ALI ZAFAR The present judicial crisis in AJK is remarkably similar to the events of March 9, 2007, when Musharraf confronted the CJ of Pakistan (CJP) with allegations of misconduct and importuned him to resign. However, the CJP was reinstated with the efforts of the political parties, lawyers, civil society and the media. So I have a sense of Dj vu. AJKs CJ Justice Riaz is a respected figure. He is considered to be independent of executive and reputed to have set high standards to provide speedy and direct justice to the public. This is the major reason for his removal. Nevertheless, the opportunity came when AJKs president went abroad. A reference was filed against the CJ by the acting president on grounds of alleged misconduct and he too, as in the case of CJP, was made disfunctional. AJKs constitution provides that judges of the SC cannot be removed except by the orders of the SJC and that the judges cannot be made disfunctional simply by filing a reference. The suspension of CJ Riaz took place apparently contrary to these provisions, and notwithstanding that the SC had restrained the executive from taking any such action. AJKs constitution contains the same provisions as Pakistans for safeguarding the judiciary from arbitrary removal, and the attempt to suspend AJKs CJ is like the one made by Musharraf in 2007. I would have thought that the lawyers, civil society and media, who have decided to become bulwark against any encroachment of judicial independence, would not hesitate a minute to protest against his removal, particularly when AJK is a sister state for which we have fought wars and who we claim is Pakistans jugular vein. Certainly, the principles of safeguarding judicial independence and upholding the rule of law apply with same vigour to AJK as the rest of the country. Indeed AJKs judiciary and legal community is as closely related to Pakistan as possible and deserve the same principled stand as Pakistanis would have for themselves. Yet, not a sound has been heard from many of our political party leaders. I was even more shocked to read a newspaper which instead of condemnation, gave its wholehearted approval to all that the AJK PM is doing to crush judicial independence there. The independence of AJKs judiciary should be as important for us as ours. If the act of standing up against arbitrary suspension by a judge in Pakistan is an act of courage to be supported, then why not the same action by CJ AJK? By being quiet, is the nation not at risk of being perceived by the AJK community to be double faced? I earnestly call upon Pakistans legal community, intellectuals and media to show a hand of solidarity to the lawyers movement in AJK who are attempting to secure their judiciarys independence. This is particularly important for the cause of Kashmir. AJK is supposed to be a model state so that in the future, when the time comes, the people of Kashmir can choose validly an alliance within or with Pakistan, which choice should appear to them a better option than being subjugated by Indian rule. An independent judiciary in AJK would be the perfect example of good governance. If we continue to watch the deterioration of AJKs affairs from afar, and do not support AJKs position in this matter, it would harm the efforts of those who are striving for Pakistans Kashmir cause. The writer is a senior lawyer.