Barrister Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan (born September 27, 1945) is a Barrister-at-Law by profession, Senior Advocate Supreme Court and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. He is also a writer, human rights activist, politician, former Federal Minister for Law and Justice, Interior, Narcotics Control (1988-1990) and Education. Elected to the Senate of Pakistan in 1994, he eventually succeeded as the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition between the years 1996 and 1999. Currently he is President of the Pakistani Supreme Court Bar Association. Aitzaz Ahsan has been under arrest periodically in 2007 for his involvement in the effort to restore Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan after President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, suspended the constitution and subsequently removed Chief Justice, Chaudhry from the bench.
In the wake of 9 March events in Pakistan, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan has become a sign of resistance to anti-democratic moves. His eloquent speeches and his command over Pakistani law makes him one of the most recognizable politicians of today. Aitzaz Ahsan is also an active member of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Ahsan has been mentioned as a possible leader for the PPP in the wake of the December 27 assassination of PPP leader Benazir Bhutto.
He is married and is the father of two daughters and a son, Ali Ahsan.
Early life and education
Aitzaz Ahsan was born in Murree, Rawalpindi District, Punjab (Pakistan). He comes from a family background steeped in politics, belonging to the Jatt family; he is a third generation member of the legislative assembly. He received his early education from Aitchison College and the Government College University, Lahore. Later he studied law at Cambridge University, UK, and was called to the bar at Gray's Inn in 1967.
Upon his return from Cambridge, Aitzaz Ahsan appeared for and stood first in Pakistan's prestigious Central Superior Services of Pakistan (CSS) Examination. Objecting to the rule of General Ayub Khan, however, he refused to join government service during the time of military rule. This act of youthful defiance made him the first, and perhaps only, individual to top the CSS Examination yet decline joining government service.
Aitzaz Ahsan started his political career in the 1970s. When Chaudhry Anwar Samma, a member of Provincial Assembly for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from Gujrat, was murdered in March 1975, Aitzaz Ahsan was elected, unopposed to the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab and inducted in the provincial cabinet. He was given the portfolios of Information, Planning and Development.
During the PNA demonstrations against the alleged rigging of elections by the PPP government in 1977, the police opened fire on a lawyers' rally in Lahore. Aitzaz, who was a Provincial Minister in the Punjab Cabinet at the time, resigned in protest. He was subsequently also expelled from the People's Party for this act of insubordination.
After General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's coup, Aitzaz became an active leader of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), and rejoined the PPP during the Martial Law period. During this period he was jailed several times as a political prisoner without trial for active participation in the MRD movement.
In 1988, Aitzaz Ahsan was elected to the National Assembly from Lahore as a Peoples Party candidate. He won re-election in 1990, but lost in 1993. In 1994 he was elected to the Senate of Pakistan. He was re-elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan as a Peoples Party candidate in the 2002 General Elections, when he won from two seats - his traditional seat in Lahore, as well as from Bahawalnagar in Southern Punjab
As a lawyer
A senior advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Ahsan is a well respected Pakistani lawyer, consistently given the highest rank by Chambers and Partners ranking of legal professionals. He also made legal history of sorts by having defended two Prime Ministers in the court of law. Having previously fought cases in defence of Benazir Bhutto in 2001, he took up the case in defence of former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.
During his recent tenure as a Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, he was a Member of the Standing Committee on Interior and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
Chief Justice's case
Recently Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan successfully represented Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry's case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The hearing was being conducted by a full panel of judges headed by Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, and the 13-member panel reinstated the Chief Justice declaring his suspension by Pervez Musharraf regime as "illegal."
Human rights activist
He is also a human rights activist and Founder and Vice-President of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. He has been incarcerated under arbitrary detention laws many times by military and authoritarian regimes. During one such prolonged detention, he wrote The Indus Saga. Aitzaz Ahsan has been selected in the world's top 2008 intellectuals.
During and after Emergency
Aitzaz Ahsan was arrested soon after the declaration of emergency/martial law. There have also rumours that he is being kept in solitary confinement and being tortured. Recently, 33 US Senators wrote to President Musharraf to release Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan immediately, as he is widely respected all around the world. He withdrew his papers of nomination to run for the National Parliament, this in deference to National Lawyers' Convention decision to boycott elections under Mr. Musharraf. It has lifted his stature by putting the lawyers cause above his own.
Barrister Ahsan is succinct in his resolute to restore democracy and pre-emergency judiciary in Pakistan with peaceful resistance. He was rearrested during his three days reprieve for celebrating religious holiday; when he decided to offer prayers with Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry and was heading to Islamabad. He has served detention in his house for 90 days and has declared his detention as illegal. It is reported (Nawaiwaqt Jan 19, 2008), with a dour determination he refused to abandon restoration of judiciary movement and was reticent to negotiate when approached by Attorney General. His role in PPP after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto will be pivotal since he commands the respect of representatives of Punjab, the nations lawyers; elected President of Supreme Court Bar Association by an overwhelming majority, and public at large.
Aitzaz Ahsan, has been awarded the Asian Human Rights Defender Award by the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) along with Munir A Malik (past President SCBA) (Dawn Jan 23, 2008). The annual Award for Distinction in International Law and Affairs will be presented to Aitzaz Ahsan in asbentia as more than 5,000 lawyers gather for the annual meeting of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA). Freed for two days, Mr. Ahsan was rearrested for 30 days on February 2nd, 2008 before he was to board a flight to Sindh to offer his condolences to Benazir Bhutto's husband (Dawn February 2, 2008).
He has also authored the book The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan and its Urdu translation, Sindh Sagar Aur Qyam-e-Pakistan which presents the cultural history of Pakistan.
He has also co-authored the book Divided by Democracy with Lord Meghnad Desai of the London School of Economics
Role in Lawyers' Movment
Aitzaz Ahsan called for a long march to Islamabad on June 14th, 2007. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Islamabad for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. But Aitzaz Ahsan opted against a stage-in. Since then the movement for the restoration of the pre-Nov 3rd, 2007 judiciary has been losing steam. Aitzaz has been compelled to publicly defend his decision, which was widely criticised.
- Lawyers observe protest day against re-arrest of Aitzaz, Onlinenews.com
- Musharraf’s Political Future Appears Troubled, New York Times, David Rohde, December 28, 2007
- Aitzaz Ahsan representative for NA-124 , Lahore-VII
- Aitzaz Ahsan Firm profile
- youtube video 1
- youtube video 2
- Divided by Democracy/Meghnad Desai and Aitzaz Ahsan. New Delhi, Roli, 2005
- New York Times story, Nov 2007
- New York Times story, July 2007
- 2003 Interview
- PILDAT profile
- Read Columns for Aitzaz Ahsan at IBITIANS.com (Urdu)
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