|Date||9 March 2007 -- 17 March 2009|
Nationwide, throughout Pakistan
|Caused by||Suspension of chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry|
|Goals||Restoration of judiciary and reinstatement of removed judges.|
|Methods||Protest demonstration, rallying motorcades|
|Resulted in||Eventual restoration of judiciary|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The Lawyers' Movement, also known as the Movement for the Restoration of Judiciary or the Black Coat Protests, was the popular mass protest movement initiated by the lawyers of Pakistan in response to the former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf's actions of 9 March 2007 when he unconstitutionally suspended Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court. Following the suspension of the chief justice, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) declared the judge's removal as an "assault on the independence of judiciary" and were backed by several political parties.
In the first few months of 2007, several conflicts had already raged between chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the Pakistani government. Chaudhry had worked hard to clear a backlog of cases at the Supreme Court and had "[taken] on politically controversial issues", particularly with regard to the Pakistan Steel Mills corruption case where the chief justice ruled against the sale of the state-owned steel mills at a "throw-away price". Issues pertaining to the privatisation of the state-owned steel mills upset Shaukat Aziz, who served as the prime minister under the Musharraf administration.
What irked president Pervez Musharraf however was the controversial Missing Persons case that found Pakistan's intelligence agencies (including the FIA and the ISI) to be complicit in the forced disappearances of up to 400 people (including terror suspects and human rights activists) without due process since 2001. Under Chaudhry's leadership, the courts had increasingly started "exercising independence from the government" when it ordered the security agencies to produce the missing people in court.
When the Musharraf administration asked the judge to quit, Chaudhry refused to go. On 9 March 2007, Musharraf had no other choice but to suspend Chaudhry from his post for alleged and unspecified charges of misconduct and misuse of authority. The sacking of the head of the judiciary sparked bloody protests throughout Pakistan and "edged the country towards a constitutional crisis". The civil unrest grew with regards to the validity of the allegations as well as doubts as to whether Musharraf had the power to suspend the chief justice. It was on these grounds that Chaudhry waged a legal battle in the Supreme Court seeking his reinstatement. He called his suspension a "thinly veiled assault on the independence of judiciary in Pakistan".
Chaudhry's suspension was met with protests from Pakistan's legal community. Senior judges and lawyers initiated the Adliya Bachao Tehreek (Urdu: ? ; Save the Judiciary Movement) with the aim of getting Chaudhry reinstated and maintain the independence of the judiciary. The movement was led by SCBA presidents Munir A. Malik, Aitzaz Ahsan, and Ali Ahmad Kurd along with others leading lawyers. The Adliya Bachao Tehreek is seen as a precursor to the eventual Lawyer's Movement.
Renowned politician and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan was pivotal in bringing together an "influential group of constitutional lawyers who had long opposed the various periods of military rule in Pakistan's short history". He orchestrated a "campaign of motorcades" to take the chief justice to various bar associations around the country. Wherever the cavalcade passed, the chief justice was welcomed by people tossing rose petals at his car and chanting "Go Musharraf Go!"
On 5 May 2007, a rally was organised in support of the chief justice in Sahiwal. The deposed chief justice was to make an appearance at a bar association in Sahiwal on his way to Multan. Upon his arrival, the police (allegedly acting under orders from the Musharraf regime) baton-charged and attacked the otherwise peaceful "torch-bearing" demonstrators. There were reports that the police threw petrol bombs at the rally burning at least 13 lawyers; five suffered from major burns. Around 50 lawyers were injured in the mayhem. The New York Times later interviewed Ishtiaq Ahmed, a lawyer who shared an eyewitness account of the incident, saying that Sahiwal was where the lawyers "suffered more than any place".
On 9 May 2007, the general house of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) demanded the Punjab and Sindh governments to step down immediately for patronising state terrorism. The bar also called for the removal of Sahiwal DPO Javed Shah. The LHC later upheld the sentences against other police officers involved in the attacks on 24 July 2013.
As the movement started gaining support from political parties in the opposition, the various pro-government parties, in particular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q), allied themselves with Musharraf and began organising protest demonstrations of their own against the "politicisation of the issue of [the justice's suspension]". On 12 May 2007, two such rival demonstrations in Karachi came to a violent end when ensuing clashes left more than 40 people killed with several hundred injured and arrested.
On the chief justice's arrival in Karachi to address the Sindh High Court Bar Association at its 50th anniversary, gunfights and clashes erupted across the provincial capital as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) activists who supported the judge and the pro-government MQM activists took to the streets against each other. During the riots that ensued, media offices of the Business Recorder Group and Aaj TV were also attacked. There were also reports that the activists of the pro-government MQM had torched a lawyers' office resulting in the deaths of about seven lawyers burnt alive in the fire. Following the attacks on media offices, the news media strengthened in their resolve to support the chief justice's reinstatement.
Political opponents in the parliament blamed one another for the May 12 mayhem. Several opposition politicians placed the responsibility of the attacks on pro-government parties like the MQM, while MQM held the opposition parties responsible for the situation in Karachi. An editorial in the Daily Times said, "the possibility of any compromise to correct [Musharraf's] original mistake [of removing the chief justice] has vanished now ... the ante has been upped by the government."
Four months into the movement, Musharraf caved under the "pressure of incessant nonviolent civil resistance" and reinstated Chaudhry as the chief justice on 20 July 2007. The Supreme Court cleared Chaudhry of all charges when restoring him to his earlier position. Nevertheless, the lawyers still continued their movement against Musharraf, declaring his actions and rule "illegal".
The legal community put pressure on Chaudhry to take up several controversial cases against the Musharraf regime - one such case challenged the army chief's eligibility as a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections on 6 October 2007.
On 3 November 2007, the reelected president Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan and imposed a provisional constitutional order (PCO). Under the PCO, Musharraf dismissed the chief justice again and removed about sixty other judges. Several opposition politicians and lawyers called the removal of these judges as "illegal and unconstitutional".
In shuffling the functions of the judiciary, several judges to asked to take oath under the 2007 PCO arrangements. The lawyers, in turn, refused to take oath under the PCO and reacted to the dismissals and the emergency rule by boycotting the courts and taking part in protests and hunger strikes. People from outside the legal community also took part in these protests further motivated by political agendas. The international pressure following the nationwide protest forced Musharraf to end emergency rule in December 2007. In ending the emergency rule, Musharraf still did not reinstate Chaudhry and the other judges who had refused to take oath under the PCO arrangements. These judges had persistently protested and did so until Musharraf resigned in August 2008.
On 4 November 2007, prominent leaders of the movement were kept under house arrest including former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Aitzaz Ahsan and Munir A. Malik. Such were the restrictions imposed on the judges under arrest that Malik later developed serious health problems due to his confinement when his kidneys shut down and his liver malfunctioned.
Amongst the various lawyers, opposition politicians and human rights activists put under house arrest was the UN special rapporteur Asma Jahangir. She was placed under house arrest on 5 November 2007. An email from Jahangir's house arrest was published in The Independent, in which she regretted that Musharraf had "lost his marbles".
On 5 November 2007, police raided the Lahore High Court Bar Association. They baton-charged and threw tear gas into the premises and arrested over 800 lawyers. The Lahore High Court condemned the attack saying that never had it occurred in the history of Pakistan that armoured police vehicles entered a court's premises to attack protesting lawyers who had sought refuge within the court building. The protesting lawyers had earlier showered rose petals in front of the locked courtrooms of the judges who refused to take the oath under the PCO.
At the Sindh High Court (SHC) in Karachi, several protesting lawyers were arrested at the court premises. When removed judges tried to enter the court premises, they were stopped by police outside the gates. Over 45 protesting lawyers were picked up from the SHC premises including former FSC judge Shafi Mohammadi, relieved SHC chief justice Sabihuddin Ahmed's son Salahuddin Ahmed, justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali's son Najeeb Jamali, and senior lawyer Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim's son Zahid Ebrahim.
The 2008 general elections were held on 18 February 2008, after being postponed from 8 January 2008. The PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) won the largest and second largest number of seats respectively in the national assembly. After the general elections, PPP and PML-N agreed to form a coalition government and Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, the chiefs of both PPP and PML-N respectively, joined together to organise a movement to impeach Pervez Musharraf.
The two leaders met at Pearl Continental Bhurban in Murree on 8 March 2008 where they signed a mutual political agreement called the Bhurban Accord. According to this political agreement, the two leaders agreed to restore the judiciary by 30 April 2008 and reinstate the 60 judges previously sacked by Musharraf. However, when the PPP came into government, Zardari took a less stringent stance than Sharif on the issue of the reinstatement of judges.
The deposition of judges on November 3 had played in Zardari's favour. Just before the emergency rule was imposed, the Supreme Court had begun deliberations on the legality of Musharraf's US-backed proposal -- the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) -- which had sought to drop corruption charges against Benazir Bhutto and Zardari in return for a joint Bhutto-Musharraf coalition to govern Pakistan. Where Bhutto and Zardari sympathised with Musharraf on his feud with the Supreme Court, they simultaneously criticised the imposition of martial law or a military dictatorship. As soon as the Supreme Court could issue a decision, Musharraf had replaced its members with his supporters.
After the 2008 elections, a Bhutto-Musharraf coalition seemed highly unlikely and Zardari felt political pressure from his peers to reinstate the judges. Zardari had feared that by reinstating the judges to their earlier posts, he would welcome cases against him in light of the Supreme Court's earlier deliberations on the legality of the NRO. Even after Musharraf resigned office in August 2008 and Zardari sworn in as the new president, he was reluctant to reinstate the judges immediately. This eventually led the lawyers to openly criticise the PPP-led government along with its PML-N allies and considered "them [both] a part of the same regime", since both had faltered over their agreement in the Bhurban Accord. These developments gave further traction to the original Adliya Bachao Movement. The stalwarts of the original movement reshaped their movement around the changing circumstances and called this rekindling of the movement as the "Lawyers' Movement".
With Zardari's reluctance to reinstate Chaudhry and his later decision in February 2009 to declare president's rule in Punjab, the Lawyers' Movement broke into two separate camps - the first camp led by Hamid Khan held a pro-judiciary stance, while the other camp held a rather pro-government stance. Although there were some that didn't side with any particular camp at a given time.
Much like its predecessor movement Adliya Bachao Tehreek, both the camps in the Lawyers' Movement lobbied for the reinstatement of the sacked judges but differed on political grounds and the policies of their affiliated parties. The movement gained momentum as protests raged throughout Pakistan, particularly in Punjab under the encouragement of deposed representatives of the province. Former prime minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif called for the reinstatement of Chaudhry helping this renewed struggle gain some leverage.
On 21 January 2009 the Lahore High Court Bar Association carried out a 10 Million signature movement. As the name suggests, the purpose of the movement was to get 10 million signatures on a large white cloth which was to be presented to the parliament at the end of long march. Political party workers, concerned citizen and lawyers participated and signed the petition.
On 16 March 2009 the Lawyers' Community had given a call for nationwide 'Long March'. Many political parties like the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Group), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami and others supported and participated in the Long March. The march was from Karachi to Islamabad to demand the reinstatement of a Supreme Court Chief Justice and other judges ousted from office by former President Pervez Musharraf. Supporters of the 'restoration of judges' participated in the Long March despite a ban imposed on protests and rallies under Section 144 by the government.
These activists were responsible for organising the 2007 Adliya Bachao Tehreek which paved the way for the later Lawyers' Movement.
Certain decisions made by the PPP-led government showed resentment on various decisions of the Supreme Court. It was this contest between the government and the judiciary that made various members of the Lawyers' Movement side with a more pro-judiciary stance. The members who remained resolute against the PPP-led government for the restoration of judiciary in accordance with the Bhurban Accord were mostly led by Hamid Khan.
The following individuals were from the Civil Society were recognized at the final flag raising ceremony for their contribution to the movement:
These group of Lawyers' Movement activists sided with the PPP government after Zardari didn't reinstate the judges after he was sworn as the president of Pakistan.
The print and electronic media were very active in the Lawyers' Movement. Geo News even had to face a ban.
Days before the call for 16 March 2009 Long March, Geo News carried out a series of public service message campaign which was sponsored by Mir Khalil ur Rehman Foundation (MKRF) for restoration of the judges. One of the campaign's message was an 8 minutes 12 Seconds video which showed all the promises and statements, especially by Pakistan Peoples Party leaders, about the restoration of the judges but were not fulfilled. The campaign proved very successful in educating people and reminding the government of their commitments. The government even blocked Geo News in many parts of the country as the government believed the campaign was biased.
Critics say that Print and electronic media, at times, crossed their limits of authority and helped creating a negative sentiment about the government among masses regarding the Chief Justice issue. However, the Lawyers movement succeeded in getting the interest of commons.Television channels covered the rallies of Judges for hours continuously.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN), Pakhtun-khwa Milli Awami Party,Awami National Party and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) supported the Lawyers' Movement on different occasions.