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Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 18:18 UK

Expat anger over Pakistan judges

By Brajesh Upadhyay
BBC News, Washington

Lawyer Amina Khan
We were very happy when the February elections went so well, but the honeymoon is fading away
Amina Khan, lawyer

Pakistanis in the US are increasingly critical of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government's failure to restore an independent judiciary.

Pakistan's newly appointed ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, had first-hand experience of this when he was booed and shouted at by angry audiences at two different gatherings in Washington DC.

At one event, things got ugly when a woman in the audience attempted to snatch the microphone away from the ambassador.

The audience, which was comprised mainly of Pakistani doctors and other US-based expatriates, had gathered to listen to various opinions on the judicial dispute, including that of Aitzaz Ahsan, a leader of the lawyers' movement in Pakistan.

Manzur Ejaz, a well-respected member of the Pakistani community and economist, was one of those who witnessed the angry outbursts of the crowd.

"There are several reasons underlying this behaviour, but the core issue was restoration of the judiciary," Mr Ejaz said.

Many Pakistanis believe the PPP, which leads the coalition government, is obstructing the reappointment of supreme court judges who were sacked by President Pervez Musharraf last November.

"People are very angry and disillusioned with the government on this issue and they took out their rage on the ambassador," said Mr Ejaz.

Lawyers protesting in Pakistan. File photo.
Lawyers in Pakistan have regularly taken to the streets over the last year

After Mr Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency, the Pakistani community here lobbied hard for the restoration of democracy and the judiciary in Pakistan, organising protests and rallies to draw the attention of US politicians and the media.

Amina Khan was one of them.

"We were very happy when the February elections went so well, but the honeymoon is fading away," says Ms Khan, who is herself a lawyer and an active member of the Association of Pakistani Professionals.

She says everyone who was part of that movement thought the restoration of the supreme court judges would be the first act of the new government.

"But earlier, people never stood up to ask: 'What have you done for us?' Not any more," she says.

'Lack of tolerance'

The PPP government says there has been a delay because a constitutional amendment would be needed to reverse the decision.

Aitzaz Ahsan, who is also a PPP member, says he differs with his party on this issue.

He says a constitutional amendment would give legal validity to Mr Musharraf's 3 November act.

"What's going on is nothing but politics," he told a gathering at Amnesty International in Washington.

Ambassador Haqqani's spokesperson Nadeem Kiyani told the BBC that the PPP is committed to the independence of the judiciary and that the government is working on a constitutional package.

He said there was also a group that appreciates the government's stand.

"They understand this issue has to be resolved by the parliament and not on the streets," said Mr Kiyani.

He said the crowd's behaviour against the ambassador was nothing but a display of "lack of tolerance for differing views".





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