When President Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan last year he invoked Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 suspension of habeas corpus, claimed his decision was based around the actions of terrorists and fundamental extremists, and instituted a Provisional Constitutional Order effectively suspending the Constitution of Pakistan.
The suspension of Pakistan’s Constitution resulted in the loss of personal protection similar to those provided by the US Bill of Rights: free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
Essentially, President Musharraf took the first step toward stripping the citizens of Pakistan of their basic human rights, including legal egalitarianism. Without legal equality, what follows? Many people point to Bill the Butcher’s insurgent comment in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part II as sensible evidence of how to deal with the legal community, and by proxy, the laws they defend. Bill says, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
Bill is an anarchist who realizes that in order to subjugate society one must first abolish the practitioners of law. Rid ourselves of the filthy custodians and we may also rid ourselves of the freedoms of a self-governing people.
Look at the story of a practicing lawyer in Karachi, Pakistan, who for the sake of his safety will be referred to here as Kadir. Kadir once earned twenty dollars a day, sharing a one-room office with another lawyer, practicing in District Courts 40 kilometers away from his pregnant wife and six children. After President Musharaf declared a state of emergency, Kadir joined the protesters. The price for flour doubled and became scarce, and petrol hit $4 a gallon, just as Kadir’s salary dropped to less than ten dollars a day.
Then Kadir’s wife gave birth to a blind baby whose sight could be restored for $715, but Kadir was skipping meals, struggling to support his family. How could he find the money for an operation 100% guaranteed to repair his child’s sight? Luckily, Kadir and his wife found an NGO hospital to care for their son.
Still, things look bleak in Pakistan. Food and petrol prices continue to soar. School tuitions and public transportation fares are increasing. What does Kadir say, when most people are helpless and hopeless? With the dignity of a man who finds honor in his work, he says, “Take my word, things will be better.”
Through the situation in Pakistan we can see the importance of lawyers in the role of peacekeeping.
Kadir’s story is but one among thousands of Pakistani lawyers who strive to exist in a world filled with chaos and crisis, one among thousands who wade through uncertainty daily in order to protect the rights of their fellow humans.
Bill the Butcher. In order to create civil unrest, let’s get rid of the lawyers. Certainly, civil unrest may be beneficial in times of despotism, in times when the peoples’ cries can’t be heard, but what happens when the defenders of the peoples’ rights are silenced? Let us take something from John Milton, the poet who understood heavenly unrest. Milton writes, “Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe.”
If those who study and understand resolution are defeated and diminished, then we are halfway to destroying our ability to reach those resolutions. The conversation of whether life follows art or art follows life becomes mute in the face of reality.
Through the situation in Pakistan we can see the importance of lawyers in the role of peacekeeping. There can be no doubt of the personal and societal danger inherent with the loss of human rights.
Slavery. Killing Fields. Concentration Camps. Gulags.
Let’s remember Shakespeare one more time before we move on: “What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!” Like Kadir, The Bard possesses an innate optimism. They both know that we possess the reason and faculty not only to survive, but to defend ourselves, our rights, our world