Monday, November 5, 2007

Musharraf’s Address: A declaration by the weakest president in history

History bestowed Pakistan with some of the most inefficient and corrupt heads of state, but when it was not enough, we finally got the weakest president as well. During the eight years of power, Musharraf engulfed the state in great disasters of suicide bombings, Lal Masjids, missing people and literally converting Pakistan into nightmare even for Iraqis. But a disaster started for him too since the 9th March reaching its down climax yesterday.

After imposing the state of emergency in Pakistan, suspending the constitution, appointing a new Chief Justice and making all electronic media go off-air; Musharraf addressed the nation live from PTV. This address was nothing more than a shameless and desperate attempt to justify yet another coup on rights of us-the citizens of Pakistan.

In the very start of his address, he points out “Pakistan has to take some important but painful decision otherwise the solidarity of the country will be endangered. I have made the decisions under the principle of Pakistan First”, without realizing that it were his own decisions that created the circumstances. If Pakistan came first he should have left the power politics long ago.
According to him the reason behind lack of constructive efforts even after several decisions by Supreme Court was that the “senior office-bearers are going to the Supreme Court and they are being insulted; so, they are reluctant to take any action”. He should realize that they were usually the same office holders against whom the decisions were taken by the Supreme Court.

Yet another time, he took the opportunity to take the credit of empowering media by allowing loads of TV channels to operate and broadcast whatever they want. The President said “it was he and the present government that gave freedom to media as there was only PTV in 1999”. As for now, all the independence of the media has been curbed and only PTV again shall be standing and telecasting the State Sponsored Truth.

One of the saddest moment for citizens of any state is to see there president plead and request on State television. When the shames he already brought us were not enough, Musharraf addressed his friends in “the West, U.S. European Union and Commonwealth” and plainly begged them to “understand the situation”, asking for more time for his three-stage-move-to-democracy to work. Just a minute, who is this democracy for? What people are affected by the impacts of dictatorship more? The Congressmen in Washington or the millions in Pakistan! And shamefully our President and Chief of Army asks for “more time” from his true bosses.

Twice in 8 years has Musharraf held the nation in jeopardy (having done that several times in between as well) for securing power and control. It is not power that corrupts but fear- fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and power of scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. And we are subjects of Musharraf’s power this time. There are going to be actions of suppression of voice, action and behavior, but stopping because of them is just going to fulfill the purpose for Musharraf.

Imran Khan at LUMS

Imran Khan came to LUMS today, the 3rd of November, in the backdrop of the most disconcerting political turmoil the country has seen for decades. Amidst speculation of the imposition of emergency in the country by the state, Imran was here to speak about the role of the youth in the country’s political future. Perhaps he could not have come at a more apt moment in history.

Arriving at the overflowing PICIC Auditorium to thunderous applause, Imran was quick to arrive at the gist of what he had to say; he assertively declared that this was a defining moment in Pakistan’s history and at the crux of it all, was a General who was determined to stay in power. He said this was a critical time for the youth especially, as it was their future at stake and that they could garner this as a great opportunity to bring about substantive change.

He proceeded by outlining his assessment of the crises that Pakistan faces right now. The first, he identified as the unification of militant forces in the wake of the United States’ War on Terror. The root cause of this, he said, was the role the Pakistani state had played in the post 9-11 destruction of Afghanistan. He stressed that it was important to assess the current turmoil in the light of history, as, without such an approach, there could be no lasting solution. Military solutions in the War on terror, Imran said, were useless, as ‘once the people living among the terrorists start perceiving them to be freedom fighters in the face of oppression, then the war is lost.’

He spoke about how the aerial bombardment of villages on the Pak-Afghan border had fuelled the radicalization in the region, sparking rebellions by the tribal youth against elders who had negotiated with the Pakistani military.

The Lal Masjid movement, in his view, was part of an entirely different phenomenon. He classified it as a fundamentalist reactionary movement against the socio-cultural manifestation of Musharraf’s ‘enlightened moderation’. His underlying message about such movements, however, was clear. ‘If Musharraf stays in power for another five years, this problem is going to grow immensely.’

The second crisis Imran underlined was the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. He said that Pakistan’s was a state that catered to a small elite, with the vast majority of the masses deprived of the basic necessities of life. The educational system, according to Imran, facilitated this disparity and deprivation. Said the PTI leader, ‘There was a time when our government schools produced the preeminent intellectuals of Pakistan. Now, the educational system doesn’t allow such people to emerge.’ The current system, he said, was a remnant of our colonial heritage, which fostered a sense of inherent civilizational inferiority among the masses. He spoke of the need to replace such a discriminatory system with one that was universal and accessible to all.

Amidst rumors regarding the imminent emergency being whispered throughout the auditorium, Imran went on to speak about the unfair economic system under the present state structure. Pakistan, he said, was a country in which the ‘poor subsidized the rich’, where 90% of the taxes paid were indirect, with inordinate tax evasion by the industrial and financial elite. The removal of agricultural subsidies on the directives of the IMF, the inability of poor farmers to get credit, and the non-payment of taxes on capital gains (numbering billions on the stock market alone), all contribute, among other injustices, to this parasitical structure. All in a state where ‘500,000 children die every year from drinking contaminated water’. The problems he outlined were undoubtedly grim.

Imran then outlined his methodology of solving this myriad of crises. He held that Pakistan needs a state with a wholly independent judicial system to maintain a check on the ‘growing class of criminals coming into politics’ and ensuring accountability of the legislative and executive branches. There is a need for an ‘educational emergency’ in the country, with the direction of resources away from arms into a universal, non-discriminatory educational system, he said. Further, he outlined the need for an ‘employment emergency’, one that created new opportunities in deprived urban and rural areas.

The final part of the solution, said Imran, was to pull soldiers back from the Northern Areas, and search for a political answer, in the realization that ‘there is no military solution in the War on Terror’. ‘People do not realize how many women and children, how many Pakistani soldiers and civilians have died in this War. As long as NATO stays in Afghanistan, it will be impossible to stop infiltration. Ultimately, there will be a rebellion within the Army’s ranks….and Pakistan will become another Algeria.’

Around the time Imran wound up his talk, word had reached the auditorium about the imposition of emergency. In the thick of the alarming uncertainty, a senior professor from the LUMS Law department stepped forward to announce that this was indeed Martial Law, that the constitution had been suspended, a Provisional Constitutional Order promulgated and the Chief Justice sacked. The resounding jeers of the crowd made apparent their visible displeasure at the decision. Imran was quick to give a call to action, declaring that the time had arrived for ‘everyone’ to get active, especially the students. ‘Students have not played any part in this democratic movement yet; this must change, for it is your future that is at stake.’ The crowd’s response at this point was overwhelming, with the large majority of the audience vociferously expressing their support for Imran’s cause. An occurrence of such a nature, one should note, has never taken place in the annals of LUMS’s highly de-politicized history.

As senior party leaders informed Imran that arrests warrants had been issued against him, he ended his talk with an impassioned enjoinder to the now highly animated crowd, ‘Societies are changed, not by pragmatists, but by idealists. Aim high, do not be scared of failure and never compromise on your vision.’

A short while after he left, Imran was placed under house arrest by the military.

Whether or not you like the man, or agree with his views and solutions, the matters he brought up were definitely worthy of contemplation. Even as cynics pointed out his political ineptitude, his aristocratic upbringing, his lack of an organic link with the masses, the issues he was talking about were altogether too real to be relegated to the vault of erratic political banter. And one could not help but wonder, in the face of martial law, whether it was time to shed all political cynicism, all self-serving facades of indifference and above all, all the ideological dissimilarities that we Pakistanis are plagued with, in the fight to save this country.

For there can be no doubt, that this is a country in dire need of a rescue by its people right now.

As we hover precariously in the uncertain realm between martial law, emergency and civil agitation, one can only hope that it is not too late.

May Allah save us all. Amen

The Bitter Truth

Lo and behold! The extra-constitutional option of imposition of emergency, which has been so lovingly advocated by the infamous Chaudhrys of Gujrat and the rest of President Musharraf’s opportunistic sycophants for months, has finally been implemented. It seems that for once, our general had the guts to bypass his American orders; that however remains the solitary consolation of yesterday’s blatantly illegal action. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has been deposed, media channels have been taken off the air and some weird sort of emergency-cum-martial law has been imposed, ironically with the imbecile parliament still in place. LUMS faculty members have been arrested, and there has been a general clampdown on any kind of opposition, be it political workers or human rights activists; as always, the military’s bravado remains restricted to its own people with the terrorists in the NWFP, who have been disrupting the lives of innocent civilians, still roaming free.

The emergency, or whatever one cares to call it, is not so much shocking as it is disheartening. With a near-free media in place, a reinvigorated judiciary, parliament, however useless, looking to complete its five years in dignity and a peaceful transfer of power on the cards, it seemed that Pakistan was finally on the road to democracy. After yesterday, Pakistan is back in the era of darkness; make no mistake about it. General Pervez Musharraf has proved himself to be unlike no other previous dictator, too unwilling to relinquish power, too arrogant to admit his mistakes and ultimately too stupid to avoid a disgraceful exit.

What good can this do for him, let alone Pakistan? In LUMS, where only a few weeks back an LPS survey found a respectable 42 % to be in favour of continuation of his rule, Musharraf has reached rock-bottom. Why couldn’t Musharraf be man enough to accept the upcoming SC judgment and let free and fair elections actually take place for once in this unfortunate country’s blighted history? He would have set an unprecedented example of tolerance, left a legacy of sincere governance and achieved an exalted position in history, but no he chose raw power and in doing so, inflicted incalculable damage to the country in his desperate bid to remain in power, which will eventually prove to be fruitless. That at least is indisputable. It is high time for Musharraf to finally do some soul-searching and listen to the voice of reason, if any still prevails in the Aiwan-i-Sadr. In his very unconvincing address to the nation on Saturday night, he claimed that the interest of Pakistan would continue to be his ‘guiding principle’. He has one last chance to prove that true; otherwise he only needs to go back in memory lane to 1969 to know his fate. This is a bitter truth he must acknowledge.

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.

The Beginning

This blog has been created by a group of students in response to the Martial Law that has been imposed in Pakistan. It is intended to provide an outlet for people to express their views, being one of their fundamental human rights (which no longer exist under Martial Law). If you are someone living abroad, we would like to implore you to understand that it is NOT a "state of emergency" as the foreign press has been portraying it, but real and actual martial law in the truest sense of the word. We are at the most crucial crossroads in the history of this country, with inaction and destruction on one side and a concerted struggle to rescue the country on the other. We have to realize that behind the multitude of crises that this country is beset with, is a General who will go to any lengths to maintain his stranglehold on power. Our Head of State has unconstitutionally, illegally deprived every Pakistani of every single one of his fundamental rights. We are witnessing the wanton, unashamed unleashing of security and armed forces on all conscious members of civil society. We are being denied access to information, media and are not allowed to criticize ANYTHING the government does. The situation has reached a state where we cannot remain quiet and docile any longer. The country stands at the brink of destruction and we must act. And we are and will.

This is not an ordinary blog or a personal rant of a frustrated inidividual. This is a small part of the resistance efforts that will herald the dawn of a new era, wherein the people of Pakistan will have awoken from their decades long slumber with a roar to challenge this martial law, until we see the end of this government and the holding of free and fair elections. We are now going to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers from Ayubs era, to fight the just fight, whether it be at the risk of personal injury, torture, unending oppression or anything else they can do to us under the Martial Law.

If you want to contribute, write, say ANYthing at all about the situation, send it to We will be working day and night to get your views across. We are circulating this blog in pamphlet form across Pakistani universities, schools and colleges. We will NOT be silenced.