Jonathan Kay: The immigration bar’s cranky (Globe-enabled) campaign against Conrad Black
Aug 2, 2012 – 10:14 AM ETFive years ago, Pervez Musharraf, then the President of Pakistan, demanded the resignation of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a major thorn in Musharraf’s side.
Perhaps Musharraf thought he could get away with the power play, since ordinary citizens generally do not concern themselves much with the question of who staffs the judiciary. But lawyers care. And Musharraf’s move spawned an unprecedented phenomenon: a mass uprising with the legal sector, featuring rallies and demonstrations across the country, tens-of-thousands strong, led by staid-seeming men in black suits and white shirts. The hero of that uprising, a constitutional lawyer named Aitzaz Ahsan, might even be seen as a Pakistani stepfather of events that arose a few years later in North Africa. In a 2008 New York Times article, James Traub called Ahsan’s campaign “perhaps the most consequential outpouring of liberal, democratic energy in the Islamic world in recent years.”
“When, eight weeks after the drama, Ahsan drove Chaudhry from Islamabad to Lahore, tens of thousands of people lined the streets,” Traub writes “The 150-mile trip took 26 hours, and every minute was covered live on television … For the next three months, he and Chaudhry crisscrossed the country by car, with Ahsan addressing the delirious crowds.”
I recite all this to remind the editors at the Globe & Mail what an actual “legal uprising” looks like. Given the lead headline on the front page of today’s printed Globe (“Minister faces legal uprising over Conrad Black visa: More join challenge to Jason Kenney on his possible role in residency permit for then-jailed businessman”), I’d say they need some education on the matter. The Globe‘s breathless language summons to mind images of revolutionarily-minded Canadian lawyers barricading themselves in the nation’s courthouses, and declaring themselves sovereign stewards of the breakaway Free People’s Republic of Law School Graduates. If a letter from a few cranky activists constitutes an “uprising,” then I guess the letters page of the National Post is home to a dozen uprisings every month.