Monday, November 5, 2007

Guide to Understanding a State of Emergency (Pakistan)

What is a state of emergency?

State of emergency is invoked under Article: 232, Proclamation of emergency on account of war, internal disturbance, etc, where the President satisfied that the country faces grave threat to its security by war, external aggression or internal disturbance may issue a Proclamation of Emergency.

In a state of emergency all the assemblies National and Provincial are dissolved, and a few constitutional articles pertaining to fundamental rights are suspended in the interests of the country.

How is this not a state of emergency?

Well, for starters, the entire constitution has been put in abeyance (read suspended). This is more synonymous to a martial law, which is not provided for in the Constitution and is in fact a serious violation of Article 6 of the Constitution which makes any person who “subverts or attempts or conspires to subvert the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by other unconstitutional means guilty of high treason”.

Secondly this state of emergency was not endorsed by the Supreme Court, and was in fact declared illegal by an 8-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who along with 7 other judges, were promptly arrested and new favourable Judges were sworn under the PCO.

This martial law in a nutshell is a very crude attempt at stifling the judiciary and restraining the judiciary, eliminating all elements that pose any sort of threat to Musharraf. This is nothing but an attempt to continue a fledgling government unconstitutional well knowing that the current government was to lose in the upcoming elections, judiciary was likely to rule against the executive. This is a desperate attempt by one man to hold on to whatever remains in Pakistan

But isn’t all this necessary with suicide bombings, attacks on army personnel and break down of law and order over the country isn’t this a necessary step?

Not, for one, if you realize that whatever chaos has been created in the country is a result of a President Musharraf’s policy backfiring. While the army under the constitution is suppose to stay out of politics and banned from taking extra constitutional steps, any step towards emergency has to be first validated by the Supreme Court before being invoked. Here the President has not only gone ahead without Supreme Court validation, but what he calls state of emergency is in fact a martial law, he has not only arrested 8 Supreme Court Judges but has suspended the Constitution without dissolving Assemblies, instead senselessly basing his reasons for doing so to interference by the judiciary in state decisions.

But I don’t get it, if this is a state of emergency or even a martial law, how the hell are the Assemblies still functioning with the Prime Minister intact?

Neither do we get it. This is a new form of state of emergency plus martial law cocktail that President Musharraf has stirred, where despite the Constitution (which essential gives powers to everyone from the National Assembly and PM to the Chief of Armed Services) being suspended, we still technically have running Assemblies and a PM. The meager extent of their powers, however, is no secret.

So what has basically changed?

Basically everything that effects us and nothing that effects the executive. You see, under the “new” kind of emergency cum martial law, its only the judiciary that has been targeted, with a change of guards , where new favorable judges have taken a new oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order, with the rest of those not in the invitation out on dole.

And then theres the PEMRA bill, consisting of two ordinances, one targeting electronic media and the other, print media, have been issued, under which all private news channels have been taken off air, and will face strict new guidelines if they ever do go on air.

So basically you are stuck with PTV and its advertisement reruns of Pervaiz Elahi’s “Khushaal Pakistan”

Umm, is there anything I should be worried about?

Yes lots. Where should we start..

For one, with the Constitution suspended, so are all our rights, that are: Freedom of speech, equality of citizens, movement, assembly, association, trade, business or profession.

The new PCO goes further to state that no judgment, decree, writ, order or process whatsoever shall be made or issued by any court or tribunal against the Chief Executive or any authority designated by the Chief Executive.

The PEMRA bill enforced will be like a total blackout for all news channels and print media unless they comply with its regulation. There will be a systematic breakdown and check on news coming into our drawing room, with control on access to coverage by foreign media, work of journalists and anchor persons, as well as how the government is represented in these broadcasts. The state will dictate what, how, where and when the media covers a news issue. This is a great way for the government to prevent people of being aware of the situation in the country and hence protests that pose a challenge to its authority.

So what does this mean for you guys?

Well for starters you have been derived of habeaus corpus writ petition rights, fancy terms which imply protection from unlawful detention and the right of the court to issue writs, that are basically a command for an order of the court to be carried out.

This basically means you can be arrested and held in detention without specific charges or courts order. This means that if you protest against the government, or participate in a union or a political party you are essentially committing a crime against the state. The state by suspending freedom of movement controls where and how you move.

When is all this ending?

No specific date has been announced as to when this will end.

How can the Chief Executive get away with all this? Isn’t there any legal remedy for challenging his actions?

You cant even challenge the government in court, because the PCO bans the court from issuing any writs or decisions against the favor of the Chief Executive. Yes this is the very PCO under which some judges have taken oath.

You can’t even get a lawyer because all those lawyers perceived to be hostile to the Chief Executive have been arrested. There is a systematic crackdown on Human rights advocates in the country, with Asma Jehangir having being arrested.

Any Ordinances, Orders, Rules, Bye-laws, Regulation, Notifications and other legal instruments issues by the Chief Executive shall be implemented indisputeably. The Chief Executive has become the law creating organ in himself infact.. So essentially the system of checks and balances has been dissolved, leaving almost all the actions of the state unchecked

Where do I come in?

You, as a student, have more of a stake in this than you realize. And there is more you can do than you realize. As these words are written down, students in this university and around the country are organizing themselves for protest. Students have brought down a dictatorship in this country before; there is no reason to suppose we cannot do it again.

Your role in this can be according to your own desires and constraints. The important thing is the expression of dissent, making clear your disapproval to those that matter. Silent, cynical indignation should NOT be the order of the day.

Keep your eyes and ears out for any protests, sit-ins, demonstrations, talks being held in your vicinity. Some of them will harbor security risks, but those are risks that will have to be undertaken In the meantime, write about what you feel, on online journals, to newspapers, to publications; let your voice be heard. Establish contacts with people from other universities, schools and colleges, i.e., the larger student body around our alma mater. Let it not be written down in the annals of history that we were a nation that stood by while the country spiraled down the steady course of ruin. And there is no doubt that that is indeed where we are headed.


Fasi Zaka said...

Good work guys. You do us all proud.

Majid Mahmood said...

another bad newz
GEO is to Shut Down