Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Among the black-suited crowd celebrating Pakistani judge Iftikhar Chaudhry’s reinstatement as the head of the Supreme Court outside his home in Islamabad this week was a woman with a bouquet in her hand and a prayer in her heart.
Amina Janjua’s husband went missing in July 2005, one of hundreds that rights activists allege have been held without judicial process in secret detentions centres as Pakistan’s part in the campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Her husband’s case was one of the dozens that Chaudhry had taken up in his campaign to fix accountability for the missing people, before he was sacked in November 2007.
As the chief judge, regarded as a hero after an opposition-backed lawyers’ protest movement forced the government to back down, returns to his seat on the top court this weekend, the hopes of people such as Amina are high.
“He is going to reopen those cases, and our near and dear ones will be back home soon,” India’s Hindu newspaper quoted her saying in a report from Islamabad. Amina is now leading a movement by the families of the missing, which include people from Baluchistan to Punjab.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told a joint session of parliament last month he was committed to wide-ranging constitutional reforms including surrendering the power of the president to dismiss elected governments — a power that many Pakistanis feel has brought much grief to the nation. He also pledged his faith in an independent judiciary and said all outstanding matters would be resolved in line with the constitution.
Those promises have slipped somewhat from public view in recent weeks, preoccupied as the nation and those with a stake in it are with the multiple security challenges and a looming economic meltdown.
The recipient of this year’s prize will be announced in Oslo on Oct. 10 from among 197 nominees, with those fighting for human rights among those tipped to win in the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.