Pakistan’s glorious lawyer movement, which played a part in putting pressure on then President Pervez Musharraf to resign, has now more or less come to an end.
The only problem is that the lawyers are still not willing to give up. Later this month, the former chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, will make yet another visit to Karachi to address the local bar association. In the past, however, scuffles broke out between groups of lawyers over what form of protest to adopt. The one point agenda of the lawyers movement has been the restoration of the Chief Justice and the deposed judges.
This was the issue that was agreed upon as part of the Murree Declaration by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party headed by President Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan Muslim League N headed by Nawaz Sharif.
This was also the issue that led to the break up of the coalition alliance between the PML-N and the PPP when Zardari did not honour the commitment made to restore the chief justice on the grounds that the situation had changed since the time the agreement had been signed. While Zardari got a lot of flack for going back on his word, he ended up stealing the thunder of the lawyer movement by getting some of the deposed judges to resume their old positions after taking a new oath.
The point of contention at present between Nawaz Sharif and the government headed by Zardari is the restoration of the former chief justice. It is here that some believe that Zardari feels that Chaudhry has become too politicised and that he may end up passing controversial decisions. Others say that the deal under which Musharraf gave up his post was that Chaudhry would not be restored.
Either way, the man who has suffered the most in this is the father of the lawyer movement, Chaudhry Aitezaz Ahsan, who is also a member of the PPP.
Ahsan has been embarassed by the fact that his own party, which was once committed to the restoration of the judiciary sacked by General Musharraf, is now not willing to go ahead and do just that. In retrospect, however, the lawyer movement has achieved what many other movements in Pakistan, particularly those inspired by right wing parties, could not. That is to bring thousands of people out on the streets and make them protest for a cause they believed in. This was unsual for Pakistan.