Pakistan Chief Justice Visits Law School
November 20, 2008 — Pakistan’s suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a hero to lawyers around the world, met with students, faculty and guests at a reception at the Earle Mack School of Law on Nov. 20.
Chief Justice Chaudhry became a key figure in the crisis that erupted in Pakistan last year, when then-President Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution and placed him and other Supreme Court justices under house arrest.
The crisis erupted as Pakistan’s Supreme Court began reviewing Musharraf’s eligibility to hold office while remaining leader of the Pakistan Army. Musharraf had seized power in a 1999 coup and sought to extend his presidency through elections in 2007.
The jurists’ arrests sparked a movement of lawyers and citizens that challenged the president’s authority and called for restoring an independent judiciary and the rule of law. Lawyers in Pakistan are continuing to seek Chief Justice Chaudhry’s reinstatement.
Dean Roger Dennis welcomed Chief Justice Chaudhry and a delegation of attorneys who traveled with him from Pakistan to the United States.
“To have a Chief Justice who is so committed to the rule of law thrills lawyers, not just in Pakistan, but around the world,” Dennis said.
Calling Chaudhry “a true hero who stood up for the rule of law,” Associate Professor Anil Kalhan said there has been no precedent for the lawyers’ movement that arose in Pakistan.
Professor Kalhan received a special award from the South Asian Journalists Association in June for his coverage of the crisis that appeared in Asia Media News Daily and in "Dorf on Law," a legal blog.
As a member of the New York City Bar Association, Kalhan helped arrange for Justice Chaudhry to receive an honorary membership in the organization in October 2007.
M. Ashraf Adeel, an affiliated faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania South Asia Center, said the suspension of Pakistan’s constitution had horrified the entire country.
“It was a huge shock. It was an affront to the collective conscience of the nation,” Adeel said.
Chief Justice Chaudhry voiced gratitude for the welcome at Earle Mack School of Law, and Athar Minallah, a Supreme Court lawyer from Pakistan said he was encouraged by the support of Americans.
“We know that the people of the United States are with us,” Minallah said. “What we are struggling for is a democratic Pakistan.”
The chief justice’s visit to Philadelphia was co-sponsored by the Earle Mack School of Law, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the South Asia Center, Penn Law National Lawyers Guild, Penn Law Dean's Speakers Fund and the Pakistan Justice Coalition.
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