Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lets stand with Pakistan's heroes

The following is an article written by the president of the American Bar Association

Washington - We all have seen the images: Lawyers clad in dark suits, symbols of professional responsibility, enveloped in clouds of tear gas. Soldiers surrounding a nation's Supreme Court, and thousands of lawyers and judges, as well as several justices, placed under arrest.

Much has been written about the unfolding crisis in Pakistan, and how the US government should respond. Less has been said about its significance for the rule of law, which is more important than ever in the dangerous world we live in today.

Since Gen. Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, declared a state of emergency there, the impact on lawyers in America and in other nations has been electric – virtually unprecedented in my more than 40 years of practice.

To many Americans, Pakistan's breakdown may seem vaguely routine, another eruption in a distant land. But to American lawyers, the events are shocking and immediate.

In part, it is because we see our fellow lawyers and judges in Pakistan doing something dangerous and heroic: standing up to police and soldiers, subjecting themselves to arrest for such ideals as the "rule of law" and an "independent judiciary."

Their bravery reminds us that these ideals are not abstract at all. They are the difference between nations of justice and law, and unchecked tyrannies. This crisis reminds us how precious, and fragile, the rule of law is in the United States and in all nations.

This week, lawyers gathered in Washington and states across the country to express solidarity and to stand shoulder to shoulder with our courageous colleagues in Pakistan.

The American Bar Association and other bar groups have called on General Musharraf to restore the Constitution, re-instate the Supreme Court justices, and free those lawyers he has wrongly arrested. We will continue working until the rule of law is restored in Pakistan.

As lawyers, we see it as no coincidence that Musharraf targeted his crackdown on his nation's legal community, as well as on the press and other organs of civil society.

Like a free press, judges and lawyers who are free from intimidation and outside influence are essential checks to raw power. These agents of liberty are a danger to would-be tyrants, and Musharraf has treated them as such.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, American lawyers helped draft constitutions and train judges whose work would help new democracies emerge.

We appeared to be at the start of a worldwide flowering of liberty, but today, we increasingly see those gains in jeopardy.

To advocates of the rule of law, the recent actions in Pakistan are worse than a misfortune; they are a catastrophic reversal of values we hold dear. And in a world threatened by terrorism and rising autocrats, they make our world more dangerous, not less.

America's lawyers do not claim expertise in foreign policy. But we can speak for the urgency of standing up for justice and the rule of law.

The loss of a constitution and the arrest of thousands of lawyers and judges, including those on the Supreme Court, cannot be ignored.
Lawful government in Pakistan is the best way to assure security and justice.

Protests by journalists today

For those in Karachi.

Despite yesterday's brutal use of force by police, journalists remain undaunted and plan to hold another protest today outside Karachi Press Club (Wednesday) at 2.30pm. Everyone is invited. Support is needed especially especiallyfrom civil society groups and students, so do you part.

One more time, Strength in numbers!

Civil society condemns lathi charge, arrest of journalists - Press Release

KARACHI, NOV 20: The civil society coalition People's Resistance condemns in the strongest terms the brutal police lathi charge on unarmed journalists outside the Karachi Press Club and the arrests of Karachi Union of Journalists' President Shamimur Rehman, Karachi Press Club President Sabihuddin Ghausi, Secretary General of the Association of Pakistan Television Journalists Faisal Aziz Khan, Ahfaz-ur Rehman and Najeeb Ahmad among others. Journalists as well as members of civil society had gathered in solidarity with the nation-wide protest call given by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) against restrictions on the media, particularly the electronic media. Several journalists, including women, were injured when police launched a second attack on them outside the Press Club. The People's Resistance salutes those who subsequently peacefully offered arrest in solidarity with their arrested colleagues and in protest against the police refusal to let the journalists to take out a peaceful procession to Governor House. About a hundred journalists and several civil society members were among those who courted arrest, including senior journalists Idris Bakhtiar, Owais Tohid, Qaisar Mahmood, Afzal Nadeem Dogar, and Kamal Siddiqui. They were carted off in several mobiles to police stations across the city, many flashing victory signs and shouting slogans for the freedom of media and against dictatorship. People's Resistance calls upon all professional groups, NGOs, trade unions, student unions and individuals to join the platform of resistance in its peaceful campaigns for the restoration of the Constitution of Pakistan and basic rights, the judiciary and media independence.

Police baton-charge, temporarily arrest 200 Journalists in Karachi

(Photos courtesy Geo News -
Karachi: Police, on Tuesday, baton-charged journalists protesting against the closure of Geo News, outside the Karachi Press Club. Several journalists were wounded in the police charge. Subsequently, the arrested journalists were released at night, following relevant orders from Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad. The media representatives were scheduled to approach the Governor House to speak with the authorities but they were accosted by the police. Thereupon, the journalists staged a sit-in protest, but the police began to arrest them. When the journalists began fleeing, the police chased them into the Press Club and began the baton-charge, wounding several of the media men.

After the Emergency

One is just waiting to see how Musharraf will cope with the situation after the emergency is reversed, the curb on media channels lifted and the fundamental rights of citizens restored. The media will come back stronger and all that happened during the black-out phase will be exposed and shown for weeks and months to come. The civil society will be even more mobilised than it was before the emergency. Wide spread condemnations will continue by all and sundry. Will the final conclusion to all this mayhem for Musharraf be – game over, you win?, certainly not. Does he expect the people of Pakistan to just say ‘yes sir’ and accept him in a civilian role after demoralising and bulldozing the once revered institutions such as the army, more recently the courts and not to mention the parliament and senate which just abided by whatever policies were chalked out by his cheer leader, Shaukat Aziz?
After Musharraf assumes a civilian role he will certainly have lost his power base – the army, the winds will not always be in one direction then, and his influence will dwindle. Unless the next Government bails him out by continuing to walk in his shoes (read America’s DMS), there’s no way out for him. Even if the next Government does go bonkers and keeps the ball rolling in the same direction as it has been for the last 6 or so months, that will surely result in their political death. No matter which party comes into power, whether through rigged elections or otherwise, the repercussion of doing so will be grave.
The beginning of the end has started for Musharraf and if he has the most miniscule bit of self respect left in him, he won’t have the audacity to even accept the slightest roles of public service in the future setup. The nation is fed up of him and his stooges. The very corrupt stooges that he brought to power through blackmail will be the first ones making him the scapegoat. There will be no one to scratch the back of Musharraf after the emergency rule, the sooner he realizes this, the better.
While Musharraf keeps the entire nation in the dark, he opts to give a minute by minute update to his mentors in Washington. Is this his version of ‘Pakistan First’? We get to know what his next step will be (or what blunder follows) from the State Department rather than our own ministries and media. His three prong strategy that he flashes to the western world so cohesively has so many countless other prongs protruding from the sides. Where Alberto Gonzales had to resign as attorney journal of the U.S for making the judiciary too politicized, in stark contrast, in our country judges were removed for being too independent. It’s high time we stop being dictated by neo-cons whose values remain intact in their own homeland but export the deformed and compromised form of their values to other countries. People in power are threatened to be aligned towards goals of the western world or face a reduction in aid. The day our leaders took money in exchange for our independence, the day we sold out on true democracy and prosperity. Had we not taken the money the first time around, we would’ve been much more independent and democratic by now. We are far better off without it, the money that is sent is only used by people in power to flash the economic prosperity card and clamp down on any rational movements, and nothing goes into real sustainable development.
Of late, people are getting wiser and more involved in the politics played by the ruling elite. The order of the day would be to end this emergency rule, have free and fair elections, and the current rulers have a somewhat respectful exit from the scene. If however, the power seats are clutched even harder, there will be an irreparable damage to not only the country as a whole but the army will feel the brunt of the entire nation by looking down upon them for years to come.
There’s a fast way of killing a nation and there’s a slow way. The day the NRO was signed, a piece of us died. The day the constitution was held in abeyance and the PCO promulgated, another piece of us died. The day the police beat and thrashed the intelligentsia of our nation, another piece died – and so the slow death continues.

We are worse off than Burma (it's a fact)

Your fact of the day:

Pakistan now ranks below Burma in the United Nations Human Development Index's social indicators—a fact not terribly surprising given that Musharraf, in the last eight years of rule, has invested only 2% of GDP on education.

This interesting article demonstrates how not only have the leaders of this country succeeded in turning this country into a vultures politics bait in the upcoming US presidential elections, but their track record in achieving social progress in this country, should make the junta in Burma quiet envious of them.

US Senators demand Aitzaz release

Finally someone in US has awoken and taken notice of whats happening down here.

Dawn News reports:

US senators have demanded immediate release of Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan.

The demand has been made in a letter addressed to President Gen Pervez Musharraf and signed by 32 senators, a copy of which was faxed to Dawn on Thursday.

Recognising Pakistan’s role in the region and in bringing Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to justice, the senators have, however, expressed concern at the detention of Mr Ahsan.

“...Mr Ahsan is a highly distinguished attorney and political leader. He is a former government minister and former opposition leader in the Senate of Pakistan,” the letter said, adding: “A senior advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, he consistently earns the highest rating in rankings of legal professionals in Pakistan.”

The communiqué recalled that Mr Ahsan had represented a variety of high-profile political figures, including former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif as well as deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

But, it said, he was arrested last Saturday during a press conference he was holding in Islamabad and was probably being jailed in Rawalpindi.

“It is simply not right that Mr Ahsan is being jailed for doing his job as an attorney by defending rights of his client.

We ask you to immediately look into this mater and urge you to release Mr Ahsan from prison immediately,” the communiqué said.

Meanwhile, some local politicians claimed that US embassy officials had told them by phone that President Musharraf had given them commitment to doff his uniform by Nov 15.

The officials, the politicians said, were contacting political parties as well as civil society members to seek first-hand information about the public response to the emergency.
Moreover, there are reports of Munir Malik's torture during detention. Infact his family has gone underground due to harassment from agencies.