PAKISTAN: Justice Iftikhar 'lawyer of the year'
'The National Law Journal' recognizes the former chief justice, currently under house arrest, for his firm stance on judicial independence
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Washington --- Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the chief justice who was dismissed from office by President Pervez Musharraf after the imposition of emergency rule, was declared the lawyer of the year 2007 by a prestigious US magazine.
The National Law Journal, which has the highest paid circulation of any weekly periodical serving the US legal community, noted that Mr Chaudhry has been a strong voice for the preservation of the rule of law in Pakistan.
This is the second major US award bestowed on Mr Chaudhry since his dismissal. The Harvard Law School Association recently awarded Mr Chaudhry its highest medal, the Medal of Freedom.
"As this year's lawyer of the year, our choice of Mr Chaudhry was prompted by the rare instance of a judge taking such a bold and influential stand against a government in defence of judicial independence," the journal declared.
A report accompanying the announcement noted that Mr Chaudhry remains under house arrest since the imposition of the emergency on Nov 3. "Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry is not exactly a household name to the legal profession in the United States. We think he should be," the journal observed.
The journal said it selected Mr Chaudhry because his example has prompted much commentary and concern among lawyers in the United States, who by virtue of their profession have a vested interest in promoting the rule of law.
"Mr Chaudhry's example reminds us that no government or person -- whether ally or enemy -- is above the law."
Describing him as a "reluctant revolutionary," the journal noted that as a lawyer, "he showed few signs of breaking with traditions or an independent streak."
The report added that Mr Chaudhry participated in Supreme Court sessions between 2000 and 2005 that validated Gen. Musharraf's military takeover, the legal framework for his rule, and a constitutional amendment that gave Gen. Musharraf added powers and allowed him to keep his hold over the army. But after becoming chief justice, Chaudhry began to show a desire to assert the high court's independence and began pushing the government to disclose the whereabouts of Pakistanis who were secretly detained by intelligence agencies for alleged terrorism or other political purposes. Among many others in the United States who have rallied in support, the American Bar Association spoke out against Chaudhry's suspension earlier this year, saying that it appears to have been inconsistent with the language of Article 180 and Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Date Posted: 12/13/2007