General Musharraf ordered his forces to beat and jail protesting lawyers.

Blawgletter can’t recall writing an open letter before, but the courageousness of judges and lawyers in Pakistan impelled us to compose our first.

To President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Attorney General-Elect Michael B. Mukasey:

In the British Empire’s American colonies, the King of England suspended laws, fired judges, and ignored court judgments. He put citizens in jail, ransacked their homes, read their private papers, and shot public protesters. He was a tyrant.

History repeats itself today in another fomer British colony, Pakistan, where a modern King George III assumed the powers of the crown on Saturday. Unlike other countries in the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan has fragile but longstanding democratic traditions, including an independent judiciary. But its President, General Pervez Musharraf, dissolved the Supreme Court after learning that the justices were about to void his third term as President, ruling him ineligible for election while acting as the military chief. The general also suspended the Constitution and delayed elections indefinitely. Plus he ordered his security forces to threaten, detain, and beat up the thousands of Pakistani lawyers who have taken to the streets to object. The gendarmes followed Musharraf’s directive with gusto — cracking lawyers’ heads and putting judges under house arrest.

American lawyers, like our Pakistani counterparts, draw wills, close home purchases, defend against traffic tickets, and counsel businesses and families. Many represent companies and individuals in disputes. But all of us know a threat to the rule of law when we see it. And we see a big one in Pakistan.

Our brave colleagues in Pakistan are fighting to save a democracy. They are trying to rally the Pakistani people against despotism. They are telling the powerful that the rule of law is so precious and so fundamental to democracy that they will risk their careers, their freedom, and their lives to protest its subversion.

We can only hope we would be so brave. Can we do more?

Yes. We can, and do, urge our President, Secretary of State, and Attorney General-Elect to say plainly that the United States condemns General Musharraf’s acts and demands an immediate restoration of constitutional democracy. Release the judges, restore them to their benches, and obey the courts’ lawful decrees. Reinstate the Pakistani Constitution. Allow peaceful protests. And proceed with elections, on schedule, in January 2008.

Our own fidelity to the rule of law requires at least that.

If you agree with our sentiments, please send your own email — with some, all, or none of our text, as you choose — to and  Sorry, we don’t have an email address for the State Department.

Barry Barnett

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