The Council of Advisers is delighted to welcome Aitzaz Ahsan, the first Pakistani member. Mindful of the dreadful situation in which Pakistan found itself – and the bravery of many legal professionals not least Mr Ahsan – the Council hopes this encourage lawyers within Sri Lanka to do all they can to safeguard the basis of a just and civil society.
Not only did he defend scores of political prisoners during the period military dictatorship, but as leader of the Lawyers’ Movement he sustained the hugely popular and non-violent movement which culminated in the restoration of democracy and the reinstatement of the independent judiciary.
He is the only attorney to have represented both the former Prime Ministers of Pakistan: Ms. Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Nawaz Sharif showing it is sometimes possible to straddle intense political divides. And he successfully defended the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry against charges filed by General Musharraf. And at the other end of the spectrum, he is presently counsel, in the Supreme Court, for a victim of the gang-rape allegedly sanctioned by a village council.
His concerns also go beyond Pakistan and Mr Ahsan is no stranger to lobbying the international community on behalf of other endangered Asian societies, as he did with regards to Burma in 1997 when he went to the UN along with President Kim Dae Jung (Korea) and Dr. Kamal Hussain (former Foreign Minister, Bangladesh).
Why has he stood up for Sri Lankans now?
As Mr Ahsan himself says: “Pakistan’s lawyers drew enormous strength and comfort from the support they received from the outside world over the course of their struggle for the rule of law and the restoration of an independent judiciary. Today, we have a similar, but even greater, obligation to the people of Sri Lanka to demand that the human rights of ALL citizens are protected, and that international human rights laws and norms are strictly adhered to in the treatment of all people detained since the end of the country’s civil war.”