Pakistan, the United States, and the Rule of Law

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on November 6th, 2007

This post was written by President Rod Smith: In late June and early July of this year, I visited Pakistan as a guest of my friend, Mr. Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. This visit was one of the great experiences of my lifetime. I was blessed to be able to sit in the Supreme Court Chambers as the Court heard arguments in a case of great constitutional importance, a case involving the issue of whether the President had the power to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I was deeply struck by the seriousness of the Court and the advocates, and by their collective commitment to the rule of law and constitutional democracy. Indeed, it seemed as if I was transported to the our founding era when we fought to secure the blessings of liberty and equality through the rule of law.My friend, Justice Jillani, is a man of great integrity. He never spoke of the case, during the week that I spent as a guest in his home or at any time thereafter, even though we have talked almost weekly, until this week when he has been rendered incommunicado by a dictatorial act. Throughout the time I was with Justice Jillani, I could sense how serious he was about the case and how devoted he and his colleagues are to the rule of law in Pakistan and throughout the world. It was and is a great reminder to me of the value of the rule of law, something that we clearly take for granted in the United States.
I was humbled when the Court held that the President lacked constitutional authority to remove the Chief Justice and President Musharraf agreed to abide by that decision. It was a courageous and wise act on the part of the Court and President Musharraf. It was a time of great hope in Pakistan.

Early in October, we awarded Justice Jillani an honorary doctorate. In doing so, we were also celebrating the rule of law in Pakistan. Our students were deeply moved by Justice Jillani’s address, “Creating a World without Walls,” which can be accessed on our website at www.svu.edu. In that address, Justice Jillani wisely reminded all in attendance that:

The United States on account of its unique position has to play a crucial role [in the world]. Firstly it has to demonstrate by deed that it shares the planet and benefits of the 21st century with other nations. Be it economic development, information technology, advancement in the medical science and issues of global warming, the developing world should have a sense of participation and sharing. Secondly for resolution of conflicts which are irritants to world peace, plans would acquire legitimacy only if they are made and acted upon through the aegis of [the] United Nations and its Security Council. Thirdly the U.S. needs to appreciate that her goal of moral leadership can only be realized if her thought and action are guided by those lofty principles which it has espoused in seminal periods of its history–the principles of equality, of freedom, of democracy, of justice and of rule of law. These values led to your Declaration of Independence. These values adorn the pages of your constitution and have made it a living document. [The United States] stood by these values during two World Wars and even thereafter. These values are part of your legacy and part of your creed. It is time to rise up and re-live their true meaning.

It was a great day, as we celebrated the rule in law in Pakistan, and were reminded of what it means to be leader-servants in the world, which is the mission of Southern Virginia University. You can imagine, therefore, the pervasive nature of sadness that we have all felt as Justice Jillani and many of his colleagues have essentially been placed under house arrest and the rule of law has been dealt a very serious blow in Pakistan by a President, who came to power as a dictator and appears committed to leaving power in the same way. Thus, only days after recognizing the rule of law in Pakistan and throughout the world, and even commending President Musharraf for his initial support for the rule of law, hope has been displaced with sadness and fear, fear for my friend and fear for the consequences of the loss of the rule of law.

I am by nature an optimist, however, and believe that good can even come out of evil of this sort. I am reminded, by the courage of my friend, and his colleagues, that I must be courageously committed to the rule of law. I look forward to teaching constitutional law again soon, and I can assure you that I will spend more time on the importance of the rule of law. As I have watched those of the legal profession step forward, at great risk, in a land that I have come to love–Pakistan–I realize that I must be a better man, a better lawyer, and a better citizen. Indeed, I am committed to doing my part to bring Justice Jillani’s dream, as expressed at the conclusion of his remarks at SVU, to fruition. He taught us well as he stated:

As I boarded the plane to come to the U.S. to keep my tryst with you and flew from continent to continent, I saw below vast tracts of land, oceans and rivers, mines and fields. But I saw no frontier, no dividing line and no walls of colour, creed or race. All I saw was nature’s boundless bounties stretched over millions of acres and miles. This panorama, I thought, carried a strong message, that we humans are one entity, without nature’s dividing line or wall and that accidents of birth have made us wear, the inherited masks of identity; let these masks not blind us to forget that from womb to tomb and dust to dust, we have a common destiny and have plenty to share and realize the cherished goals of freedom, democracy, rule of law and pursuit of happiness.

Two nights before the rule of law began to unravel in Pakistan, I received an unexpected call from my friend, Justice Jillani. We talked of our times together, of our families, and of the world. Tassaduq concluded by asking something of me that he had never asked before — he asked if I would pray for Pakistan. My dear friend, and brother, Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, I have prayed, even fasted, since that call, and I conclude by expressing my heartfelt desire that all of us, throughout the world, will rise up and offer our support for the courageous efforts of so many in Pakistan and for the values you are espousing by your sacrifice. I pledge to do better my part, and I pray for Pakistan, for the United States, and for the world, that we might put aside momentary provincial interests and recognize that we are all brothers and sisters and do all that we can to support, with equal courage, the values you espoused in your speech–freedom, democracy, rule of law and the pursuit of happiness.


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