Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pakistani Justice Seeks "Rule of Law"

NEW YORK, Nov 19: Deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has made a stirring appeal to “America’s judicial, legal and academic fraternities” to help Pakistan’s judiciary discard the “rule of man” and establish the rule of law.

“What we have is rule of man. What we need is rule of law. What we cannot live without is a judiciary that is immune to political interference,” said Justice Iftikhar at Harvard Law School in Cambridge (Massachusetts) on Wednesday.

He said: “You must help Pakistan transform itself. Rule of law is Pakistan’s national consensus. And we must all side with Pakistan’s national consensus.”

Justice Iftikhar made the speech after he was awarded the prestigious medal of freedom, an honour bestowed on two other recipients, South African leader Nelson Mandela and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the US Supreme Court.

He told a large gathering of students and faculty members: “I stand here for all those Pakistanis who have risen against despotism, dictatorship, brutality, tyranny and injustice. I also stand here for all those Pakistanis who stand for the principle that no one is above the law and all those Pakistanis who agree with Thomas Paine that ‘in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other’.”

He said that Pakistani autocrats, whether uniformed or otherwise, were trying to turn the wheels of history in the wrong direction. “Our autocrats, whether uniformed or otherwise, while decreeing a democratic order are, at the same time, postponing the establishment of an independent judiciary to an ever more distant future.

Such democracy is bound to fail; you can’t have a constitutional democracy without security of tenure for the judges,” he added.

In Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar said, both civilian as well as uniformed autocrats had been influencing judicial decision-making for the past six decades.

He pointed out that judicial reforms were a high stake venture and said every reform undertaking had potential losers and potential gainers. “Potential losers, if our judiciary is to become truly independent, include civilian as well as uniformed politicians and our intelligence agencies.

Potential gainers: the general population at large and the economy. There are two problems: First, potential losers are also our principal decision-makers so they resist reforms. Second, potential losers are organised, potential gainers are not.”

Justice Iftikhar said that economies of countries which had “rule of law” prospered as against dictatorships and autocracies.

“Remember, almost all of Fortune 500 companies are a product of economies where the law rules supreme. At the same time, the poorest of the poor continue to dwell in countries where men govern as opposed to law. A government of laws stimulates economic growth. A government of men impedes economic growth,” he said.

Source: Daily Dawn

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