Attorney general’s resignation hugely significant

Editorial, NewAge, July 18, 2008

FIDA M Kamal’s resignation as the attorney general on Wednesday, while not a surprise given his reportedly difficult relationship with the government, is nevertheless hugely significant. Although he initially cited ‘personal grounds’ for his resignation, he later made it clear that he felt that his continuation in the role was putting his honour and dignity at stake. In our country, where public officials typically forfeit their dignity and stoop to unspeakable lows in order to get to, or stay in, positions of power and authority, this is indeed a rare example of a high-ranking public official resigning in order to preserve his honour and dignity. Fida Kamal, therefore, deserves credit for his courageous decision.
   

More importantly, however, the resignation and the apparent grounds behind it highlight once again the seemingly dubious role the interim government has played with regard to the law and the judiciary. The introduction of the Emergency Powers Rules by this regime has made normally bailable offences unbailable, thereby taking the power away from the judiciary to even hear bail petitions. The government has also prosecuted many arrested on charges of corruption by submitting as evidence testimony allegedly extracted through the use of torture, which would normally make such testimony inadmissible. Yet, the special courts made up by the government to hear corruption cases have neither taken these allegations seriously nor tried to ensure that evidence produced before it are indeed admissible. Moreover, when a bench of the High Court appeared to defy the government by giving important judgements that, in our view, upheld constitutionalism, the bench itself was reassigned by the immediate-past chief justice. We have said this on several occasions in the past that our judges and lawyers would do well to follow the example set by their counterparts in Pakistan by staying true to their profession and upholding their integrity instead of giving in to government pressure. However, we have not seen much evidence of that here.
   

Presumably, Fida Kamal found this regime’s seeming indifference towards the constitution and laws and its apparent lack of regard for the judiciary incompatible with his intellectual honesty and professional integrity. That is probably why he refused to appear in person in several high-profile cases and why he ultimately felt that his continued association with this regime was putting his dignity at stake. If so, he was absolutely right in resigning from his position as attorney general and we commend him for having the courage to do what is right. At the same time, we urge the regime once again to follow due process and show a commitment to the rule of law instead of perceivably trying to manipulate the law and the judiciary to further its own agenda.

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