For Immediate Release: August 18, 2008
New York––The Pakistani leadership should ensure that that Pervez Musharraf’s resignation as president is followed by concrete measures to undo his attacks on the rule of law, Human Rights First said today.
Specifically, Human Rights First called today upon Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Asif Zardari, and Pakistan Muslim League (N) Chairman Nawaz Sharif to act swiftly in reinstating the judges that Musharraf dismissed and to undo repressive measures he imposed.
“Musharraf may be gone from office, but he leaves a legacy of interference with the courts and manipulation of the constitution,” said Matt Easton, Director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at Human Rights First. “Musharraf’s resignation gives the coalition government a chance to start fresh and fulfill their promises to restore the judges to the bench.”
When Musharraf imposed martial law on November 3, 2007, he dismissed dozens of high court and Supreme Court judges and placed many of them under house arrest with their families. He also detained hundreds of lawyers and other activists, suspended fundamental rights protected in the Pakistani constitution, and placed restrictions on the media. He replaced the deposed judges with handpicked loyalists who agreed to swear an oath of office under the provisional orders imposing martial law.
Musharraf justified his actions by claiming that the judiciary was standing in the way of counterterrorism efforts. However, his actions were widely seen as an attempt to prevent an unfavorable ruling on the validity of his recent reelection. In addition, the Court had begun to assert its independence, including by addressing hundreds of forced disappearances.
Democratic elections in February brought a coalition of opposition parties to power. Musharraf’s influence waned, and the main parties in the coalition pledged to restore the judges within 30 days. However, due to disagreements within the coalition, the dismissed judges have yet to be reinstated.
“Pakistan has taken an important step by returning to a democratically elected government, but these gains will evaporate without an independent judiciary,” said Easton. “It is time to repair the damage done by Musharraf’s frontal attack on the constitution.”