City Lawyers Set To Rally for Their Pakistani Counterparts

From The New York Sun


November 13, 2007

Lawyers from firms across the city will stop billing clients for half an hour today to rally in support of the lawyers and judges of Pakistan.

The rally, planned for 1 p.m. in front of the New York County Courthouse at 60 Centre St., is expected to draw hundreds of attorneys to protest the arrests and detentions of thousands of Pakistani lawyers and judges as part of President Musharraf’s emergency decree, according to Barry Kamins, president of the New York City Bar Association, which has helped to organize the rally.

“I’m trying to mobilize as many attorneys from around the city from all spectrums of the profession to stand up and show support for the lawyers and judges of Pakistan,” Mr. Kamins said. “When a government goes after its lawyers and judges, that’s the quickest way to destroy a democracy.”

About a month ago, the city bar’s executive committee voted to award Iftikar Mohammed Chaudhry, chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, honorary membership.

“The chief judge over there by the name of Chaudhry stood up to General Musharraf,” Mr. Kamins said. “That caught our attention.” Uncertainty as to whether Justice Chaudhry will be permitted to receive the honor has catalyzed interest among the city’s lawyers in the plight of the legal community in Pakistan, according to Mr. Kamins.

Co-organizers of the rally include the New York State Bar Association and the New York County Lawyers’ Association.

One of the planned speakers, Ali Ahsan, a New York City attorney formerly of the firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen, and Hamilton, told The New York Sun his remarks would address what he sees as Mr. Musharraf’s repression of secular and pro-Western Pakistanis.

“American policy in support of a military leader who is crushing these very people is doing lasting harm to the war against terrorism and extremism,” he said.

Mr. Ahsan’s father, Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, was arrested in Islamabad on Saturday while denouncing the coup at a press conference, and is being held in solitary confinement, according to his son.

Mr. Ahsan and other participants emphasized that the rally is intended to protest the violation of attorneys’ and judges’ human rights, and as such, is intended to be politically nonpartisan.

“I don’t think any attorney here or anywhere else brings partisan politics into play where support for fundamental rights and the rule of law are concerned,” Mr. Ahsan said.

New York lawyers attending the rally are being encouraged to show solidarity with their Pakistani counterparts by wearing white shirts and dark suits – as are worn by lawyers in Pakistan.

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