Sunday, November 18, 2007

Let's stand with Pakistan's heroes

Lawyers there are risking arrest to defend the rule of law. We admire their bravery.

We all have seen the images: Lawyers clad in dark suits, symbols of professional responsibility, enveloped in clouds of tear gas. Soldiers surrounding a nation's Supreme Court, and thousands of lawyers and judges, as well as several justices, placed under arrest.

Much has been written about the unfolding crisis in Pakistan, and how the US government should respond. Less has been said about its significance for the rule of law, which is more important than ever in the dangerous world we live in today.

Since Gen. Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, declared a state of emergency there, the impact on lawyers in America and in other nations has been electric – virtually unprecedented in my more than 40 years of practice.

To many Americans, Pakistan's breakdown may seem vaguely routine, another eruption in a distant land. But to American lawyers, the events are shocking and immediate.

In part, it is because we see our fellow lawyers and judges in Pakistan doing something dangerous and heroic: standing up to police and soldiers, subjecting themselves to arrest for such ideals as the "rule of law" and an "independent judiciary."

Their bravery reminds us that these ideals are not abstract at all. They are the difference between nations of justice and law, and unchecked tyrannies. This crisis reminds us how precious, and fragile, the rule of law is in the United States and in all nations.

This week, lawyers gathered in Washington and states across the country to express solidarity and to stand shoulder to shoulder with our courageous colleagues in Pakistan.

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