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Update @ 0320: People’s Resistence issues a Statement to Support Judiciary

A group of concerned citizens from the People’s Resistance (umbrella group formed to resist the ’emergency’) have been meeting the non-PCO judges over the last few days to extend solidarity and appreciate their stand.

Below please see a summary of the key points that emerged from these meetings

Civil society coalition, People’s Resistance, is appalled at the attempt by General Musharraf to destroy the independence of judiciary of Pakistan.

Civil society condemns the following steps undertaken by General Musharraf to undermine the judiciary and to demoralise the honourable judges who have refused to take oath under the PCO:

  1. The newly appointed Chief Justice of Sindh High Court had submitted his resignation before Nov 2, 2007. His health has rendered him unable to function mentally, as his cognitive abilities were compromised after his illness two years ago. By appointing him as the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court, the judiciary of Pakistan in general and of Sindh in particular have been compromised.
  2. Rangers and Police violated the sanctity of Sindh High Court by raiding it. The raiding party included uniformed and plainclothes policemen. According to eye witnesses some members of an ethnic group, in civilian clothes, were also among the police.
  3. The honourable judges who abided by the Supreme Court directive to not take oath under the PCO 2007, were humiliated:
    • They were summarily ordered to vacate their offices and given no time to do this.
    • Some judges had to empty their shelves and drawers onto bedsheets to carry them home. Their personal items were thrown away.
    • The security guards to which judges of High Court are entitled even after their retirement, have been withdrawn from their homes
    • Judges in Punjab are under house arrest. Civil society groups are being prevented from meeting them
    • Telephone of some judges has been disconnected.
    • High Court judges are being prevented from visiting the courts.
  4. The honourable judges who said ‘no’ to PCO are being threatened:
    • Right to pension will be withdrawn
    • They will not be allowed to practice law.
    • Sons of some of the judges were arrested without any charges
    • Senior military officers phone and pressurise them to take oath under the PCO
  5. Three judges from Sindh who have taken oath under the PCO are known to visit the Governor’s house every day. This violates the resolution passed in 2006 by all Sindh High Court Judges that no judge would visit the governor or the chief minister in their offices.
  6. The amendment of the Army Act, giving the armed forces the power to arrest citizens and try them in military court, further undermines the judiciary. In the current set up, it would now be a farce to challenge this appropriation of power.

Despite the appropriation of all power by General Musharraf, through the declarations made by him on Nov 3, 2007, civil society stands firm on the following points:

  1. The PCO is illegal, according to the Supreme Court judgement of Nov 3rd 2007
  2. Judges who have taken oath under the PCO have violated the Constitution of Pakistan, and the Supreme Court judgement of Nov 3rd.
  3. Suspension of the Constitution of Pakistan is illegal
  4. Arrest of hundreds of lawyers and the decision to charge them under the Terrorist Act is a despicable act. It reflects complete disregard of people’s right to protect the independence of judiciary and to be treated with respect.
  5. The blockage of independent TV news channels is immoral and illegal as it is a denial of freedom of expression.
  6. A joint movement of lawyers, media and civil society will continue against the martial law and its accompanying attempt to subvert the independence of the judiciary and the media.

Civil society makes the following demands:

  1. Immediate restoration of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts that have not taken oath under the PCO.
  2. The judges who have taken oath under the PCO must resign immediately.
  3. The judges who have started visiting the Governor must desist this practice immediately, as it subverts the judiciary to the executive and thereby insults the judiciary which is the most central pillar of a State.
  4. Changes in PEMRA ordinance must be withdrawn and restrictions on the media must be removed without any conditions.
  5. All lawyers that have been arrested must be released immediately, and all cases withdrawn.

PEOPLE’S RESISTANCE, a civil society alliance of Karachi, calls upon all professional groups, NGOs, trade unions, student unions , and individuals to join the platform of resistance in its peaceful campaigns for the restoration of independence of judiciary, clearning of the judicary of the unprinciples judges that have taken oath under the PCO, restoration of the independence of the media, and the security of all the people of Pakistan by the restoration of the Constitution of Pakistan.

We the citizens of Pakistan salute the judges who have not taken oath under the PCO, and have thereby asserted the inalienable right of the judiciary to remain independent.

We the citizens of Pakistan salute the media in its determination to protect the independent role of their profession.

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