Thursday, November 15, 2007

Student Mobilization Against The Emergency

Students are often the vanguard of social movements that seek to overthrow repressive and authoritarian regimes. In the current crisis in Pakistan—the imposition of Emergency rule (read Martial Law) by General Pervez Musharraf—students across a number of campuses have awakened, organized, rallied, and have made their opposition felt.. Although a nascent movement, the students’ systematic and consistent efforts and the level of domestic and international press coverage they have received have made both the military junta and other mainstream opposition parties sit up and take note.

The mainstay of the student political activity has been at a number of private universities located in Lahore and Islamabad. At the forefront has been Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), the premiere business and social science institution in the country. Other centers have been FAST-National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Beaconhouse National University, Islamia College and Hamdard University. Student political activity has also been mobilized in a number of public sector universities including Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad, Punjab University and the Government Science College. Most of the political activity has been campus based and has consisted of rallies denouncing Emergency rule and demanding the restoration of the constitution and pre-November 3rd status quo vis-à-vis the judiciary. Rallies have been accompanied by speeches of student, faculty and key activists; resounding singsongs; sit-ins; hunger strikes; as well as the establishment of an underground paper, The Emergency Times ( Students have come out in support of lawyers and journalists and have joined independent rallies held by these groups. Most spectacular, and perhaps not unexpectedly in this media and technological savvy age, has been the international coverage these student protests have received. A combination of YouTube, e-news, digital cameras and the internet have allowed the news of student activities to gain international attention (coverage in CNN, ABC, New York Times etc.) despite all attempts by the government to clamp down.

These student protests have hit the political nerve of the establishment. Political activities on campuses have been non-existent since the early 1980s, when the last military dictator who ruled Pakistan, Zia-ul-Haq clamped down on campuses. Nothing compares to the student mobilization during the General Ayub’s period in the 1960s when the movement contributed directly to the downfall of that military regime. A lot is made of who these students are and what they represent. The fact is that the core of these protests is happening at private universities which are attended by the upper middle and middle class of Pakistan. Students at these institutions are linked with the establishment and other elements of the elite. What does this mobilization indicate? Is this a generational rebellion against authoritarian figures or a more fundamental reflection of the malaise that permeates among this group regarding the current political status quo? As a Dawn editorial on the 11/11/2007 noted these “Poster-children of Pervez Musharraf’s enlightened moderation…were least expected to speak up against his policies”. Interestingly, the students are not fighting General Musharraf’s policies per se. Leading up the Emergency, there has been little if any debate among students on the war on terror, the policy in Baluchistan or the detention of individuals by security agencies. What has mobilized the students is the dismantling of the basic institutions of the state.

Yet these are the very young people who have most benefited from the rapid consumerism and the leniency of cultural norms that have blossomed under the Musharraf era. The opportunities to rebel against authoritarian structures are constant, and the judicial activism earlier this year provided an impetus which few students took up. The current protests suggest that this time Pervez Musharraf has gone too far and these protests reflect a genuine anger at his political manipulations and the establishment of the Emergency.

Projections in the international media of young men and women dressed in western clothes marching together and carrying banners have had another affect on international perceptions. In effect, it has allowed the middle and upper middle classes to claim back space from the images that otherwise permeate the international media of the “Talibization” of Pakistan-- the bearded mullahs and the habitually covered women who walk ten steps behind and have no voice of any kind. It suggests that there are other political actors who are in the Pakistani mainstream—young men and women who are articulate, passionate and concerned about the de-institutionalization of their political and economic institutions and are willing to stand up to the systematic usurpation of political and economic power by the military. Moreover, at a time when human right activists, lawyers, educators and other members of civil society actors are being rounded up and arrested, the burgeoning student movement gives hope that this group can form the bulwark of the opposition against the Musharraf regime.

How viable is this? It is too early to tell. Only nine days have passed since the Emergency was declared and within that time these students have managed to achieve a phenomenal amount, specially if you consider the non-existent political organization on these campuses prior too 3/11/2007. Students have kept to a limited remit, protesting on campuses, in order to ensure that they are around to protest another day. Rules that limited the state’s access to private campuses prior to the Emergency no longer apply under the police state that currently exists. There is little guarantee that the violence extended to other opposition members of civil society will not be vented on these students within their own campuses. There are issues of organizational structure and sustainability. Should protesting students, who for the most part have been non-political, align themselves to existing mainstream parties to take advantage of their organizational depth and experience? Should these students take positions regarding the existing opposition parties? How strong is their organizational capacity to sustain long-term protest? Is there a need for a supra-student structure to manage this country-wide protest? These issues are only beginning to challenge these inexperienced political protesters and decisions on these issues will determine their long term viability and their ability to sustain opposition. For now, those who watch salute their actions and have faith that the best of this country’s human capital will meet these challenges with intelligence, sound strategy and bravery to ensure a sustained assault again the Emergency.


Anonymous said...

please for god sake leave musharraf alone. he is doing good , u dont knw wht benazir is doing ? she is a theif. she took alot of money from pakistan and build 5 homes in and outside pakistan. nawaz sharif took money from india to bring our brave soldiers back from kargil, when their presd called in. and when Musharraf got to know about it, nawaz try to kill him, fire him from him job, then he took over Islamabad to stop this non-sense. that hypocrits.only for uniform people are creating mess. you guys dont how much he did & made for pakistan in 5-6 years. & INSHALLAH if he continues he will make PAkistan a jannat. people have to have patience. and about media they are typing, showing stuff with more masala added to it.thats why he closed the channels. he gave independece to media by himself. if nawaz or benazir would be there in this situation they would kill all journalist.. it used to happen like this 7-8 years ago. bhutto used to kill journalist for typing or showing bad(against)news about them. thank god what he did is good. if he wouldn't support America for fight against terrorism, usa would come in by them self in pakistan without capture taliban. they would all mess, tht you can't imagine it.

Anonymous said...

We all agreed what you said in your comment........but wrong
We all supported Musharif in his first arrival.We thought he is a dictator and he looks promising for the good of Pakistan.But after 4 years of his first term result came up zero...OOOOOOOO
He promised he will take all the extra facilities provided to all the army officials...he never did he extended.
NAB...was his own generals.Where he showed dishonesty to Pakistan.
How come he lets the corrupt people put on deal or no deal.They all deserve to go behind the bars and their all property must be confiscated.He shared collected money with NAB/govt/Musharif/corrupt people.
3.He took $ 11billions from USA.
He betrayed them he is liar.
4.He sold Pakistani industries out of Pakistan to their favorit bidders those offered Chudry the corrupt family on earth commissioned in connection.
5.He collected money from world wide on the name of terror.
6.He leased expensive lands of Pakistanies to his friend for pennies.
7.He increased the line of ministers in a poor country like Pakistan and honored them expensive cars from Pakistanies blood.
8.He was never honest on war of terrorists.He beeb making fool to all the world.
9.Their own people plotted bomb blast to kill Benazir..trying to show Bush how bad situation is in Pakistan.So that he could get sympathies from Bush and keep continuing his basterdness.
10.He never closed none of Madrisa
11.Why he never imposed sate of emergency on Afghan border line.
11.Because he doesn't want to crush Al-Quida/Tallibans.
12.He even did buy bullet proof jackets for Rangers/army soldies or police.
Work done by him
Zero..He could not give fund to complete motorway to Peshawer...left over Nawaz Sharif.
No power plant/no road/no drinking water/people have to stay in hours to wait for train to come n go..he never order to build bypass/overhead bridge.
He imposed 15% sales tax..highest in the world...for their own enjoyment.
Army officials after retirement gets another high grade jobs and receive salaries + pansions country allow this.
People are living in the heat of 120 degree having no electricity to run their fans.
He love to send bastard Jamali ex PM to take whole PIA plane hor Umra with his friends and relatives...on govt expenses.
You said leave him alone...
He is bribing Mullah FazaluRehman and some others to keep his ass on chair.
We request American's to bring him in usa and ask him what he did to American tax payer money.
We pray for him curse..he is evil
like all Pakistan
Parvez Jadoon Ca USA

Musa Ahmed Khan (Khi) said...

Mr anonymous ..... think about it ..... the state of pakistan is a federation which is made up of 4 major states ..... punjab, balouchistan, NWFP and sindh ..... have u seen the people of all these 4 provinces .... they are completely different... they have differnt cultures, food, lifestyle, language and they even look different and live on defferent terrains.... so how du u think we can keep this country intact considering the differences in cultures, ideas and interest and and current political turmoil. The only solution is concensus. And this concensus was achieved in 1973 when we drafted the constitution which was a NATIONAL CONCENSUS DOCUMENT. Since 1973 we have been ruled by ruthless military dictators who have destroyed this document and have trampled on it by imposing martial laws and emergencies. Now if u look at musharraf (loafer), during his rule there has been economic progress .... BUT .... this economic progress happened by CHANCE (september 11) and is CONDITIONAL (our support for war on terror). Since musharraf came, we have literally become a vassal state which kills and deports its own citizens for others.... !! as far as people like me are concerned .... since musharraf came to power there has been an increase in the development, new hotels, shopping malls, ecreational areas have sprung up ...... increase in car imports and development in telecommunication and media ... im more well off than i was before musharraf ...... so .. as far as im concerned ... his rule benefits me and so i shud support him ........ but my friends ...we have to think BIG.... and see wats good for the COUNTRY .... our country is in tatters and the only think that can save it is DEMOCRACY ....... NOT THE FACADE THAT MUSHARRAF CALLS DEMOCRACY. BUT REAL DEMOCRACY WHERE THE ARMY GOES BACK TO ITS BARRACKS .... where the people elect their representatives thru a free, fair and transparent election so the results are acceptable to all ..... the representatives in parliament make laws in the light of our constitution and where the judiciary acts as the watchdog of the constitution .... !! each pillar of state doing their own job .. THIS MY FRIENDS IS THE ONLY SOULTION TO PAKISTANS PROBLEMS AND THE SOLUTION TO MANY OF THE PROBLEMS WE PERSONALLY FACE TODAY (electricity, inflation, poverty, crime, curroption etc).... We all agree to the solution but we shud also agree that dictatorship is the PROBLEM ... AND WE NEED TO GET RID OF IT....No one man can rule this country by force ... especially this fragile and unnatural state which will break if this ********* stays in power ..... make ureself heard ....think BIG my friends and meet up with like minded people to discuss this problem and think about how you can be a part of this struggle ..... LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN !!!

Anonymous said...

The whole world is against one person and this world comprises of hypocrites, usurpers, liars and opportunists who have no scruples when it comes to gain power, money and name at the expence of the poor. What have these so called leaders given Pakistan in the past? Zero. Mr Nawaz Sharif settled in Saudi Arabia under an agreement and earned millions there. Look at his palacial estate in Punjab.I've myself seen BB's huge Surrey palace even if from outside. Mr ten percent tried to smuggle valuable statues and other historical monuments out of the country. All that has been forgiven and forgotten by the public. How can our people be so naive? Oh come on this is the 21st century, open your eyes.
Some mistakes have been made but isn't this one man human? Give him a chance to rectify them. Look at the media they have their limits. I've watched the talk shows of one particular channel. Anyone can observe that the TV anchors are partial and often very rude. Even the newscasters express their animosity in their own way. What do the black bands show? Its not only against the blockade, its against the govt.
Were they not curbed during these two persons' rule? On occasions hell was broken loose on them. But they do not remember or don't wish to. Analyse the situation and criticize itellectually.
Living abroad I wish the best for Pakistan and appeal to the nation to learn lessons from the past. Do not be misguided by others. Pakistan Zindabad.

Anonymous said...

Standing up against Musharraf does not mean people are supporting the likes of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. When will our people understand this? This fight is against the military establishemnt, feudals (a bulk of our politicians), beaurocrats, all those that have ruined this country's institutions. You'd rather fight against this system now or let your children one day grow in a country where there is one man's rule and no institution that can protect you from his wrath? Wake up now. Enough with this ignorance!

Looking for Ritzy Red Ghararas said...

Nobody in Pakistan forgave what Benazir and MR. 10 percent stole EXCEPT.....wait for it......General Pervez Musharraf, the great man, himself! Ta DA!

Well, if we know nawaz sharif and BB are the scum of the earth and kleptomaniacs, etc etc, then why amend the constitution to give them a third term. DON't!!! Don't vote for them and don't amend constitutions either. Choose someone else. Aitizaz Ahsan could be a strong contender for PPP. and I am sure there are others in PML -N. and of course Imran Khan as we know is a good contender too. If you didnt like previous corruption then don't vote for corruption - do not choose these people again.

As for whether you have the right to choose - thats the fight we need to continue fighting.

STOP BEING NAIVE! this world is not musharraf vs. BB no matter what the US media wants you and I to believe. This is about wanting accountable governments (which the army can never be) and having laws, courts and non-toady judges to protect our fundamental rights.

Grow up and read some local newspapers and so you can develop your own political voice - not the US one.

Looking for Ritzy Red Ghararas said...

I see that army supporters/agents are catching up to the blogging world - I've never seen so much support for the army or for bringing peace in Pakistan via army in any post before.

The army should have no role in politics as a principle - because as most principles go, there is a certain wisdom behind it. Armies are trained to fight not trained to bring political solutions. In a country with diverse factions and groupings as Pakistan, we need political solutions, dialogue and inclusion of all stakeholders (among the people) instead of siding with a few and alienating others. Historically, economically and politically - the army is a class of its own with its own SPECIAL ECONOMIC INTERESTS. It does'nt get into power to fix the nation - it gets in to protect its investments. It doesn't need to introduce dialogue or redistribute wealth - they have NO INCENTIVE for that. But they have incentives (in the form of industries) to create more capital and wealth for themselves.

so is it a secret that in every military regime - be it Ayub, Zia or Musharraf - inflation has skyrocketed and the middle and lower class has been reduced to eating 1-2 square meals a day? All three military regimes have provided with 7 percent growth rates for pakistan - highest in history. BUT GUESS WHAT? That growth is only for rich people - they get richer. It does not get spent on the common man in health and education. The gaps between rich and poor have always increased in military regime.

Military govts remove law from society - not restore it. They subvert the law. THEY HAVE TO. Otherwise they would be treated equally as other normal citizens. They cannot have that. They are too rich and too 'special' in their minds. No checks and balances please, the army knows best!