Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Things to keep in mind for upcoming protests:

Keep a wet cloth handy to cover your mouth, nose and eyes during possible tear-gassing.
Salt for your throat, under the same eventuality.
Be careful of what you discuss on the phone, telephone lines and the internet.
Make sure you leave your contact with someone responsible to check on you in case something happens.
Girls are specially advised to wear shalwaar kameez.
Do not carry expensive items with you.
Do not travel in large groups without sufficient organization because you could arouse needless scrutiny.
And of course, a pair of good running shoes.

Draft Resolution of the LUMS Community Regarding Martial Law

Draft Resolution

There is so much to condemn today that we may not begin with the unitary. We must take liberty to accept that the actions of a single individual have marred all three pillars of the state – all ‘four’ for that matter. Even, the institutions of preservation/maintaining the balance of power are now subservient to a single institution. The condemnation today, therefore, we must make in the harshest possible language – a condemnation directed towards the actions of that very single ‘dual’ institution - the President cum Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan.


We, the faculty, students and staff of the Lahore School of Management Sciences (LUMS) extend our voices in condemnation of the gross political injustices that the nation has experienced in the past few months – more so, we take liberty to condemn the ethereal blockage imposed by the executive by the declaration of a Martial Law in the country. We condemn General Musharraf for employing a ‘notorious’, uncalled for action; an unnecessary action, by revisiting the ‘doctrine of necessity’ which, perhaps, could have (in today’s climate) only be called upon for its self-removal. His referral to the ‘preservation of the union’ quotation of Abraham Lincoln in his speech to the “American friends” appears to have been employed in the wrong context for Lincoln had to preserve a union from disintegration from problems that he had himself not partaken to create.

We deny the military leaders of today both the moral ground and the legitimacy to raise again this ‘doctrine of necessity’ that must now be shunned to the echelons of earth. The LUMS community, again, make the statement that the incumbent government may not be extended the right to ‘dirty the laundry first, and, then, be let to clean it up after dismantling the machine that fulfilled the task’.

We resent and condemn the brutality dealt out to the bearers of right that have protested this illegitimate action. We express solidarity with those who find themselves in hospitals, in prisons and ‘missing’ for raising the voice of the right, including our own faculty members. A solemn request we make to the law enforcement authorities of the state: that the protests be let be…the protesters be let go…for the time today is for the nation to rise.

Our voice echoes the popular desires of the nation – the resolution of the crisis that has unveiled itself to our nation and its people – and, in attempting to echo these considerations we call upon the state to:
Lift the ‘Martial Law’ immediately
Retract the new PCO [Provisional Constitutional Order]
Restore the Judiciary to its pre-Martial Law state.
Demarcate a method to return the military to the barracks for good.
Provide the assurance of the right to life to each citizen of Pakistan
Restore legitimacy to the government by the exercise of the right of voting to the citizens
Therefore, we call for an immediate declaration of the election schedule.

We, the LUMS community, reach a collective consensus that the problems that the military run government declares as responsible for the need to declare the current state of emergency are its own pandemic. We, therefore, refuse to acknowledge any attempt by the government to employ the ‘doctrine of necessity’ and call upon the same to immediately lift the martial law as per instructions of the Supreme Court.

We must color the nation again with the green and white of our flag – and, perhaps, engrave that flag on our hearts. Time today is of highest value: we invoke and request the citizens in general and other institutions to join us in raising a collective voice.

Destiny will be made or marred in the coming days! Remember that!

LUMS Students raise their voice against Injustice

The Students of LUMS, the so-called elitist brats that we have so often been labeled and signed off as, proved their mettle today, to not only the lawyers they joined in protest outside the High Court, but also in the example that they set today when they turned up in hundreds to protest on campus, outside the PDC. Yes the very depoliticized student society that our leaders have taken for granted and grown so accustomed to, has awoken from its decades long slumber with a roar, that enough is enough. No longer are we going to be conformist to our governments policies, as if we have no choice, no longer are we going to be scared to question or raise our voice because we are intimidated by the state’s power and what may be done to us; no longer are we going to refrain from action, from sheer complacency.

And the students of LUMS set this in motion today.

The frustration and excitement was evident on campus today. People had spent a tense weekend worsened by the fact that there was a total information blackout by the government. Many spent sleepless nights calling each other for fresh news, hearing news of instructors and loved ones having been arrested, while at the same time desperately following foreign news outlets online in hope for hearing good news. Hence, the mood today was somber and everyone had a lot to experss. Word of mouth and mobile smses had established the time for a public rally at around 1.20. It didn’t take too long for a large crowd of students predominantly dressed in black to assemble outside the pdc.

The rally began with an somber address by Osama Siddique, giving an update on the status of faculty members that had been held in detention. The faculty members being Professor Ali Cheema, Aasim Sajjad and Bilal Minto. We were informed that after spending the night in detention they were being moved under heavy security surveillance to be placed under house arrest. He further explained the legal implications of the martial law, how it was not only illegal, but the state of emergency clause was only applicable under the Constitution by the President, hence in the current situation where the Constitution was illegal, not only was the martial law illegal but the legitimacy if the current government was also invalid.

Osama Siddique’s addressed was followed up by Rasul Baksh Rais, who complimented the crowd for turning up at the rally and showing everyone that they were not going to sit quietly while the situation deteriorated in the country. He told us this was in fact an opportunity for us to take the destiny of the country in our own hands, that we are luckier than the earlier generation because of globalization and easy access to the media. Yet he warned us that in the current situation we faced a tougher battle than the students had in his times. He said the current situation was reminiscent of Ayubs era of crackdown on political parties and students, because this was a desperate government on its last leg of power and would not stop at anything to cling on to what by whatever means.

After a brief assurance and encouragement by Justice Jawad Khwaja along the same lines as the earlier speakers, students who had gone to the High Court to protest were given a heroes welcome by the LUMS Community. These students spoke about how this fight was not simply against one dictator, by an entire system of our individual rights being compromised, and how we need to organize and fight NOW.

With the students all charged up and emotional after the speeches, the rally began. People raised slogans against Musharraf and martial law, and demanded restoration of democracy. High pitched slogans of “Go Musharraf Go!” “ Nahi Chelagi Nahi Chelegai!” filled the air, there was an estimated 600-strong crowd plus faculty members who had turned up in support. The crowd marched around the academic block a number of times, an unprecedented occurrence in the history of this university.

We shall always remember these days, people. Let it be for the right reasons.

An Eyewitness account of the Execution of Martial Law

Protest at the LHC, Nov 5th, 2007
A group of 35 students from LUMS, along with two faculty members, went to attend the protest staged at the Lahore High Court against the imposition of martial law, the detention of over 500 (and counting) lawyers and activists around the country since Saturday, and the taking of oath by certain judges under the new PCO.

Arriving at the LHC around 8 AM, we were let in without much fuss, despite the hundreds of police personnel deployed outside. It was evident, however, that the gathering was not going to be allowed to be peaceful. Going into the Central Courtyard, the first thing that struck us was the legal fraternity’s reaction to our arrival. Some of them simply couldn’t comprehend the fact that students had showed up for the cause, that people besides them were waking up. All were extremely appreciative of our effort, even as they warned us of the risks we would definitely face. Joining us among the student community, were a few students from Punjab University and 4 uniformed teenage boys from Beaconhouse. It was their presence in particular that was indeed heartening to witness.

The protest began peacefully enough, even if the atmosphere was charged right from the onset. The lawyers vociferously screamed their opposition to Martial law in no uncertain terms. Raising slogans of ‘Go Musharraf Go’ and ‘Musharraf Kutta, Haye Haye’, as well as infuriated slogans against the judges taking oath under the PCO, the build-up was tense and vigorous. Prominent figures from the legal community stepped forward to give incendiary, passionate speeches about the need to act, the need to resist. Aitzaz Ahsan and the Real CJ, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, were lauded as the heroes of the day.

As the crowd slowly built up, everything became more worked up, us alongside it. As the massive swell of lawyers, with the tiny group of students cocooned in between, moved towards the gates of the High Court, they found they were barricaded, with a colossal army of police personnel behind them. After a brief verbal tussle between the police and lawyers, in which it was made clear that they would not be allowed to go onto the street, all hell broke loose.

The Riot Police stormed into the High Court in full force, complete with their batons, helmets, shields and protective vests. They set upon the crowd of hapless, unarmed lawyers with a rabid ferocity that seemed to consume them entirely. Lawyers were indiscriminately beaten to a series of pulps; I saw the head of one of the lawyers being split open by the baton-wielding maniacs in front of my own eyes. The lawyers were forced to retreat, causing a stampede of sorts

Luckily, we were behind the frontlines of the assembly when the attack began and did not have to suffer its full brunt. However, the next few moments were unbelievably chaotic; tear gas was fired inside the High Court from all angles, making it difficult to see, breathe and speak. Gunshots could be heard in the uncomfortably-close distance, in all probability, to intimidate all present into quiet subservience. We searched frantically for members of the LUMS contingent, who had scattered in the wake of the attack and the subsequent stampede. Hell’s fury had indeed been unleashed.

After we had gathered together whoever we could find, we were ushered into a hallway adjacent to the Courtyard by lawyers who had been assigned to guarantee our safety. From there, we watched as scores of policemen stormed the High Court from every direction and thrashed everyone in sight, arresting people as they went along. As around 40 of us, including many women, lay cramped together in a small room, the realization set in that we would be next. A realization that ‘everyone’ there accepted, without fear or panic. I applaud here, especially, the 10 or so freshman (011’s who were

Eventually, after eons, it seemed, the police broke into the hallway and demanded that we come out, albeit with our hands raised. Even as our faculty members and lawyers implored them to spare the students, the police personnel wantonly manhandled us, like abject criminals, along with our esteemed faculty members. We were certain we were about to be detained as we were paraded, in line, towards the main gate of the High Court, where the various deportation vans awaited. The media, most of them shell-shocked at the revelation that there were students, and that too, from LUMS, at the protest, began bombarding us with questions regarding who we were and why we were there. Our instructors replied to that with a simple but effective ‘for the safeguarding of the institution that protects our rights’.

Even as the uncertainty regarding our detention (the apparently planned destination being Mianwali) compounded, we were made to stand inside a bevy of police escorts while we awaited our fate. Eventually, in the midst of the media’s pronounced clamouring regarding our identity, a senior officer, either an SP or SSP (who had earlier issued the Mianwali threat) came to speak with us, informing us that ‘he was going to be “nice” to us and let us go.’ We were told to form a line, be responsible for each other’s safety and leave the area under police escort.

I am not writing to needlessly glorify those who went. I am writing to inform everyone, all of you, about what the actual implications of a Martial Law are. Witnessing this situation first hand was an eye-opener. Because, simply, this is happening over the entire country now, to countless lawyers, activists, politicians, as we speak. As it has been happening in Balochistan and Waziristan for years. As it will continue to happen over the course of the next few weeks. All of us need to feel each other’s pain.

Organize effectively, collaboratively and substantively.

In complete unity.