Who is the regime of President Pervez Musharraf more scared of, Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif? Neither. It is scared of three heroic individuals who have led the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of an independent judiciary. These are Messrs Aitzaz Ahsan, Muneer Malik and Ali Ahmed Kurd. Over 6000 lawyers and civil society activists and political workers have been released amidst great fanfare by the regime but these three gentlemen are still in custody because the regime fears that they will rouse the lawyers and political parties to boycott the elections if they are set free.
The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) has condemned the extension, by another month, in the confinement of the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan. The Punjab government had used the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance to put him under house arrest saying “he is likely to deliver speeches which provoke and instigate lawyers’ community to boycott the courts and to take out rallies in defiance of the lawful restrictions imposed by the government”.
By keeping Mr Ahsan confined the government is in fact producing the very consequences it wants to avoid from his release. The lawyers are agitating because he is not free; they have not gone home to rest and allow peace to prevail in the province because he is not among them. His house has in fact become a publicity point where delegations from inside Pakistan and abroad are being received and covered by the media. Much the same can be said of the ailing Mr Muneer Malik who is convalescing in hospital.
Mr Aitzaz Ahsan and his colleagues should be released forthwith for the sake of public order. Mr Ahsan may head the SCBA, but, like Mr Kurd, he is also a candidate in the coming elections and has the moral right to be free for his campaigns. Three cheers for the three of them.