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The Decency of Iftikhar Chaudhry

By now you’ve probably seen the ghastly video, shot on a camera phone, of Taliban thugs flogging a teenage woman in Pakistan’s Swat valley for the simple act of being seen in public with a married man. The video is many things — a reminder, if one was needed, of the savagery of Taliban rule; and, appropriately, an international disgrace, to name two. Pakistan is grappling with what the flogging means. Not everyone’s acted entirely honorably. An apparatchik from Swat called the video “a Jewish conspiracy aimed at destroying peace in Swat” — that comes via Jeffrey Goldberg — and I know that at seders worldwide we are cackling at the success of our plot. A zizzen Pesach to you too, tulip.

In stark contrast to that racist denialism is Iftikhar Chaudhry, the newly-reinstated chief justice of Pakistan whose return to the Supreme Court was the condition for defusing last month’s political crisis between President Asif Ali Zardari and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. Chaudhry ordered the government to facilitate a round of testimony from the woman about her public torture, and is using its lack of compliance as a vehicle for interrogating its decision to allow the Pakistani Taliban a new safe haven in Swat. The New York Times reports:

Chaudhry, assailed the officials for laziness and self-importance, and challenged them for not taking up the case until it became a national scandal in recent days, when a video showing the woman pinned to the ground and repeatedly whipped by a Taliban commander was broadcast on Pakistani television.

“Before the video became public, what were you doing, why couldn’t you find out what had happened?” Mr. Chaudhry asked the attorney general, Sardar Latif Khosa.

By choosing to highlight the terror in Swat, Mr. Chaudhry, who has been back on the bench about two weeks after two years of enforced limbo, immediately returned to his role of shaming an acquiescent government and military into acting in the face of wrongdoing.

It’s good to see Chaudhry, a force for liberalism in Pakistan, tying together human rights and counterterrorism.

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