The following is a message from highly qualified and conscientious academics. We greatly appreciate their expertise and are certain to benefit from their expert analysis. This should help us gain the necessary intellectual perspectives to carry on the battle effectively. To make a difference we must use not only our hearts but also our heads. In complete unity. As always.
We have started a blog: Academics for Freedom (academicsforfreedom.blogspot.com) about the recent crisis of the Pakistani state that we hope will come to life, and find direction, through your comments and analysis. We are confident that it will become a space for engaged political debate that informs and is informed by members of the global citizenry. Our hope is that is will inform and shape political agency in Pakistan. We invite you to contribute to the blog. Please email contributions to:
We are a group of Pakistani academics, educationists and members of civil society. In the present situation and given the actions of the state against us it is not possible for us to reveal our identities. Please circulate this message widely.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The following is a message from highly qualified and conscientious academics. We greatly appreciate their expertise and are certain to benefit from their expert analysis. This should help us gain the necessary intellectual perspectives to carry on the battle effectively. To make a difference we must use not only our hearts but also our heads. In complete unity. As always.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 8:12 PM
Another student organized protest took place in Islamabad today at 4:30 p.m. Over a hundred students and civil society members collected at Redco ground and attempted to march through the ‘red zone’ leading to the Judges’ residence. Every protester carried a flower; this not only indicated the peaceful nature of the protest but was also a symbol of appreciation and respect for all those members of judiciary who refused to validate the PCO. The police interrupted the march and eventually an agreement was reached – the protesters would not go beyond 500 meters or into the red zone. As a result all flowers were collected under a tree and many demonstrators went ahead to attend a candlelight vigil in front of Geo News’s office
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 8:10 PM
Pakistan, labeled the most dangerous country in the world, with loose nukes and angry jihadis, is unraveling. It needs help. To be helped it needs to be understood. Urging a transition to “true democracy,” after the fourth military dictator has suspended the constitution for the second time and sacked a judiciary that dared to question his legitimacy, betrays either naiveté or disinterest. Both will hurt in the long run, if there is a long run.
Understand that there has not been much difference between military and civilian rule in Pakistan. When unreal hopes are betrayed by one, the other is accorded a relieved welcome. Four painful cycles ought to be enough to make that clear. The pundits wringing their hands at the ills of dictatorship today are the same who saw huge silver linings when the fourth dictator, the “enlightened moderate,” came along to clean the democratic mess.
Understand that both dictators and democrats have attacked the judiciary in the same way, both have pandered to the religious fundamentalists in the same way, both have harassed political opponents in the same way, both have enriched themselves in the same way.
Understand why this is so. Understand that the vast majority of the 160 million people have gained nothing since they were “liberated”—not from those who founded the country, not from the democrats, not from the dictators, not from the priests. Half of them are still illiterate, a third are below the poverty line, many still die from the lack of clean water, and many still live in another century. Any surprise they are not active participants in the struggle for “true democracy?”
Understand that the forgotten have no expectations of political equality or fundamental rights from their rulers, be they dictators or democrats. No political party has bothered to make that the central thrust of its campaign and one that did in the past only abused it cynically. All the leading democrats are ever ready to ditch the aspirations of their supporters and cut a deal with the dictator of the day. It is an easier route to the top.
Understand that in a deeply unequal society without individual rights, and with extreme dependence of the many on the few, the functions of political representation and social protection are inseparable. Understand that the natural state of such a society is one of patronage. Understand that the unprotected and powerless are as rational as anyone else—when forced to participate in an electoral game, they vote for the most powerful patron with the strongest links to the ruler. Understand that the preyed upon want their protectors to be on the winning side first and represent their political ideology second. Ideological somersaults and shifting loyalties matter but have to be accepted pragmatically in the real world that exists for them. Count the number of political representatives who have been in every party that has ever ruled the country. Watch how high they hold their heads; watch how much they are sought after.
Understand this is still very much a monarchical society in which the ruler, in whatever garb, believes he rules by divine right Understand the culture in which every ruler, legitimate or illegitimate, begins to see visions of being anointed by the Almighty to “save the nation.” The more incompetent and unprepared the chosen one, the greater the proof of divine purpose. The third dictator (the “meek”) used to say, in so many words, with awe and humility: “Look at me, what is my worth? Would I be here were it not for the will of Allah?”
The leading prose writer of the country called such leaders “men without stature.” Calling them pygmies would have landed him in jail for abusive language. And why does the Almighty continue to find such pygmies? Because He is putting His chosen people to His severest test! Understand this is an environment rife with such fatalistic beliefs.
Understand this is a society at a stage of development where political parties are personal affinity groups with lifetime leaders—the leading democrat is chairperson for life of a party she inherited from her father. Understand this is a banana republic in which the “best” president and the most “appropriate” prime minister are determined not by the people but by meta-patrons abroad. Understand this is a place where a prime minister can be parachuted from above one day and be consigned to the doghouse the next. Understand this is system in which the king’s courtiers can switch loyalties any minute and have to be continuously bribed. Count the size of the cabinet; compare that to the output. And, nary a protest from any side, nary a protest on any count.
So what does a transition to “true democracy” mean in a situation like this? Understand that representative democracy is not going to emerge any time soon by pressure from below. Democracy will be the name given to a sharing of power amongst the elites holding the wealth, the guns, and the controls over rules and rituals. And, barring anything different, this democracy will go the way of previous democracies, each morphing from “true” to “sham,” each leaving the country more wounded and vulnerable than before. Has this not been the story of the last sixty years?
How then can we get something out of the elite democracy that we will inevitably inherit? Not by imagining a battle won, not by wishing for some ideal unfettered democracy, but by working towards a system of some checks and balances that limits the accumulation of power and the abuse of office by ruling groups, a system that advances human rights and access to justice, and one that enlarges the space for hearing the voices from below.
By some quirk, this was a scenario beginning to unfold with the assertion of independence by the judiciary, by its questioning of arbitrary executive authority, by its taking up the causes of ordinary citizens. This was the first institutional development in over sixty years that promised a meaningful step towards good governance in the interest of the ordinary citizens. And even before one could be sure it was for real, the fourth dictator (the “enlightened”) smothered it, quickly and ruthlessly, risking even his carefully varnished image of moderation in the process.
De Tocqueville said it long ago: “Unable to do without judges, it [the government] likes at least to choose the judges itself and always to keep them under its hand; that is to say, it puts an appearance of justice, rather than justice itself, between the government and the private person.” Pakistanis know why. Governance in Pakistan is allergic to accountability. Pakistanis know now what has to change.
So, going back to “free and fair” elections, back to “true democracy,” as promised by a dictator, ruling under an emergency, to a bunch of democrats ready to cut a deal, is not going to do much good. It will be very old wine in very old bottles. Well-wishers of Pakistan, at home and abroad, need to grasp the one promising development in an otherwise sorry history. They have to agree on a one-point agenda—the Supreme Court has to be restored; the independence of the judiciary has to be guaranteed. This is the only leverage we have at the moment, the one issue on which a broad coalition can unite. This is where the fight for “true democracy” begins. Whomsoever is next anointed by God would need to be put to this test of sincerity. Otherwise, the moment and the opening would be lost. Those who are fighting would need to go on fighting.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 8:06 PM
Members of the LUMS student movement express their admiration for the fortitude displayed by Geo TV and ARY in not knuckling down to the government's paranoid demands. We consider the enforced closure of Pakistan's most popular news channels as a grave milestone in the course of this emergency rule. This is yet another sign of an increasingly insecure government's fear of criticism. The fact that this move has been carried out by a leader, who had actually helped to bring about the Pakistani media's most liberated days is what makes this event even more tragic. If the government seriously imagines that after years of such unprecedented freedom of speech, access to information and freedom to form one's own opinions, the Pakistani media and public would give up their rights so easily, it is gravely mistaken. The regime cannot mould the citizenry into a robot army, incapable of independent thought and action. President Musharraf proclaims that he will not let the politicians, judiciary and the media derail Pakistan's train of progress. He should really reassess - is steering this train to a glorious future really worth it when so many of the protesters are being gagged, blinded and brutalised to achieve the proclaimed objective?
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 8:04 PM
کورین یونیورسٹیز میں زیر تعلیم پاکستانی سٹودنٹس نے آج سیول
میں پاکستانی امبیسی کے سامنےجنرل پرویز مشرف کی جانب سے لگای جانے والی ایمرجنسی اور اس کے نتیجے میں میڈیا پہ پابندیوں، ملکی اداروں خصوصا عدلیہ کے ساتھ بد سلوکی اور سول سوسایٹی کے نمایندوں پہ بے پناہ تشدد کے خلاف پرامن مظاہرہ کیا۔ واضح رہے کہ کوریا کی تاریخ میں یہ اپنی نوعیت کا پہلااحتجاج تھا جس میں غیر ملکی طلبہ کی کثیر تعداد نے شرکت کی۔ مقررین نے عدلیہ ، میڈیا اور ملک میں امن و امان کی صورت حال پہ بے چینی کا اظہار کیا اور موجودہ حکمرانوں پہ زور دیا کہ وہ اپنی کمزوریاں چھپانے کے لیے ملکی اداروں کو تباہ نہ کریں۔ کورین اور بین الاقوامی میڈیا کے نماییدے بھی ٘مظاہرے کی کوریج کے لیے موجود رہے۔ مظاہریں نے عدلیہ کی بحالی ، میڈیا کی آذادی اور فوج کی سیاست میں عدم مداخلت کے مطالبات پہ مبنی پلے کارڈز اٹھا رکھے تھے۔ انہوں نے واضح کیا کہ ان کا تعلق کسی سیاسی ایجنڈے یا جماعت سے نہیں ہےبلکہ وہ کوریا میں اعلی تعلیم کے حصول کے لیے کوشاں ہیں تاہم پاکستان میں ایمرجنسی کے نفاذ کے بعد پیدا ہونے والی تیزی سے بگڑتی ہوی صورت حال پہ رنجیدہ ہیں۔ بعد ازاں مظاہرین نے پاکستانی ایمبیسیڈرکو ایک قرارداد پیش کی۔
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 8:00 PM
My cousin is a High Court lawyer who was arrested from Sindh High Court when he was there with other lawyers trying to enter the venue. It's his story that I am writing the way he told me and can't tell name(s) of anyone, he wants it to remain anonymous.
We reached the High Court in the morning to see the new judges that have taken oath under PCO. I am still junior and it's been few months since I began my practice, I am still with my supervisor. It wasn't much difficult for us to get inside the court since there weren't many people there but we had heard that a few lawyers had been arrested. The facility seemed like an army house than judiciary facility. My supervisor was mad enough that he said to a nearby standing Major "Well done, you conquered the Supreme Court as well as the lower courts ... seems like you got a real kick in WANA, Waziristan and Swat". The major only stared.
We went inside and it was total cause, no one actually knew what to do and where to go to solve their cases. Majority of the lawyers there had nothing to do with emergency, they just wanted to remain neutral. Barristers and Advocates were moving around, talking amongst themselves and with their clients. While we were at our task, we heard that two of our friends were arrested while leaving the building. It seemed like lawyers were arrested on exit, not while entering the court. It seemed like jail was inevitable.
We went down and saw police standing very close to the walls of the court and looking carefully at the lawyers. My supervisor had a chat with one of their seniors who looked for his name on a list and informed that he is not to be arrested. Hearing that we left, but my experience taught be to be careful and that's what allowed me to detect a hand signal he made to a plain clothed man standing some distance away. Soon after that, we were surrounded by plain clothed policemen who threw us mercilessly inside small wagons ... they were big enough to seat 15 people comfortably and we were 48 that were fitted inside one and took to jail like dogs.
Many of us had nothing to do with emergency and the only way to get out was signing endorsing that we would not participate in anything against government and to get bail from the new judges who took oath under PCO. Both were unacceptable to us who really are against the government ... others who wanted to remain neutral and earn their livelihood were released within a couple of days after endorsement and bail.
We talked, we laughed, read poetry and a couple who were authors recorded the events of jail. One of them had reached 195 pages and he said he'll print it (in Sindhi) soon. The Barrack in which they were kept had two specialties. Nature's three forces remained in complete harmony in there that are Humans, cats and rats. There were 3 cats that were quite cuddly while at least 100 rats that were bigger than cats ... if you discount their tails, they were long enough to rival a normal man's forearm in length with big mouth to eat away one's finger in one bite.
The second specialty was ... it was a torture cell as well designed for very few people. So 80 of us were crammed inside with one toilet to share that was in the room in front of everyone. The food was horrible and majority of the people avoided eating and drinking water so as to escape from the need of using toilet. You can't eat there with plate even little closer to the ground because if you did, the rats would jump on your plate to eat your food away ... they seemed to be there for that sole purpose.
It was a terrible week where we met all kinds of people. Those who are real murderes and those who have received life sentence for a crime they did not commit. We also saw those officers who are specialist at torturing and they seemed to have seen so much that their faces look dead like and nothing seems to make them surprise any longer. Their sense of humor was extinguished and death seems to radiate from their presence.
Finally, after one week of imprisonment my turn came for release. They themselves allowed us to leave because there was no point of keeping us in jail. The only bad thing was that when I left, there were a few more lawyers left that were from Punjab and had come to Karachi for some business and were arrested along with others on that day. Their families doesn't know where they are and that are they alive or not. Since mobile phones were confiscated on arrival, I was lucky enough to get mine back when it was time to leave.
Our jails are really not jails where bad people learn a lesson in humility ... they are universities for honing the skills of more deathly nature and train the criminals to the next level, each becoming more and more capable to rival anything that the police or army can through at them.
-- Conflict is inevitable, but Combat is optional.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 7:56 PM
‘Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, this is my own, my native land! ‘ – This sense of belonging, this sense of relating and this form of patriotic affiliation forms the basic ingredient of a great country with loving countrymen. We are living in fast times, with technological advancements being made every day and breakthroughs in every field of life, and with the same frequency bombs going off almost everywhere and battles for existence fought on multiple grounds, with religion being affiliated to terrorism and discrimination on racial, religious and socio-political basis. No matter how much the humanity has progressed, it still contains the stain of most hideous crimes committed on not-so-hideous names. Call it war on terrorism, enlightened moderation or ‘in the best interest of the nation ‘, giving it a reasonable name doesn’t make the act reasonable.
I am not commenting on whether these certain acts were for personal lust of power or in the best interest of the nation, because no matter how many people agree with me, it wouldn’t matter! Because we, Pakistanis, as a nation have become socially, politically and morally numb. Can someone count for me how many bombs went off in the last 3 months? Can someone calculate the frequency of these attacks? Can someone mention the total number of casualties made? The answer from most us would be ‘NO!’ Even if someone came up with a positive answer, my follow-up question would be, what happened to these suicide bombers now? Where have they disappeared? Have they lost the motivation to embrace shahada’ all of a sudden? Did anything at all happened since the government or Musharraf (these names have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably) proclaimed emergency? Or someone showed them the red light, that no more! We don’t need you no more? Because very humbly and frankly I dare not write against the higher ups, but to me, a suicide bomber is on a suicide mission, no matter how many soldiers or policemen you have on the streets, he will blow himself up or ride his ‘Honda’ direct to the heavens? Their target being the law enforcement agencies (who by the way, enforce law even to the law department!) and the armed forces (who are the most insecure at the moment), it can be easily understood that the greater number of such people on the streets, the more motivation they must have to blow themselves up! Or is their fight for the right or vendetta over?
Again, like I said, I never intended to confuse my readers, I was just asking a few very honest and straight forward questions. I decided to write this article on a very positive thing that I noted about the youth of this nation. Since the emergency proclamation and after a very long time, I am noticing political awareness in the youth. With relatively small on-campus and even peaceful protests on the streets, the youth has finally decided to make its voice heard. What is more worth-noticing is that these youth movements, being originated from some of the most elite educational institutions of the country, is spreading like fire and creating a rebellion in almost every youngster. I came across this youth based online pamphlet ‘The emergency times’ which made me realize that finally, the youth is yearning to be noticed. This was the 10th issue of this online pamphlet which starts with a note ‘READ, PHOTOCOPY AND DISTRIBUTE’ and ends with a very warm message ‘IN COMPLETE UNITY’. It has accounts of various student protests at PU, NCA, FAST, LUMS, Quaid-e-Azam University, Aabpara and Zero point in Islamabad. It also has a message from Asma Jahangir to the youth, and a letter by barrister baachaa’s daughter to the same. This pamphlet circulates through online social-networking sites and is forwarded within 24 hours to millions of readers. These protests were relatively peaceful so far, except the one in Islamabad where our ‘loyal’ policemen arrested 48 students. But they have to be received with a very positive vibe. How can we forget the earthquake? If you had been to relief camps or the disaster-struck areas, you would have noticed a sense of urgency in the youth, and as this natural disaster brought havoc in the country, something very pleasant was to be noticed, the passionate and united youth for a common cause!
Youth is described as a period of ones life in which emotions can easily overtake ones senses and things not so important, to a broader and a more general adult world can become the purpose of living. The feeling of love for ones native land exists in every sane human’s heart and this feeling can so easily originate rebellious sentiments when one sees his or her country in chaos. In a country where 70 % of the population is below 29, I think, any such rebellious movement can mean the end for any regime, be it military or democratic.
I managed to talk to some of the youngsters managing and organizing these protests and they literally left me speechless, ‘Sir, like Gandhi said, ‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’, we are just trying to be change!’, one more seconds his views and dazzles me with ‘Sir, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter! We are just making them hear us, whether it makes a difference or not, we would sleep peaceful tonight because at least we tried’. Another says’ We are called the black ribbon movement, it’s a matter of time that they start noticing us, we would make our presence felt!’
It is about time we start noticing the exuberant and passionate youth of this country, it was the youth that Iqbal referred to when he said ‘kuch kar lou nu-jawano’n urtee jawaniaan hain!’ and it is this youth that made the Pakistan movement a success. These young protestors, with banners and black ribbons, chanting anti-emergency slogans show their utter disappointment and despair on the happenings in the last few days. They show that now, even the most tolerant part of our society i.e. the youth, who grew up witnessing drama almost every fortnight has decided to play its part in their country’s future. And they deserve to be heard. No army, no political party and no propaganda can demean them if they stand united and fight for a common cause. So, in a very negative atmosphere, that our country is presently in, I find this particular thing very positive and I request the adult population of this great country to absorb some positive vibes from these vibrant youngsters! Every non-political student protest that is held gives our adults something to think about. If you have a kid who wants to join any such protest, like our ‘ beloved’ president reiterates in almost every address, ‘ IN THE BEST INTERTEST OF THE NATION AND ITS FUTURE’, let him join his friends. Let them play a part in the future policy making of the country, because it is their future that is in the making right now. Let them be politically aware of the happenings in the country. Teach them to stand up for the right, and to raise their voice and make themselves heard whenever their rights are snatched. Make them the youth that Iqbal dreamt of, make them the youth that stood united under the leadership of Quaid, they might not have a leader like him but it is a gradual process. Make them the youth that makes this great country proud. Make them the youth that knows its values and traditions. Inculcate in them the sense of belonging and affiliation. Instill in them faith, like Hazrat Muhammad PBHU says, HUB-UL-WATAN-MIN-AL-IMAAN’. If you couldn’t be the change that you wanted to see in this country, at least, let them try and you have my word, THEY WILL NOT FAIL US!
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 7:51 PM
It has been frequently asserted in national and international media that the imposition of emergency by General Musharraf has been unanimously opposed in Pakistan. While there have been unprecedented protests from diverse groups, the outrage is by no means as widespread as one would expect. Here are just some of the arguments that protestors hear from their friends and colleagues:
1) Why are you supporting corrupt judges? All the lawyers are politicized and doing this for their own publicity and power.
2) What are you trying to achieve? Do you want corrupt politicians like Benazir or Nawaz Sharif?
3) The media was overstepping its boundaries, and the judiciary also became too interventionist. So both were asking for a clampdown.
4) Musharraf has been a great leader. Yes, he is making mistakes, but he is still our best and only option.
5) Protests will just cause more instability.
6) Things will return to normal, so we should just wait and pray for the best.
These are overt and subtle ways in which the emergency is effectively legitimized by the Pakistani elite. In the following piece, I have attempted to articulate my own stance on the issue, and address some of these arguments.
In February of this year, my ride home from work one evening was interrupted by a sizeable demonstration on Shahra-e-Faisal. The protest – as a radio channel informed me – was against the unlawful abduction and detention of "missing people" by our notorious agencies, and was being staged by hundreds of family members and activists who had traveled to Karachi from distant areas of Sindh. As I waited in my car for the demonstration to pass, I wondered: why is the tragedy of forced disappearances not sparking the outrage that it should? Why wasn't this protest widely publicized, and supported by the so-called civil society? And what was I doing about this? But of course this line of questioning never continues for long. I brushed off my guilt by resorting to the classic "what can I possibly do" and "there is no hope" cynicism, unconsciously told myself that I am working for important (and more convenient) causes like education and health so I do have some sense of social responsibility, put on some music, and eventually drove off.
I kept following the issue though. I had already been reading about disappearances regularly in Dawn and Herald since 2003. Even Amnesty International, The New York Times, and the Guardian had established how more than 500 Pakistanis had simply been abducted by our intelligence outfits with no case and no trace. That under the garb of the "war on terror", there was a systematic campaign to capture critics – not militants – but politics activists, students, poets, journalists, social workers, and academics belonging in particular to Sindh and Baluchistan. That instead of recognizing and addressing the exacerbated grievances of people under a neoliberal military-intelligence alliance, the state had decided to crush any expression of grievance with sheer inhuman violence. Some released detainees had harrowing tales of torture to tell. Even those who protested for the sake of their missing ones were humiliated and intimidated – recall the picture of the 17-year old son of a detainee whose shalwar was lowered by the police during a public protest in January this year, before being arrested.
One becomes conditioned to overlook the entire picture when reading about such atrocities on an everyday basis. And so I read about all this with a sense of real but remote "oh, it's just so sad" concern. Over the course of this year, however, I became more interested in the issue of missing people. This, unfortunately, was not due to any change in my own conscience, but because the issue itself had become more visible – thanks to the legal petitions that the tormented families as well as the HRCP had filed. And the judiciary was responding.
Our state institutions have become so inept, exploitative, and unjust that when an institution finally does its job, we think it has become too "independent" and "active." We conveniently forget that defending the constitution and fundamental rights is the core purpose of the judiciary around the world. And we fail to even acknowledge – let alone celebrate – the courage with which the expelled judges were withstanding the coercive pressures and bribes from various corners, in order to question long-standing injustices such as political persecution, shady privatizations, and illegal building practices. Which state institution has had the courage to tackle these issues? Most importantly, the judiciary was questioning the unconstitutional and outrageously criminal activities of our intelligence agencies, of which the plight of missing people is but one manifestation.
I will say it clearly: the renewed democratic spirit of the judiciary had been a source of relief for me. I, as a human being and as a citizen, did not have the time, interest, and decency to actually stand up for the sake of social and economic justice. But it was heartening to see that at least one state institution was working towards progressive change in this country. As the law of indifference goes, though, I only observed this process from a distance. And again, from a distance, I witnessed the lawyers' struggle to contest the high-handed manner in which the Chief Justice was removed. I, surely, did not have the time or the courage. Plus, with all the pomp of the Chief Justice's rallies, it was convenient not to take a stance. Indeed, why ever take a stance? It is so much easier to sit back, criticize, and be cynical. And to ease your conscience, tell yourself that your business is helping the poor, or that you do not-so-political charity work.
But now, with the emergency – with the wholesale slaughter of the judicial process and the violent suppression of civil society – I think it is simply imperative for me to take a stance. An informed stance.
Yes, of course, like all state institutions, the legal institutions are also ridden with misconduct and corruption. At many critical junctures, the judiciary itself has contributed to the undermining of the Constitution. But in recent years, it is only the judiciary that has had the courage to show that it has at least some sense of social and political responsibility. If it was so corrupt and power-hungry, why would it take up cases that challenge the elite and military-dominated status quo in the country? Following its own history, it would succumb to bribes and threats, and play along. But it didn't. And the missing people's case is the prime testimony to this courage.
The missing people's case also underlines something that is often ignored in analyses of the emergency: the suppression of activists, journalists, students, and academics is not something new and sudden. Yes, the scale is large, and for the first time, elite human rights activists and professors have also been arrested. But we must not forget that this has been a long-term trend, and that a systematic campaign to capture critics has been an appalling state policy for at least four years now. Newsline, Herald, HRCP, national newspapers as well as international media have repeatedly covered the brutalities of this policy. While media channels may have exploded in Pakistan, let's not forget that the South Asian Free Media Association named Pakistan the worst country in terms of the harassment of journalists in 2006. Hence, the current suppression of the media is also a stark manifestation of a continuing tendency.
Why are we so keen to assert that the media and judiciary have overstepped their bounds, but not recognize the extremism and interventionism of the military and the intelligence agencies? I will readily acknowledge that the media and judiciary have severe failings that need to be addressed. But how can we ignore that there is a fundamental asymmetry of power between a military-intelligence establishment on one hand and the media or the judiciary on the other? The Supreme Court and media can be massively irresponsible and corrupt, but they will never have the capacity to amass wealth and power, and terrorize citizens like the military-intelligence alliance that currently rules the country. Who will hold the latter accountable?
The military has become the biggest corporate entity and interest group in the country, and inserted itself in literally every economic, social and political institution including textbook boards, universities and highway authorities. All this has not been achieved "cleanly," but involved massive corruption, intimidation, and back-door deals. It is different from regular "fill up the bank account" looting since it involves the setting up and expansion of a huge empire that grabs land, monopolizes markets, and dominates political and social institutions. This extent of political and economic dominance will live on regardless of the fate of today's dictatorship. Amongst other devastating consequences, it has also severely affected the professionalism of the army – as argued by several analysts and retired military officers.
Repeated military rule in our country has not only stifled the process of democratization but also helped to promote religious extremism. Yes, Musharraf is no Zia, and as a person, may indeed be a secular guy believing in "enlightened moderation". But this is no justification for overlooking the critical role that both the military and intelligence agencies have played in creating and supporting Islamist militancy. Have we forgotten that it was in Musharraf's regime that a religious alliance was brought into power for the first time in Pakistan's history – and allowed to form a government in NWFP – while all secular-nationalist parties had been suppressed and even banned from rallying? And this was not a coincidence. The military-mullah alliance is not a myth – it is a long-standing relationship that became particularly strengthened in the Afghan War (1978-1989) when the ISI, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. government directly trained and equipped thousands of Pakistanis (not just Afghanis) to become militant jihadis. The Pajero-driven, gun-toting mullah emerged during this period, and has continued to be patronized by agencies to fight our dirty wars in Afghanistan, Kashmir, as well as within Pakistan.
Since 2002, the formal establishment of a religious alliance in NWFP has paved the way for legitimizing a conservative and repressive Islam. NWFP may not have had a very liberal society, but the intimidation of barbers, tailors, X-ray assistants, CD sellers, female health workers, NGO activists, and administrators of girls' schools is a recent phenomenon that is directly linked to the support of religious elements by our military-intelligence establishment. JUI was never even on the political map till it got political legitimacy by the army. And it is the ISI's support of the Taliban and religious parties that has emboldened the likes of Sufi Muhammad and Fazlullah. We must ask: why is it that reporters associated with KTN, Sindh TV, and Intikhab have been abducted and tortured, while Fazlullah's FM radio was allowed to operate freely?
The biggest travesty is that Musharraf is using the self-perpetuated threat of religious militancy to justify his rule, claiming that he will be the force of stability. This is simply a contradiction in terms. Musharraf's rule has made us second only to Iraq in terms of bombing operations and suicide attacks; hence, he is not even able to hold his ground in his own terrain which is national security and defence. What more has to happen for us to recognize that Pakistan has been destabilized for a long time now, and that the unquestioned and unaccounted practices of the military and intelligence are hugely responsible? Some people say: ok, so the army and agencies created the Pakistani Taliban, and now that the fundamentalists are on the offensive, only the army can reign them in. Such an approach is even more misguided, as it will only worsen the oppressions of military rule. Further, years and years of breeding religious militancy and encouraging Islamist politics will not go away with bombing Waziristan and Swat. We need a long-term strategy involving rehabilitation, economic incentives, and political negotiation. Just like we are still struggling with Zia's Islamization, we will be fighting Musharraf's Islamization for a long time to come.
Because of the repressive tactics that the army routinely employs, military extremism and absolutism has remained publicly invisible to a large extent. Does this mean we ignore it? Supporters of Musharraf's regime argue that he gave us economic growth. Does this justify the militarization of state, economy, and society? Does this validate systematic oppression and violence? I couldn't bear the television coverage of the Lal Masjid episode, does this make the silencing of critique under PEMRA acceptable? I have personally experienced the gender biases and callousness of our courts; does this mean that the entire Supreme Court should be disposed off?
This is the time to make distinctions. We need to recognize that the current struggle is about protecting the Constitution, and about resisting the wholesale annihilation of the rule of law. It is not a personality contest between Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Protestors are not impulsive fools who love Benazir or Nawaz Sharif – they are as disillusioned with "democratic" regimes as anyone else. Does this mean that we should now give up all hope and respect for political process? Do we simply accept the kingdom of a military dictator? We want a ready-made, perfect leader to lead us, but are unwilling to allow her or him to emerge because we keep accepting rampant abuses of the political process. The lesser-of-the-two evils argument just does not work: a military dictator is not accountable to anyone, will entrench the interests of the army, and will eventually show his true colors. And political history around the world has shown that a military dictator claiming to bring in "democracy" is a contradiction in terms. A political party still needs to get re-elected, and a rule that says no leader can be Prime Minister twice will ensure that new leaders will come up. The political spectrum is not even as limited as we think it is. There are several regional parties, the Labor Party, and the Tehrik-e-Istaqlal which can promise to play a strong role in the future. But parties like the JUI and PML (Q) will only strengthen the forces of religious and military extremism.
Let's assume that all parties are corrupt. Let's think about how India had an emergency under Congress in the 70s, and a systematic genocide against Muslims under BJP. Let's remember how the U.S. under Bush is continuing to devastate Afghanistan and Iraq. Does this mean that the militaries in the two countries should take over for the sake of "stability?" Democracies do not work perfectly anywhere, yet they are the most common form of governance because they come the closest to ensuring both accountability and stability.
Ultimately, democracy is not about procedural elections, but about the substantive principles of liberation, egalitarianism, and justice. The democracies of the world have gotten to where they are because of citizens' engagement. Self-determination and democracy was not given on a platter by monarchs and colonizers – every victory was a result of protests, struggles, and social movements. Let's not simplistically equate any political party's reinstatement with a "transition to democracy." In our country, the transition was already happening thanks to the renewed strength of our Supreme Court. It is the continuing struggle to resist the emergency, restore the Constitution, and reinstate the Supreme Court that is the actual stuff of democracy – it's democracy in the making –and we need to support it in every way that we can. And if and when we succeed, the struggle by no means is over. Military dominance, political corruption, religious extremism, media sensationalism, and judicial negligence will not magically disappear. We, as citizens, need to constantly play our part in reforming the status quo and striving towards a better future for our country. That is everyone's responsibility, not just of judges, military officials and politicians.
As elites, consumed by our work and social lives, we have been too depoliticized and disconnected to care. We don't even follow the news regularly, and may not know how the judiciary was upholding several causes of social and economic justice. There have been hundreds of petitions of aggrieved citizens who requested the Supreme Court to hear their voices, or take suo moto action, because they had no other recourse. And the judiciary was listening. It might have been corrupt, brash and naïve, but it showed concern. And unlike the shameless legislature, executive, and most of the citizenry, the lawyers and judges who have been hounded for months are still bravely refusing to accept an elitist and military-dominated status quo. What power are they getting by risking their lives and the security of their families? Why, for once, can we not think about their struggle with the seriousness that it demands?
It's all too easy to disparage protesting students as well by saying that they are immature, trying to act cool and pseudo-revolutionary, or just joining the bandwagon. Why are we so bent on dismissing them instead of giving them credit? If students are protesting at an unprecedented scale, surely there must be something about the situation that is sparking this agitation? They are not protesting for party politics, nor simply because their own professors have been arrested. They are genuinely frustrated, and refuse to watch tyranny take root. Life and politics is messy and confusing, so they obviously do not have all the answers and are also uncertain about what the future will bring. Yet, despite tremendous fears in these times of repression, they have the integrity and courage to take a stance.
And like them, we all must take a stance. This is not the time to dilly-dally and say: "I don't support the emergency but the protests are not worthy enough a cause" and "I think the repression is inhuman but we have to see what choices we have as a nation." As Howard Zinn said in the People's History of the United States, it's where you put the "but" that makes unjust use of power and violence possible. One can instead say, "Musharraf did many good things for the country but a violently enforced military-mullah-intelligence alliance with no respect for rule of law and civil liberties is simply unacceptable."
One can criticize any stance. It is always convenient to sit back, observe, and be critical and cynical as if that makes us all intellectual. This is the surest way to escape ever standing up for anything, and masking one's own ignorance, and unwillingness to engage. But silence is a form of political action, and it has strong consequences especially in these severe times. By not standing up and vocalizing our discontent with this kind of draconian action, we are implicitly telling the regime (and all subsequent regimes) that it is ok for them to do whatever they please, and we will sit idle like innocent bystanders. Our fatalistic ("whatever will be will be"), over-critical ("I don't agree with anything"), and cynical ("this is such a crazy farce") postures are not only unfair to those who are willing to struggle and sacrifice, but they in effect help to sustain the status quo.
If we are scared of instability due to protests, and Musharraf's departure, we must ask ourselves: what is our definition of stability? Is rising military and religious extremism not enough? Is the decimation of the highest judicial institution not enough? Are over 5,000 indiscriminate and unlawful arrests not enough? What about the anti-terrorism and sedition cases against innocent people? Are the laws for court-marshalling citizens also acceptable, so the army-intelligence regime can simply press "delete" on citizens like it did on the Supreme Court? Is the "Musharraf is necessary" theory so unfalsifiable that no amount of violence and human rights abuse will move us into action? Do we believe in any values, and have we ever stood up for anything? Does it really have to be the intimidation or arrest of a loved one that shakes us out of our apathy?
If we don't have the courage to protest ourselves, we should at least not trivialize and ridicule the efforts of those who do. Better still, we should express our solidarity, lend support, and actively shape this defining historic moment. We always have a choice.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 7:45 PM
(Courtesy The News)
"KARACHI: There are reports that the government of Pakistan is using its influence with a foreign country to get the Geo TV network closed down, as the Geo TV network refused to surrender to the will of the government. It should be noted that Geo news and its entire sister channels had been closed down across Pakistan after the imposition of emergency.
Earlier, the cable operators in Pakistan were forced to close all channels being operated by Geo Network and the Pakistani viewers were deprived of the great source of information. However, the Geo TV was on air from its Dubai office.
The latest developments are that the government of Pakistan has gone to the limit of seeking the closure of Geo News network across the globe through a country.
After this closure of Geo Network, the worldwide viewers would not be able to watch the great source of information worldwide. According to Geo TV network, it did not surrender to the will of the government and did not sign any paper of compliance with the government, for which it has been punished that its worldwide telecast is being gagged. On this occasion, Senior Geo News analyst Kamran Khan, Host of Capital Talk Hamid Mir, Dr Amir Liaquat Hussein, Geo News Senior analyst Nasir Beig Chughtai, Justice (rtd) Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui, Senior defence analyst (Rtd) Talat Masud and British member of Parliament Mohammed Sarwar expressed their grief over this government step regarding closing down the Geo News network and condemned this fresh government attack on the media.It should be noted that nearly all the news channels of the country were taken off air, as soon as the emergency was announced in the country. PEMRA hammered out code of conduct for the media to follow and it was said only those channels would be allowed to operate if they fall in line with the government wishes. "
How many more voices will they silence? How many more people will they blindfold as they continue the carnage in the darkness that engulfs us?
People of this country, shed your cynicism, let go of this insidious apathy that has afflicted our very souls. We do not have much time..
The voice of Truth and Justice shall prevail..
In Complete Unity.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 12:27 AM