Newspaper Articles

Looking back at the Lawyers’ Movement -by Ayesha Siddiqa

The protests, rallies and demonstrations by the legal community from 2007 to 2009 took everyone in and outside Pakistan by surprise. People were impressed with the perseverance of the lawyer’s from around the country in the face of a military dictator and in forcing a political government to ensure that the chief justice of the Supreme Court Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was restored. However, it is worth asking whether the movement brought some fundamental change in the state and society and the relationship between the two?

The above question cannot be answered without retrospectively, though briefly, looking at this event in history that got labeled as a movement. There are scholars who did not consider this as a movement even then. It did not qualify as a movement, perhaps, in comparison to what Pakistan witnessed during the late 1960s when the under-privileged people from all walks of life came together to protest Ayub Khan’s military dictatorship. The movement of the 1960s included the farm labor, factory worker, students, and people like the small-time chaiwala who were willing to sacrifice their meager earnings for long-term political benefits.

On the other hand, the political action spearheaded by the legal community, in which others such as the media, civil society and ex-servicemen and some other groups took part, had an urban and middle class character. A lot of them such as some members of the ex-servicemen association had immense dislike for Musharraf (but not necessarily the military). This was then an event where personal interests and biases got compounded with a cause.

The real dispossessed Pakistani did not come out on the streets for two reasons. First, the lawyer’s protest did not until the very end establish any link between security of the judiciary and empowerment of the legal community, and socioeconomic uplift in the country. The economic explanation for a free and fair judiciary was a point raised in Aitzaz Ahsan’s speech at the end of the long march but it had the impact of being too little too late. Second, the legal community failed to convince the general public of their earnestness to improve the fate of the common man who sees that lawyers and the judicial system as much a part of overall elite exploitation. A visit to the katchaihrey in any big or small town bears witness to the might of a system that exploits people. The black coats were not able to distance themselves from the image of the exploiter that they become in their own sphere.

The remainder of the post can be read here:

Source: The Friday Times

About the author

Dr Uzma Ali


Click here to post a comment
  • I read the piece written by Ayesha with great interest as an attorney. It has been covincing to some extent. It contains certain in accuracies. First of all the legal and judicial crisis was created by the dictator. Nobody had any love for that person. It was not only an attack on the judicary and judges but indirectly on the people of Pakistan. Therefore it is wrong to argue that it was not a mass movement like 68;s movement against Ayub Khan the original sinner as a dictator. We should not compare the two movements,. Which certainly have a different hue of the same color. This movement was started by the lawyers who can not be charaterised as elite for the restoration of Judiciary as a whole.The judges of the S>C. were detained under his orders. They were sent packing home. In order to sdispense fair and free justice we need independebt Judiciary. If there is no judicianry then the question is who suffers the consequences of such void. Ultimately it is the people who suffer. The Civil Society is part of the greater society of people.
    Secondly all the sections of the nation participated in this movement. Therefore it transformed into mass movement. All the lawyers were protesting against the dictator with one voice. The people all over Pakistan not only supported them but also joined them in the movement. They understood what was happening.

    Therefore it was clearly a mass movement. Majority of the lawyers belong to middle class abd not the representatives of the elite.
    Any way the movement succeded with the coming together of all the classes of the people of Pakistan. The nmedia played an importantand visible role in this movemnt. The end result was the dictator had to leave the reins of government nd also the country. Now many years have passed and he is living in exile. He wants to return, but has not found the couage to do so. Good riddance. Pakistan Paindabad.

    Javaid Bashir
    Attorney at law. Nashua, NH, USA