Thousands of black-suited lawyers facing police batons and tear gas to protest the declaration of emergency rule have become Pakistan’s political conscience.
Enraged by President Pervez Musharraf’s assault on independent judges, the legal community has eclipsed discredited opposition parties as the torchbearers for democracy.
The general’s botched attempt to oust Pakistan’s top judge this spring sparked a mass movement against military rule, with lawyers in the vanguard. That put wind in the sails of a defiant Supreme Court, which challenged Musharraf’s dominance and the secret workings of Pakistan’s spy agencies.
Fearing the court would declare his recent presidential election victory illegal, Musharraf finally pulled the plug on its activism on Saturday by suspending the constitution and purging its ranks. Deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, now under house arrest, has urged lawyers to revolt. [complete article]