The Lawyers’ Movement, also known as the Movement for the Restoration of Judiciary or the Black Coat Protests, was the popular mass protest movement initiated by the lawyers of Pakistan in response to the former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf’s actions of 9 March 2007 when he unconstitutionally suspended Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Following the suspension of the chief justice, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) declared the judge’s removal as an “assault on the independence of judiciary” and were backed by several political parties. INTRODUCTION General Pervez Musharraf dismissed the government of Prime Minister, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, the judiciary was purged of judges who might have opposed the military’s unconstitutional assumption of power. The purge was accomplished by requiring judges to take an oath to General Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order an oath that required judges to violate oaths they all had previously taken to uphold the 1973 Constitution. General Pervez Musharraf promulgated the Oath of Office (Judges) Order 2000 to weed out judges of the superior courts. The reconstituted court lost no time in reversing gears. Its judgment in the case of Zafar Ali Shah validated the takeover of the government by General Musharraf. It is, indeed, an ironic comment on the times in which we live that the then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Irshad Hasan Khan, openly flaunted and distributed the copies of his infamous judgment at international judicial conferences to demonstrate his genius in jurisprudence. Since General Musharraf’s takeover on October 12, 1999, there have been a large number of judicial casualties. On March 9, the chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, was charged with “misconduct” and “misuse of authority” by President Musharraf and a reference was sent to the Supreme Judicial Council for a decision. Justice Javed Iqbal was sworn in as the acting chief justice presumably because Justice Bhagwandas, the seniormost judge after the chief justice, was out of the country. All these actions were justified under Article 209 of the Constitution. However, members of the bar, opposition leaders and many commentators, speaking a few hours after the event, condemned the action on severalgrounds. Moreover, the public has its own perceptions of what promises to become a landmark event, similar to the Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan case which laid the foundations for the erosion of democracy in Pakistan. THE SUO MOTO ACTIONS The Chief Justice is also known to use his suo moto powers to take up matters where he believes injustice 2 has occurred. He has taken up many cases involving violations of human rights as well as other cases of political and public importance, and he has afforded relief to some of the most disadvantaged people in Pakistan. In his Petition to the Supreme Court challenging the Reference to the Supreme Judicial Council, the Chief Justice asserted that during his tenure he incurred the intense displeasure of the Prime Minister, the President and many of their close associates because he investigated ‘more than 6,000 cases of human rights abuse during one year’, ‘began inquiring into the land allotments to influential people in Gawadar’, restrained environmental degradation and ‘prevented parks from being converted into commercial enterprises. Among the most sensitive cases, including one which the Chief Justice heard just a day before his ‘suspension’, were those related to ‘forced disappearances’. At the end of 2005 the Chief Justice, through his suo moto powers, began investigating the disappearance of between 400–600 people. It is indeed heartening to note that the Supreme Court lately has opened its doors to public interest litigation, particularly through judicial activism under its suo moto jurisdiction. The decision in Pakistan Steel Mills case is a silver lining around the dark clouds that have hung over the judiciary during the last seven years. The Supreme Court has also entertained cases of police excesses as well as other matters of the high handedness of government officials. It has given relief to some members of the disadvantaged segments of the society. This is good, but not sufficient. The Supreme Court, all by itself, does not have the time and resources to remedy the distress of the disadvantaged sections of the country. It can only be accomplished if the four Provincial High Courts and the courts subordinate to them join the Supreme Court whole heartedly in this endeavor. This cannot be accomplished, unless the judiciary puts its own house in order which should be the first priority for the Supreme Court. Only a strong, independent and assertive judiciary can be a guarantor for the protection of the rights of the poor and downtrodden. Weak and spineless judiciary can further expose the underprivileged sections of the society to the excesses, highhandedness and oppression at the hands of the governmental machinery. This is the challenge that faces the judiciary in Pakistan at this critical juncture of its history PRESIDENT’S REFERENCE On March 9, 2007, as already noted, Musharraf summoned Chief Justice Chaudhry to his office and effectively dismissed him for alleged “misuse of office.” Justice Chaudhry’s refusal to resign triggered country-wide anti-Musharraf protests for several months. Subsequent to Chaudhry’s restoration, the Supreme Court remained strident on issues such as President’s Reference On March 9, 2007, as already noted, Musharraf summoned Chief Justice Chaudhry to his office and effectively dismissed him for alleged “misuse of office.” Justice Chaudhry’s refusal to resign triggered country-wide anti-Musharraf protests for several months. Subsequent to Chaudhry’s restoration, the Supreme Court remained strident on issues such as enforced disappearances. However, it sought to avoid a direct confrontation with Musharraf, controversially dismissing, on September 28, 2007, a constitutional challenge to Musharraf’s dual role as president and army chief on technical grounds. The Pakistani constitution prohibits the chief of the army from holding political office. The Reference filed by the President against the Chief Justice mainly focused on allegations that the Chief Justice used his influence to assist the advancement of his son’s career, initially in the medical profession and then in the police service. It is also alleged that the Chief Justice had more cars than he was entitled to and that he insisted on being provided protocol which has not previously been sought by or provided to a Chief Justice. This included demanding that police vehicles escort his cars and that senior bureaucrats meet him at airports. It is also alleged that he frequently demanded the use of the aircraft of Governors or Chief Ministers for his travel. The charge against Justice Chaudhry was based primarily on a letter by TV personality and Supreme Court advocate Naeem Bokhari. In his letter of February 16, 2007, Naeem Bokhari accuses the chief justice of announcing decisions in court and 3 then giving an opposite decision in the written judgment, insulting and intimidating lawyers, insisting on ostentatious protocol and using expensive cars and airplanes, and influencing decision-makers to help his son make his career in the bureaucracy without due merit. Bokhari argued that he was not complaining about the first two items but the fact that he mentions them obviously makes the reader cognizant of them. As the letter was published in the press, it must have caused his reputation a lot of harm. The exercise in character assassination launched against the Chief Justice by leaking the contents of the charges against him, both before and after filing the reference with the Supreme Judicial Council, has added fuel to the flames of public outrage. Even if true or plausible, the nature of the charges, which have been made public pale into insignificance before a number of more serious charges that can be levelled against any number of the regime’s most ardent supporters BEGINNING OF THE LAWYERS MOVEMENT The main objective of the lawyers’ movement was establishment of Rule of Law, Supremacy of the Constitution, and Civilian Supremacy over the military. Restoration of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, along with sixty judges dismissed by Pervez Musharraf illegally on 3 November 2007 was secondary objectives. Members of the legal profession formed the vanguard of the popular movement to restore Chief Justice Chaudhry. They also bore the brunt of the attacks of the Musharraf regime when protests were stifled. Many lawyers (and judges) were detained for opposing the government’s actions from 2007 onwards. Many were injured, some severely, in the struggle. Shocking photographs of this appeared around the world in the media. The Karachi violence was particularly appalling, lasting several days. The Tahir Plaza building containing 200 lawyers’ chambers was torched by unidentified attackers and many lawyers were incinerated. A proper investigation has never been held. The Sindh High Court Bar Association publicly blamed the ruling party (MQM). Others met by the delegation in Lahore told how they had been arrested by police, who were waiting at the court premises with tear gas from 7am during ‘Operation Zero Tolerance’, and charged with terrorism under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the circumstances surrounding that event has led many observers to conclude that the country had seized of a judicial crisis. Several hundred lawyers have been out marching on the streets in various towns and boycotting the courts as gestures of protest against the government’s action. Opposition politicians insist that it is at once a judicial and a political crisis. In September 2007, lawyers in some districts of Punjab locked courts, preventing fellow lawyers, court staff and litigants from entering the premises. Such extreme steps damaged the movement’s credibility and support. The movement has also witnessed internecine disputes and turf battles, especially between the SCBA (Supreme Court Bar Association) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) over the movement’s leadership. Nevertheless, the legal community remained an important pressure group. According to a prominent lawyer “I would like the judges to be restored but that’s not my main issue at the moment. My main issue is the restoration of the 1973 constitution and the removal of all accretions made under Musharraf” CRACKDOWN AND MISTREATMENT WITH LAWYERS AND JUDGES At a time when one feared that the value of truth and what is right may not have survived the crush of expediency, sycophancy and habitual sacrifice of all that is holy and worth cherishing for the attainment of narrow self-interests, the `black coats’ have risen to defend the honour and sanctity of the institution they are associated with. The question is how they sustained their movement till they achieve their ends. This was very difficult to do since their own livelihood has been being affected. After all, it was not the affluent, elite echelons of the black coat community that were bearing the brunt but those 4 belonging to the middle and lower classes whose families break no bread if they do not earn on a daily basis. The government has also realised that the momentum of the lawyers’ protest needs to be broken. It is for this reason that future hearings of the reference against the ‘non-functional’ Chief Justice before the Supreme Judicial Council are likely to take place at longer intervals. The issue is bigger than the fate of just one judge. It pertains to the independence and sanctity of the judiciary and is, as such, a political issue. In addition to this, democracy, the Constitution, parliament, good governance and the will of the people have all been reduced to a sad burlesque. The need of the hour is for the mainstream political parties which have gained the most, politically and materially, from the system that now lies in shards and splinters at their feet, to rise to the occasion in support of the black coats. They claim to have the people’s card in their pocket but have miserably failed to flex any muscle in recent years. Events have given them another opportunity to redeem themselves. But with the exception of the MMA, which does not command nationwide support, the leaders of the big parties fled the country several years ago to escape legal action on corruption and criminal charges. The people are not going to follow lightweight second-tier politicians who carry no weight into the streets to face teargas, lathi charge and imprisonment. The common man has lost all interest in politics. He may come out into the streets only on issues directly related to his interests but not on some arcane points of principles which do nothing to fire his imagination anymore. Besides, this government gauged the depths of the so-called leaders and their parties some time ago and feels no threat from them. They know how to deal with them. In any case, who doesn’t avail himself of such perks and benefits when in public office to as great an extent as they can get away with, especially with regard to nepotism and protocol? The prime minister’s motorcade on Shahrah-i-Faisal in Karachi on March 21, which I witnessed first-hand, is a perfect example. The lawyers were protesting a Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for General Musharraf’s re-election as president while he is still in uniform. They tried to march on the Election Commission, which was examining nominations for the Oct. 6, 2007 presidential election. It was the first time since July that the black-suited lawyers, who campaigned for months against General Musharraf’s dismissal of the chief justice in March, have come out in force on the streets here in the capital. As they marched the hundred yards from the Supreme Court down Constitution Avenue to the Election Commission, police officers with helmets, shields and long sticks blocked their way. Lawyers began hurling stones, and the officers retaliated, throwing the stones back and firing tear gas, and then charging and beating protesters. Plainclothes officers hauled lawyers off to police vans, including one of the leaders of the movement, Ali Ahmad Kurd. Aitzaz Ahsan, another leading member of the lawyers’ movement, was bludgeoned by a policeman who hit him with a heavy brick in his stomach. “Twenty lawyers have been injured,” said Mohammed Ikram Chaudhry, former vice president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. “Three journalists were given a fierce beating. A lot of lawyers were taken away. They will use force against anyone who is against them,” he said of the authorities. An advocate from nearby Rawalpindi Rafaqat Bashir, stated that “We wanted to go to the Election Commission and demonstrate in a peaceful manner,” who was carrying a police cane which he said he had snatched from a policeman beating him. “The police hit me, and this is his stick,” he said. He said he had come with 300 other lawyers, traveling in twos and threes into the city since early morning, to protest General Musharraf’s military rule. “He has no right to rule. He is a soldier; he should serve on the borders.”129 On the night of November 3, the police and intelligence personnel arrested leaders of the lawyers’ movements publicly and in the presence of the media, wherever they happened to be. On the following two days, violent crackdowns against lawyers occurred in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, and scores of Pakistan’s smaller cities and towns. Those who gathered at the Lahore High Court, the Sindh High Court in Karachi, and district courts across the country were unceremoniously beaten, tear-gassed, bundled into 5 police vans, and locked in police stations or jails. Some were placed under house arrest. Pakistani authorities have still not provided Human Rights Watch access to jails or police stations where lawyers are still being detained. While many lawyers in Pakistan’s major urban centers have been released, scores remain in detention across the country, particularly in smaller cities. Crucially, the four central leaders of the lawyers’ movement remain under detention and many others have charges on file against them. The government has also arbitrarily amended laws to assume powers to de-license lawyers effectively depriving them of a livelihood if they continue with active protest against the Musharraf government. All lawyers except those on the gravy train of the public exchequer are protesting. The government acknowledges that in the two largest cities of Pakistan alone it has arrested 500 lawyers of which 344 have been arrested in Lahore, although according to the BBC, 3,000 lawyers have been arrested. The police barged into courts premises, lobbed teargas shells and beat peacefully protesting lawyers with lathis (sticks). Never before in the history of the world have so many lawyers been arrested. Not in Hitler’s Germany, Franco’s Spain or Saddam’s Iraq. Another record to be displayed in the camp office next to the one earned for making Pakistan the ‘most dangerous place in the world’. In addition to Chief Justice Chaudhry, five judges of the Supreme Court remain under effective house arrest in Islamabad’s Judges’ Colony, the enclave where Supreme Court judges are officially housed. These are Justice Nasirul Mulk, Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza, and Justice Shakirullah Jan. Two judges detained in Islamabad, Justice Rana Bhagwandas and Justice Ghulam Rabbani was released on December 16, 2007. Another five Supreme Court judges remain under effective house arrest in Lahore. These are Justice Khalilul Rehman Ramday, Justice Jamshed Ali Shah, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, Justice Raja Fayyaz, and Justice Falak Sher. INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT Similarly, the struggle for judicial independence also received support of the human rights organizations from across the globe. Many bar associations and leading lawyers demanded the restoration of the deposed Chief Justice that increased pressure on the military government. At the same time, Justice Chaudhry became the third man in history to have been conferred with the prestigious “Medal of Freedom” at the Harvard Law School, in recognition of his individual efforts to uphold the legal system fundamental commitment to freedom, justice and equality. The past recipients of the award included the legendry antiapartheid leader Nelson Mandela, and the team of litigants that contested Brown versus the Board of Education, that brought an end to racial segregation at educational institutions in the United States of America. The New York City Bar Association granted the Justice Chaudhry, an honorary membership as a symbol of the movement for judicial and lawyer independence in Pakistan. The Chief Justice also received the “Lawyer of the Year” award from the New York-based periodical The National Law Journal for the year 2007. That was the time when struggle for the restoration of the deposed judiciary was in progress. The independence of the judiciary was widely recognized in a number of international instruments, such as Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Universal Declaration) and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which both require an independent and impartial tribunal. Although Pakistan is not a signatory to the ICCPR, the Universal Declaration is widely regarded as representing customary international law upon which the ICCPR elaborates, and Pakistan’s Constitution provides for an independent judiciary as well as for the other rights referred to below. MEDIA’S SUPPORT Since the Pakistani Supreme Court, as an institution, has almost always performed the function of legitimating political authority, the public image of the judiciary has rarely been positive. However, when Chaudhry started expanding public interest litigation, public and media distrust of the judiciary 6 started decreasing. Editorials in major newspapers began to hail the Supreme Court, in general, and Chief Justice Chaudhry, in particular. Chaudhry showed a keen interest in the Court’s media image. The Supreme Court Report in 2006 included a section called “Supreme Court and the Media,” consisting of eighteen press reports on the achievements of the Chaudhry Court (Supreme Court Report 2006). Lawyers critical of Chaudhry called his tactics a “media circus” and argued that Chaudhry was using suo motu action for selfaggrandizement. Since Chaudhry had been a regime loyalist, his sensitivity to public and media image can provide an explanation for the transformation of the Court’s political function. As the Chaudhry Court delivered on public interest cases, the media embraced it as the people’s court and encouraged it to address pressing constitutional and political issues as well. The legal community-media partnership, in fact, worked out to be a great combination that created new heroes and pitched the two communities as ultimate beneficiaries of the political struggle. This is not to suggest that the struggle did not bring any change in the country. However, it did not necessarily denote a transformation of the mindset and hange the overall system of governance as there was hardly any introspection by the legal community of its attitudes. IMPACTS OF THE LAWYERS MOVEMENT Pakistan’s economy suffered gravely, government focus shifted from work and economy to non-violent solution for the lawyers. PML-N was already fully involved from the onset, however, other political parties also jumped on the band wagon causing more disruption in daily life. The poorest and daily labourers suffered the most because of strike calls and road blockages. The real story on the road was that poorest don’t wake up every morning to see Iftikhar Choudhry wearing a black suite, sunglasses, sitting in a new car parading on the streets of Pakistan, the poorest wake up and hope for a better day, a day in which they can increase their earnings and support their family, bring food to the table, they don’t want to see the roads blocked and strikes called which stop them from earning their daily livelihoods.The long march conducted during June 2008, gathered a huge momentum when it raveled all the way from Karachi to Islamabad via Multan and Lahore. The marchers gathered in Islamabad, in front of the Parliament House, conducted a day-long public meeting, emphasizing upon their demands and dispersed peacefully and went back to their respective cities. Since then a continuous struggle is going on without any obvious signs of the restoration of the judges.As the riots and protests were held in the summer months, the intense head resulted in numerous deaths and hospital admissions because of heat exhaustion, nearly all of which were small time lawyers and their family members travelling either on foot or in nonairconditioned cars. However, the behind the scene aim of ousting Parvez Musharraf was achieved at the end. CONCLUSION Throughout the history of Pakistan judiciary remained under politicians and military dictators. As an independent institution and having the most important pillar of the state it did not play an outstanding role. But in 2007 a proper struggle started in the shape of lawyers’ movement for independence of judiciary. In short term objectives, they succeeded in the restoration of Chief Justice and other deposed judges and in the long term, in overthrowing a military rule. In addition, the lawyers also got support of the media, politicians of the opposition and international community. After the democratic set up in Pakistan the lawyers’ movement continued for the rule of law. This was one of the concrete and successful movements on national level against the military rule. Despite difficulties the movement succeeded in democratic set up and paved the way for judicial activism in Pakistan.