Now is the time to spend a brief moment forgetting about the problems of your luxury SUV, and put aside the problems with your new 60 inch LCD HD TV.
There are more serious problems to consider today.
All of us who are proud of the fact that we are lawyers can stand a little taller today. Our brethren attorneys in Pakistan are literally the last line of defense of liberty in a country teetering towards totalitarianism as the General who is President has suspended the Constitution, confined the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to his home, and declared Martial Law. In response it was the lawyers who fought back.
As the NY Times reported on
TUESDAY Lawyers in Pakistan faced down the military:
The Musharraf government’s resolve to silence its fiercest opponents was evident in the strength of the crackdown by baton-wielding police officers who pummeled lawyers and then hauled them by the legs and arms into police wagons in Lahore.
At one point, lawyers and police officers clashed in a pitched battle, with lawyers standing on the roof of the High Court throwing stones at the police below, and the police hurling them back. Some of the lawyers were bleeding from the head, and some passed out in clouds of tear gas.
Armed only with stones and the knowledge of liberty and democracy, lawyers trained to respect the Constitution and the Rule of Law did not go quietly into the night in the face of an oppressive military government. Our colleagues stood firm, the last line of defense of liberty against a government bent on suspending individual rights and the rule of law.
The Pakistani lawyers are led by by Aitzaz Ahsan, a US- Cambridge-trained lawyer. The Lawyers of Pakistan have been confronting the government since the spring of this year when General Musharraf “fired” the entire Supreme Court and placed dozens of Judges under “house arrest.” With the Judiciary under arrest and politicians being intimidated and beaten, the lawyers are the only ones left in Pakistan standing up to the Musharraf regime.
In an age and a time when lawyers get a bad rap as fee seeking obstructionists who have set up a legal system that only they profit from ( and some of this criticism of the legal system in the US rings true to our ears) we can be proud of the fact that at our center (when you slice us in half) remain our core values of respect for the law.
When the Musharrafs and Dick Cheneys of the world gain power and seek to suspend the liberties that make us Americans, it will be the lawyers who will stand united at the courthouse doors and say "No"; it will be the lawyers marching in the streets tell our citizens that what the government is doing is illegal (see: Guantanamo Bay). When the day comes (hopefully never) when some super flu runs rampant through the world- we will turn to our doctors to heal our bodies- and we will depend on lawyers to protect our rights in the face of Presidents and Potentates that are all too quick to declare national emergencies at the expense of Democracy.
The soul of this country is our Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t give rights; what is given can be taken away. The Constitution enumerates and protects those rights that the Framers called God given.
Lawyers who stand against guns to protect liberty are performing holy acts. Some will be beaten, and some may die. Such is the price free people pay for Democracy.
When the twin towers in New York fell, a newspaper in Paris led with the headline “Today we are all Americans.” We’d like to think that for one day we in our legal community can say “Today we are all Pakistanis.”
What the Lawyers in Pakistan are doing should not be ignored.
It is holy.
And it will not be forgotten, for in this Country, these words are holy:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
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