Pakistan SCBA's New President
October 28, 2010 1:48 AM   Subscribe

A much-needed glimmer of hope for Pakistan?

Longtime human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir has won the election for President of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association. She is the first woman to do so.

The Bar Association position has held greater political significance in Pakistan since the civil protest against then-President Pervez Musharraf's sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry (previously on Mefi).
posted by bardophile (6 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
More commentary on the election and the run-up to it.
posted by bardophile at 1:57 AM on October 28, 2010

I don't understand the political significance of this. One article paints her as a reformer, but it seems clear that she was supported by the government and opposed by a large bloc of other lawyers. Also, is the President of the Bar Association really such a significant post in Pakistan? What power will she have?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:20 AM on October 28, 2010

It didn't used to be a significant position at all. Until three years ago, I never knew who held the post. Presumably lawyers of the Supreme Court were aware.

Then Pakistan got an activist Chief Justice, who ticked off Musharraf by inquiring too closely (suo moto notices) into a) people being "disappeared" by police and intelligence agencies, and b) the privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mill. Some of this is discussed in the previous FPP I linked to.

That spawned a whole "lawyer's movement" and got the judicial branch of government thoroughly enmeshed in the political process, because the lawyer's movement helped restore the Chief Justice, Musharraf was forced to call elections, etc.

Now there were concerns even then about the Chief Justice being too actively involved in politics. It appears that Asma Jahangir has become more vocal about that, and so lost the support of a fair number of lawyers.

The Chief Justice, who isn't really Mr Squeaky Clean by any means, is talking about re-opening corruption cases against current President Zardari. I haven't read Jahangir's objections to this, but have heard the argument from many people that if you start re-opening all these cases, you're going to grind an already judicial system to a halt, or you're going to pick and choose which cases to prosecute and get caught in the "I'm being unfairly picked on" trap.

So the current government is supporting her yes. But she has distanced herself from them repeatedly. I'll find you links for that some time later today.

So that's why this is a big deal politically.

Even if the SCBA presidency weren't politically important, it would be an important victory, because while Jahangir has been lionized by progressive Pakistanis (not universally, but certainly by a majority of them), she has been regarded with suspicion by the more conservative mainstream.

She's been a vocal campaigner against the Hudood Ordinance. She helped found WAF (Women's Action Forum), she has helped out so many women who have been suffering from domestic abuse. She's taken a lot of flak for calling the Pakistani government out on human rights issues, over and over again, whether speaking at home or abroad.

(Sorry if I sound like a fangirl. I'm actually very concerned about why she's allowed herself to get linked with the crooks who are currently in government, but this is an anomaly in her career.)

Need to go out for a bit now. Will hunt up some more references and background info later.
posted by bardophile at 2:35 AM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

Nice (earlier) interview with Asma Jahangir.
posted by Roach at 12:10 PM on October 28, 2010

Not to be a wet blanket, but I think Pakistan has far greater issues on it's plate at the mo than a success story for women's rights.
posted by Biru at 10:18 AM on October 29, 2010

Some commentary that clarifies more of the issue pre-election. Some of the better quotes:

Most years, the election for the presidency of the SCBA, an annual event, is a quiet intra-body affair. This year, however, the election has attracted national interest because of the high-profile candidacy of Asma Jahangir and the tensions between the judiciary and the executive.


Jahangir, though, is dismissive of claims she is the ‘government candidate’: “If they (the government) think that I’m going to be their champion, they have another thing coming. I’ve always stood for principles. Much of this is because my opponents want to paint me a certain way.”


Pakistan has far greater issues on it's plate at the mo than a success story for women's rights.

a) It's more than a success story for women's rights. It's cool that she's a woman. But she's also a tremendous human rights campaigner, and someone who has been to jail multiple times for her opposition to the government.

b) It's not relevant whether Pakistan has more issues on its plate than this success story. Every place in the world has its issues. Right now, Pakistan has more than most. It makes it more important to celebrate the good things, not less.

c) I'm not entirely certain this is purely a success story. I'm interested to see how it unfolds. Will perhaps do a follow up post if it remains interesting.
posted by bardophile at 11:03 AM on October 29, 2010

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