Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Q&A with Mr. Muneer Malik on Gwangju Prize

How does it feel to be awarded the 2008 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights?

Deeply humbled. It is a great honour to have been awarded the prize although deep down inside I believe that it belongs to the lawyers of Pakistan.

What does the award mean to you? What do you think of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights? What is its significance in promoting peace, democracy and human rights?

Personally, for me it will be one of my most cherished achievements. The Gwangju Prize links the historic events of May 18th 1980 to democratic movements around the world- it serves at least two purposes- first, it reminds other democratic movements of the sacrifices of the citizens of Gwangju and second, it encourages other movements to emulate them. Peace, democracy and human rights are indivisible concepts and the benefits are shared by the entire humanity. The Prize demonstrates that the people of Gwangju deeply care about democratic movements around the world.

Why do you think you were chosen?

I believe that it was not me who was chosen but the lawyers of Pakistan for a struggle that has no parallel in the 60 year history of Pakistan.

What are your works, programs and activities? Tell us what you have done in the past and are doing now.

I am presently in the process of writing a book on the lawyers’ movement. I am practicing law and still actively engaged in the movement for restoration of the judges who were deposed in November 2007 in consequence of the proclamation of Emergency. Since the last 25 years that I have been actively involved in one form or the other in the human rights movement in Pakistan.

What of your least known works would you want others to know about you?

I am engaged in doing charitable work and am managing a charitable trust set up by the Malik Family. This trust provides scholarships to needy students in Pakistan.

How will the Gwangju Prize advance and promote your work?

I intend to use the Prize to set up a foundation to “Save the Constitution and promote Democracy”. It will make my work more credible.

As winner of the Gwangju Prize do you have ideas or plans for which the Gwangju Prize could be promoted? What role could you play to promote it?

I would like to work with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan- of which I am a founder member- to make human rights activists more aware about the Prize and the 18th May movement so that activists are encouraged to work harder in their field with a view to being nominated for if not winning the Prize.

If given a chance to lead past winners of Gwangju Prize what activities or issues should be addressed? Or do you think there’s a need for the past winners to band together for common cause or causes?

I believe in collective leadership. I would welcome the opportunity to interact with previous Prize winners and to explore the common causes that we would effectively work together on. Ideally I would like previous Prize winners to issue joint statements on various issues and events as a means of mobilizing international public opinion.

What do you think of the current democracy, peace and human rights situation in Asia? What should be done to keep and sustain a more democratic, peaceful and human rights respectful Asia?

The situation is Asia is far from desirable. We see an increasing tendency towards authoritarian rule, abuse of human rights, lack of access to justice, increasing poverty and inequality. These are issues that we need to mobilize public opinion on.

What would you like to say to the May 18 Memorial Foundation and the citizens of Gwangju for giving you this award? Any final words?

The lawyers of Pakistan salute the indomitable will and commitment of the citizens of Gwangju to the principles of democracy, peace and human rights. The courage of the May 18th martyrs shall inspire men and women who yearn to be free for generations to come. I thank the citizens of Gwangju and the Memorial Foundation for empathizing with the Pakistan Lawyers’ Movement, the main aim of which is to build a society based on true justice for all under the principle of equality.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Citation of the 2008 Gwangju Prize Committee on Muneer Malik

Statement on the Decision on the
2008 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights
Award Winner Muneer Malik

Pakistan, which has the sixth largest population in the world, became independent from England in 1947. Religious differences and conflict led to the separation of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and other current states in the continent.

Against this backdrop, the domestic political status of modern Pakistan is far from stable. The present Pakistani President Musharraf, who has total political control, seized power in October 12, 1999 through a military coup d'etat, ousting the popularly elected former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Since then, the military authorities have been in command of all political, social, and economic matters. The recent series of political events lead to negative forecasts on the state of democracy and human rights situation in Pakistan.

A former leader of the Pakistani Supreme Court Bar Association, Mr. Muneer A. Malik, was born in 1950 and became a lawyer in 1975. After becoming appointed as the secretary general for a local lawyers' association in the 1980s, he played a leading role in the popular movements that called for the restoration of democracy, in opposition to the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq. This resulted in Mr. Malik imprisonment on charges of engaging in anti-government activities in 1981.

Mr. Malik worked as a human rights lawyer to improve human rights and restore democracy in Pakistan. In 2007, he took a leading role in fighting against the attempt made by President Musharraf to oust the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in order to protect human rights and the independence of the judiciary. When the fight continued for the restoration of rights and the independence of the Pakistani judiciary, he did not give in to suppression, assassination attempts and the closedown of his office. His health deteriorated from alleged food poisoning that he was released from prison to become hospitalized. He had to endure all those difficult times in prison and even after his release. He did not give up. As soon as he regained his health and freedom, he has been continuously fighting for the freedom of the media and the independence of the judiciary.

(foto source: http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/004871.html)

The 2008 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee chose the Pakistani human rights lawyer Muneer A. Malik for this year's award winner. It was the judgment of the jury that the political and social situation of Pakistan today, which Mr. Malik is fighting against, is quite similar to Korea's past, when the people had to endure a period of military dictatorship. The fight by Mr. Muneer A. Malik for the restoration of democracy and human rights is the kind of spirit that Koreans should remember at all times. The 2008 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee would like to send message of encouragement to all the citizens, human rights activists and lawyers in Pakistan, who are fighting all together with Muneer A. Malik.

The 2008 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Prize Committee

Committee Chairman:
Mr. Noh Young Min
Korean National Assembly

Committee Members:
Mr. Kim, Chil-Jun
Secretary General of the National Human Rights Commission,

Mr. Lee, Gwang-Ho
Director of the Pusan Democratic Movement Memorial Association

Mr. Moon, Guk-Joo
Executive Director
Korea Democracy Foundation

Mr. Yun, Gwang-Jang
Chairman of the Board of The May 18 Memorial Foundation

April 17, 2008
Gwangju, Republic of Korea

Links on Muneer Malik Awardee of the 2008 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights

1) Newspaper



2) Pakistani Bloggers






A U TO - B I O G R A P H Y

I was born on April 8, 1950. My mother was illiterate and my father had only 10 years of schooling. My parents had emigrated to Pakistan on the partition of the subcontinent of India. Their own educational backgrounds notwithstanding, my parents sent me to one of the finest boarding school in Pakistan, Lawrence College situated in the hills of Murree in northern Pakistan. I was always an outstanding student and I passed my “O” levels in 1964 in First Division. I thereafter passed my Intermediate Science Examination in 1966 from Karachi securing First Division and then enrolled at the NED Engineering College. Barely four months into the term, in January 1967, I proceeded to United States to study Chemical Engineering. I was soon realized that my primary ambition was to be a lawyer. For my undergraduate degree, I chose Accounting as my major field of study and in 1971 I received by Bachelor’s Degree from San Jose State University, San Jose, California. I enrolled at Santa Clara University to study law and was awarded the Faculty Minority Scholarship. I received my J.D. in June 1974 graduating magna cum laude. I passed the California Bar exam in December 1974 and at the same time qualified to be a Certified Public Accountant.

I returned to Pakistan in 1975 to practice law and I was soon to make a mark in my chosen profession. In 1980 I was elected General Secretary of the Karachi Bar Association and was one of the leaders of the movement for the restoration of democracy against the dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq. I was incarcerated in Central Prison in Karachi in 1981 on the substantive charge that my activities were causing disaffection against members of the armed forces in the eyes of the people. I alongwith 17 other lawyers, was tried before a Summary Military Court but under the heat of international pressure, the charges were dropped and I was released. In 1986 I was elected President of the Karachi Bar Association and in 1990 I was elected as a member of the Pakistan Bar Council for a five year term. The Pakistan Bar Council is the apex body regulating the legal profession in Pakistan. I served on a number its committees, including the Human Rights Committee.

In the years 1986 to 2002, I was invited to attend several international conferences on Human Rights and if my memory serves me correctly, I had drafted the declaration passed by human rights groups at Hong Kong calling for the establishment of the Asian Human Rights Commission. I have been an active member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and have worked for it on a number of assignments, including observing the fairness of the polls held in 1988. In 2002, I was elected as President of Sindh High Court Bar Association and was one of the leaders of the movement launched by the legal fraternity against the Legal Framework Order promulgated by General Pervez Musharraf. In 2006 I was elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and was one of the leaders of lawyers’ movement for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. I represented the Chief Justice of Pakistan before the Supreme Judicial Council that was hearing charges of misconduct against him. The authorities tried to intimidate me in a number of ways, first by sealing my office, then spraying gunfire on my residence (my daughter narrowly escaped injury), mistreating me in Attock jail and through anonymous phone calls threatening of dire consequences.

I practice law at Karachi and Islamabad and am senior partner in the law firm of Malik, Chaudhry, Ahmed & Siddiqi. Scores of my cases in which I appeared as counsel are reported in the law journals. I have contributed articles to the leading national daily English newspaper, the daily Dawn. I have represented the print media in a number of constitutional cases where the freedom of press has been in issue.

In 2006 I was conferred the Dorab Patel Human Rights Award by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and I have been awarded the Asian Human Rights Commission Human Rights Defenders Award jointly with Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan.

By Muneer Malik

Separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary

By Mr. Muneer Malik,
President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan

(Following is the text of Mr. Muneer Malik’s speech which he delivered on May 26, 2007 when the Supreme Court Bar Association held a seminar on "separation of powers and judicial independence". The suspended Chief Justice Mr. Iftekhar Choudary was the chief guest of the seminar).

Welcome to this defining moment in the defining moment of our lives. The great American jurist, Benjamin N. Cardozo said, ‘The great tides and currents which engulf the rest of men do not turn aside in their course and pass the judges by’. We are all caught in that same tide today and only our own actions now will determine whether we sink or swim. Those that do not learn from the past are condemned to re-live it. After all, history is the transformation of tumultuous conquerors in to silent footnotes. (Ai khakh nasheeno uth baitho wo waqt kareeb aa pohancha hai- Jub taj uchalay jain gai jub takht girain jain gay. Barthay bhi challo kuttay be challo, bazooo be behot hain sur be behot, up daairay manzil he pay daalainay jain gay”. Hum daikhaayn gay hum daikhaayn gay.)

The theme of our Seminar, ‘Separation of Powers and the Independence of the Judiciary’ has always been an age-old favourite of jurists and constitutionalists. But only today, is a true appreciation of its paramount importance being felt throughout the land.

The struggle for the separation of powers and the independence of judiciary is of ancient origin. One of its early foot-soldiers was Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice of England from 1613 to 1616. Coke was not always an angel. As a lawyer, he had remained Attorney General of England and prosecuted many cases against innocent people who had incurred the displeasure of King James I. Those poor innocents had no hope of justice and a fair trial. The judiciary was spineless and completely under the influence of the King and his courtiers. The historian Macdowell has described this state of affairs as follows:

‘If a Judge in those days had frankly charged a Jury according to the facts of the situation it would have been in such terms as this: ‘If you acquit the prisoner, I shall be dismissed and you will go to prison. Consider your verdict.’

But this bitter experience of blatantly rigged trials left Sir Edward Coke a changed man. He spent the rest of his life wiping off that stain from his reputation. When appointed to the Bench, his judicial independence brought him into direct conflict with the government. King James I was in the habit of interfering with judgments passed by the courts of law; asserting that he was entitled to do so in exercise of his royal prerogative. When Coke refused to yield this power he was summoned by King James I and reminded that the King was supreme and that the King’s word was final in all matters. Coke was not to be cowed down. He bluntly replied that ‘His Majesty was not learned in the laws of England’ and that it was only the Judges who could interpret the law. As far as the question of the King’s supremacy was concerned, he said: ‘The King himself should be under no man, but under God and the Law.’ These words heralded the beginning of England’s transition from a nation under the rule of men to a nation under the Rule of Law.

Thereafter, the King wrote to all of the Judges asking them to refrain from hearing and determining a particular matter until the King's pleasure was known. When Coke proceeded with the hearing in disregard of the King's instructions, all the Judges were summoned to a meeting with the King. Under pressure, the other Judges buckled down and conceded to the King’s directions; but Coke stood firm in denying the King's authority to interfere with judicial proceedings. For his impertinence, Sir Edward Coke was dismissed as Chief Justice. Later, at almost seventy years of age, he was thrown in jail. But, today, his legacy forms the bedrock of the Constitutions of every civilized nation.

The doctrine of separation of powers rests upon the recognition that the concentration of absolute power in one man or one body will inevitably lead to exploitation and tyranny. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln recognized the temptation of even good men to succumb to the temptation of too much power when he said: ‘Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.’ The fundamental premise of our Constitution is never to put anyone to that test. The framers of our Constitution were well aware of Lord Acton’s dictum, ‘Power tends to corrupt; and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Therefore they delegated the different powers of the State to different organs namely; the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Each of them has separate and strictly delineated functions.

This trichotomy of powers, as an essential feature of our Constitution, has been repeatedly emphasized by our superior Courts. In his oft-quoted judgment in the celebrated Sharaf Faridi case (PLD 1989 Karachi 404), Saleem Akhtar J. (then a Judge of the Sindh High Court) observed: ‘In a set-up where the Constitution is based on trichotomy of powers, the Judiciary enjoys a unique and supreme position within the framework of the Constitution as it creates balance amongst the various organs of the State and also checks the excessive and arbitrary exercise of power by the Executive and the Legislature… The jurisdiction and the perimeters for exercise of powers by all three organs have been mentioned in definite terms in the Constitution. No organ is permitted to encroach upon the authority of the other and the Judiciary by its power to interpret the Constitution keeps the Legislature and the Executive within the spheres and bounds of the Constitution.’ He further stated: ‘Therefore justice can only be done if there is an independent Judiciary which should be separate from the Executive and not at its mercy or dependent on it.’

Similarly, our Supreme Court has frequently stressed the importance of an independent judiciary, particularly in reference to Article 175 of the Constitution. It observed, inter alia, in the Al-Jehad Trust case (PLD 1996 SC 324) and the Mehram Ali case (PLD 1998 SC 1445) that ‘the independence of judiciary is inextricably linked and connected with the process of appointment of Judges and the security of tenure and other terms and conditions,’ and that the ‘framers of the Constitution were mindful of the fact that in the absence of security of tenure no Judge can function impartially and independently.’ In the absence of an independent judiciary that is able to freely exercise its judicial functions and enforce the law without interference, the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to citizens under our Constitution are illusory and not worth the paper they are written on. Saleem Akhtar J held as much in the case of Govt. of Balochistan v. Azizullah Memon (PLD 1993 SC 341) when he observed: ‘Separation of judiciary is the corner-stone of the independence of judiciary and unless the judiciary is independent, the fundamental right of access to justice cannot be guaranteed.’

Now the main danger facing Pakistan today is the tendency towards monopolization and concentration of all state power in one body. This lust for unrivalled power and ultimate authority destroys all those institutions that form the foundations of a modern civilized state. Baron de Montesquieu, one of the first proponents of the doctrine of separation of powers, was of the view that: ‘In the infancy of societies, the chiefs of state shape its institutions; later the institutions shape the chiefs of state.’ Charles De Gaulle had paraphrased it somewhat differently when he said “that some countries need an army but some armies need a state”. What is at stake here? Is it the future of my two children, Sheherezade and Ehsan or the children or grandchildren of every one sitting in this room and beyond? I beg you, I implore you, that let every man look into his inner self and ask “Is my conscience on a higher plane than 30 pieces of silver?” Pakistan needs to make that transition urgently. We must strengthen our institutions so that we are ruled by law and not by men. We can no longer afford to remain an infant state. A failure to move on could be fatal.

Revolutions, in every age stem from the same causes. However, the American Revolution was unique in that the revolutionaries actually listed the causes of the Revolution in their Declaration of Independence. I was taken aback to find the following passage in the American Declaration of Independence (remember, this is back in 1776): ‘The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States… He has made Judges dependent upon his will alone, for the tenure of their offices and the amount of their salaries’. If we want to ward off similar revolutions in different parts of our country, if we want to avoid a further break-up of the nation, if we want to prevent a decline into anarchy; we must learn our lessons from history.

Fortunately, our nation has woken up to this peril. There is unanimity within the legal community and the general public that the ideals of the separation of powers and independence of judiciary are worth preserving. That the Rule of Law is not merely an empty slogan; but a reality worth striving towards. Montesquieu had warned, ‘The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.’ We have averted the greater danger. We are only left with the lesser threat. And now that the people are woken from their slumber and apathy; their will shall prevail. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court pointed out, ‘Constitutions and statutes don’t protect judicial independence, people do.’ But the people Justice Sandra Day O’Connor referred to were not simply members of the general public. She was also referring to people who practice at the Bar. She was also referring to the people who man the Bench. Judges, like the rest of us, also form a part of Pakistan’s civil society. There is a mutual covenant between all sections of civil society to uphold the Rule of Law and secure the independence of the judiciary. Any section that betrays this mutual trust, in addition to injuring the others, also imperils itself.

Benjamin Cardozo had ventured to reflect that judges do not live in ivory towers protected against tides in the affairs of men. Moreover, unlike the executive branch of government, the judiciary has no coercive apparatus to ensure the enforcement of its writ. Rather, its strength, its prestige, its power and hence its very existence, rests solely upon the confidence reposed in it by the public. That confidence is not to be lightly risked. I dare to dream the impossible dream and to run where the brave dare not go. This is our quest- no matter how hopeless no matter how far. Remember that every long journey begins with a single step. My Lord, the Chief Justice who would have thought that after the 9th of March you would in our midst today in this very auditorium presiding over this seminar? May the wind be always at your back and may the road rise up to meet you and may Allah Almighty hold you in the palm of His hand. It does not take rocket science to understand the no army, no matter of which breed, can stop the march of an idea the time for which has come.

Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistan Paindabad!

Muneer A. Malik
President, Supreme Court Bar Association
Islamabad, 26 May 2007

Irom Sharmila Video

Irom Sharmila is a young woman of Manipur who has been on a fast-to-death for nearly 7 years now. She has been demanding the removal of a brutal law from her land. Manipur is a north-east Indian state (bordering Myanmar), riven for decades by insurgency and armed separatist movements. The Government of India has attempted to control the situation militarily, granting drastic powers to the security forces. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act enforced in the region lets people be arrested, shot and even killed - on suspicion alone. But Sharmila is willing to stake everything -- even her life -- to restore justice and dignity to her people.