal hopes that America reevaluates its approach to fighting terrorism, as the current tactics in Pakistan are diminishing its economy, the rule of law and its people's perspective on America.

In response, Professor Cassel explained the U.S. administration's reaction to the events in Pakistan. He said the U.S. government hesitated in taking a public stance against Musharraf because he has been a key player in complying with U.S. tactics on the War on Terror and with their search for Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda in the tribal areas of Pakistan. However, to "stick with a sinking ship and abandon our principles for this reason is unacceptable," he stated.

Neukom closed the session with a quote by Benjamin Franklin: "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Asia Pacific Committee
International Human Rights Committee
International Judicial Affairs Committee
ABA Center for Human Rights 
ABA-UNDP International Legal Resource Center

Program Chair:
Don DeAmicis
, Ropes & Gray LLP, Boston, MA

Introduction & Moderator:
William Neukom
, President, American Bar Association, Seattle, WA

Senator Dr. Zaheer-ud-ding Babar Awan, Punjab, Pakistan (invited)
Douglass Cassel, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Former Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and former Governor of the Sindh Province, Pakistan
Justice Nasira Iqbal, Former Judge of the Lahore High Court, Lahore, Pakistan


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