Friday, November 23, 2007

LUMS protests continue..

The protests at LUMS continued unabated on Thursday and throughout the week. Two flash protests were held earlier in the week, while today, a banner was signed by students not just from LUMS but also by students from all over Pakistan attending the LUMS Model United Nations. The students were demanding the restoration of the judiciary, freeing the protest prisoners, and the independence of the media. The recent crackdown on political debate in universities by the federal government was widely condemned by the student body. It directly contradicts General Musharraf's proclaimed agenda of bringing 'enlightened moderation' to this country. Building walls around people's minds can never achieve any kind of enlightenment. This move is evidence that the government's increasingly oppressive policies are now beginning to cast a shadow in the private sphere as well. As one student in LUMS put it, one wonders if the next ban will be on political debate in the household. The question is, does General Musharraf want to turn this country into Stalinist Russia?

Pakistan suspended from Commonwealth

Pakistan has been suspended from the Commonwealth because of its imposition of emergency rule, the organisation has announced after a meeting in Uganda. Secretary General Don McKinnon said Pakistan was being suspended "pending restoration of democracy and the rule of law". Earlier Pakistan's Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge to Pervez Musharraf's re-election as president.

UN demands reinstatement of Judges before vote

Pressure is mounting on Pakistan from all directions. First it was suspended from the Commonwealth earlier today, by a majority vote. Now the UN has called for Pakistan to release the Judges currently under house arrest, before it goes to polls.

Reuters reports:

Earlier in the day the Supreme Court, now stacked with judges friendly to Musharraf, threw out the last challenge to his October 6 re-election and paved the way for him to quit as army chief.

Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and a former prosecutor for international criminal tribunals on Yugoslavia and Rwanda, said Pakistan faced a "terrible deficit in governance" without a free judiciary.

"It is not enough to move towards free and fair elections unless all the judges who were dismissed or suspended are fully reinstated in their previous capacity," she told reporters in Dublin.

"Otherwise we will have a very twisted form of democracy where the judicial branch will have been made totally subservient to the executive," she said on the sidelines of a human rights conference.

Despite the President's assertion on the contrary, with a second Commonwealth suspension in tow, it increasingly appears that, Pakistan is heading to the where we had started from in 1999.

Teachers charged with sedition

As a continuation of the attack on all civil institutions, the illegal and unconstitutional government of Gen. Musharraf has instituted sedition charges against the following 14 members of the academic staff of Punjab University:

1. Dr. Mumtaz Salik, President, Punjab University Academic Staff Association (PUASA)
2. Dr. Asmatullah, Secretary General, PUASA

3. Dr. Haris Rashid, Director, Centre for High Energy Physics
4. Samee Uzair, Law College
5. Amanullah, Law College
6. Mujahid Mansoori, ICS
7. Dr. Shafiq Jallandhari, ICS
8. Nayyar Raza Zaidi, Director, IBIT
9. Dr. Mujahid Kamran, Chairman, Department of Physics
10. Ziaullah Shah, IER
11. Rana Majid IER
12. Prof. Bashir Ahmad, Pharmacy College
13. Prof. Chaudhry Muhammad Nazir, Department of Geology
14. Prof. Abdul Ghaffar, Department of Geography

The FIR against the above 14 teachers of Punjab University under sections 124-A, 188, 143/149 and 16-MPO was registered at the Muslim Town police. They have been charged with sedition and provoking the masses against the government for its action of imposing emergency and promulgating the PCO. This FIR was registered after the above teachers had taken part in demonstrations against the promulgation of emergency and for the restoration of the constitution and the judiciary. These were peaceful protests held inside the campus.

The academic staff of Punjab University are continuing their protest against the government and the Chancellor of the university and are demanding the withdrawal of the FIR.

More news here

Letter of Support by LUMS Students to SHC, LHC and SC Judges

Dear Sir,

Our generation - born and bred in the politically disappointing decade of 1990s that ushered in another military rule in Pakistan - had always doubted the possibility of change. Our parents and peers told us that the only way to live in the country was to subject our ideals to the “system” and that the only code of conduct was that of bribery and bullying. They quoted history books and told us how pointless it was to struggle for justice and democracy in Pakistan. Newspapers and TV channels simply added facts that proved their arguments and our own little experiences with “practical life” verified them.

We didn’t see people around us as good and bad, or right and wrong, but simply as the smart and the stupid in terms of their dealings with political reality. We weren’t able to take any sides because we didn’t see any. All we saw was a jumble of interests, each and every one of which could be compromised at a certain price. The theories and principles we learned at school and college seemed utterly devoid of any relevance to our real lives.

But then we saw some people fighting, not for their personal material interests, but for ideas and institutions. Ideas and institutions that form the basis of justice and democracy. We saw them fighting with a passion and selflessness that simply astounded our conventional understanding. We also saw them being oppressed and tortured with such heartlessness that offended the very notion of being human. For the first time in our lives, we saw a conflict where compromise was not an option. For the first times in our lives, we were in doubt about which side to take.

Many judges of superior courts have been put under house arrest. Hundreds of lawyers have been arrested, put under house arrest or forced to go underground. Despite all this, thousands of them are resolved to take the fight to its rightful end, and are bravely facing the inhumane violence being meted out to them on the orders of a power-hungry military dictator. But let us assure you, the lawyers are not alone in this struggle.

We, the students of LUMS and those of many other universities, have joined lawyers in many protests for the independence of judiciary and have witnessed the despicable yoke of dictatorship with our own naked eyes. We have also witnessed the purity of intentions with which lawyers have struggled to throw off this yoke. This purity of intentions and resolve has shown us a much-awaited glimmer of hope. It has shown us the possibility of change.

For giving us this glimmer of hope, this tangible inspiration, this possibility of change, we thank you.

For your courage and resolve, for your steadfastness, for your selflessness, we salute you.

For carrying on the struggle and showing all of Pakistan what a principled stand really means, we congratulate you.

And rest assured, we wouldn’t let you down.


The Student Body of Lahore University of Management Sciences

Pakistan likely to be suspended from the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth has indicated that is likely to suspend Pakistan's membership due to state of emergency being imposed and suspension of human rights. At a pre- conference summit in Uganda where 53 foreign ministers of the Commonwealth have convened, a decision whether to suspend Pakistan from the body is the top agenda, amidst escalating political crisis in the country. The issue is going to go before vote today, however Secretary General Don Mckinnon, of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has said, "It is going to be a tough decision."

However, Pakistan has been informed its membership status will be reviewed again once the January 8 elections are held.

To read more click here

Judges need immediate show of support


There is increased severe pressure on the non-PCO judges of Sind High Court to sign on PCO or break away from their brother judges who didnot take oath under the PCO.
The initial spate of visits to judges has worn off and there haven't been any visits lately. And believe me, most of them are not aware of the protests that are taking place all over for the judiciary.
It would be a tragedy if they were to take oath because of lack ofinformation coupled with pressure from the govt.
We urgently need to reaffirm our support for them. We need to tell them that their clear stand is what galvanised the entire nation to stand up and raise its voice with them.
The following is a list of judges of the Sindh High Court who refused to take oath under the PCO. Let us all, in whatever way we can, reach out to them. They are indeed the heroes of the hour.

Political debate banned in colleges

(Courtesy DAWN)
ISLAMABAD, Nov 21: The federal government on Tuesday imposed a ban on open debate on media curbs, suspension of judges and emergency in all colleges and universities in the country.Well-placed sources said students of various universities and colleges in Islamabad, had been strongly protesting against emergency rule, curbs on the media and suspension of judges, for the last few days to express solidaritywith the electronic media. Taking notice of the situation, the federal government has banned debate in all colleges and universities and warned of strict action against violators. Students, civil society activists and others have been continuouslyprotesting against the imposition of emergency for the last 12 days.

(Yet another milestone of the Police State..One wonders if a seperate directive will be issued for households soon)

[Finally] Musharraf to doff uniform by Saturday

from cagel e toons

"It may happen on Saturday," "I know the president, and he will honor his commitment."

- Principled words of Attorney General Malik Mohammad Qayyum to reporters

After having his loyal group of handpicked judges dispensing a tailor-made ruling, Musharraf will be stepping down as Chief of Armed Services on Saturday and swearing a Presidential oath for a five year term.

It's about time.

QAU observes black day

Qaudi Azam University students continue to protest against the emergency. Today they observe Yaum- e- Siyah (Black Day) and marked the event by making a human hand in hand chain. The protest by students and faculty has been the largest since emergency was imposed. About 1500 students and faculty members chanted anti- emergency slogans and demanded restoration of the constitution and democracy.

The News further reports:

“Azadi,” freedom of expression, “Go Musharraf go” and “Restore judiciary” were the slogans adorning trees, walls, pillars and poles at Quaid-i-Azam University. The students, teachers and employees are about to complete third week of their protest campaign against sacking of judges, proclamation of emergency and suspension of the 1973 Constitution.

Everyday, the campus community with students in overwhelming majority assemble at Social Sciences parking lot and making round of different departments terminate their march at buses terminal, the chowk renamed by the students as Justice Chaudhry Iftikhar Square some days ago.

Tuesday was another day of protest, which continued unabated since Nov 3 interrupted only by public holidays and Fridays. They were chanting slogans of “Restore electronic media,” “Muk gia tera show Musharraf, go Musharraf, go Musharraf” and “Restore the deposed judges.” They carried black flags also inscribed with similar slogans.

Addressing the gathering, Alia Amirali, a student of anthropology, said that according to Gen Musharraf, terrorism was the reason behind emergency. Are jails of Pakistan stuffed by lawyers, journalists, students, labourers, human rights activists and political workers or by terrorists? she posed a question. She lamented that one person has made the whole country hostage only for remaining in power.

The protesting students announced to observe Thursday as Black Day and appealed to the students, teachers and employees to come in black dress. A human chain will be made from Bab-ul-Quaid to Justice Chaudhry Iftikhar Square near cafeteria on that day. It was also announced that the students will stage a protest rally at 2:30p.m as per routine.

To trust or not to trust


It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but the fact is that President General Pervez Musharraf appears to have weathered the immediate post-emergency storm. Initial foreign pressure emanating from European stalwarts of democracy seems to have receded in view of Musharraf’s indispensability to the United States being the man who controls the Pakistani Army, which, apart from making the usual expected noises on the matter, continues to be largely concerned with its own needs rather than the global development of democratic institutions Although internal resistance continues to be offered by the legal fraternity, students community and members of civil society, a definite polling date of Jan 8 has been announced and most political parties, in spite of maintaining the charade of being unequivocally opposed to the emergency and subsequent measures, have started preparations for elections.

The PPP, whose chairperson Benazir, was until recently calling for nation-wide protest movements, has predictably softened her stance on Musharraf and elections following a visit by the US Deputy of State John Negroponte; delivering the American wish that she should cooperate with the general - hence the declaration expressing her readiness to work with Musharraf and a review (read reversal) of the party’s decision to boycott the upcoming elections. The only person to remain truly steadfast on the emergency issue is Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf chairman, Imran Khan, who has emerged as the unscathed leader of the anti-Musharraf camp, by going on a hunger strike in jail and calling for mass-scale mobilization of the students.

This is not the first time that Khan has pinned his hopes on the youth, particularly in Punjab. When he first entered politics in the 90s, he expected widespread support from the younger voters, largely as a result of the popularity he enjoyed as a cricketing icon. Unfortunately for him, the Pakistani public reacted the same way as their Indian counterparts when it came to treatment of celebrity icons who delve into politics. The overwhelming reception that was accorded to Khan during his visit to LUMS suggests however, that that the trend might be changing. In his address to LUMS students, Khan talked at length about the role of youth in the transformation of Pakistan, concluding with a stern reminder, that students had to as of yet, play a role in the post-March 9 movement.

At a time when questions about the effectiveness of the protest movement are being raised within the student’s body, Khan’s followers can take heart from the 1969 largely student-sponsored anti-Ayub movement. What lacked then, was a sincere leader, with a post-Ayub vision, who could after Ayub’s departure, usher a progressive change in national politics. Hence the student movement that began remained ill defined, resulting in a eventual breakdown of the state that culminated finally with the East Pakistan tragedy.

Another retaliatory student movement that emerged was that of ‘Muhajir’ identity politics. The MQM, originally having the ethnic nomenclature of Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz, was born out of the APMSO, which was formed by Karachi University student leaders belonging to lower and middle income brackets. They were able to mobilize staggering support among the Urdu-speaking and Gujrati-speaking populace of urban Sindh with the aim to be represented in assemblies against all odds. It is another matter, that once elected, these students exhibited all the tendencies and practices of the very feudal lords that they had initially set out to challenge.

The above instances show that even in feudal politics-dominated, illiterate, Pakistan it is possible for students to achieve victories with will and courage. However, the post-Ayub scenario also demonstrates, that it is necessary to have an objective vision, apart from merely ousting of a military ruler through street protests in order to prevent the country from falling into the wrong hands yet again. The dilemma that poses students and civil society members is whether to trust military backed, corrupt political players with shady track records who claim to be against the current establishment and working for democracy in the country. The PPP’s two-fold strategy reflects the cynical reality, that political parties are merely riding on the coat tails of popular public dissent at Musharraf so to obtain votes by attempting to use students and protestors as a tool to pressurize the government into compromise. History shows, that boycotting the elections may not bode well for such parties (PPP in 1985, MQM in 1993), yet such a boycott will reflect the strength of the resistance. By participating in the upcoming elections these parties, contrary to their alleged stances, are giving a tacit acceptance acceptance to conditions under the state of emergency and recognition to the elections.

If such opposition political parties are devoid of principles, then what exactly are the students then fighting for? Simple ‘restoration of democracy’ will only result in sham elections that bring back the same governments that failed people in their promises, for there is way in present elections, that minor parties like the PTI, hampered by lack of capable personnel within the party and mass public following, can pull off a landslide in the elections. The hour’s need most, is the realization that the journey to radical political reformation will not end after the ousting of the current military rule. Only a collective resolve by students and civil society will fill the abyss of political bankruptcy and make such fickle political parties accountable for their promises.

Whether Imran Khan is the messiah we have been waiting for, is a conclusion to soon to judge. Whether he is even capable of mobilizing the intelligentsia and the youth, is something only time will tell. What we do know is that, we do set aside out political apathy and cynicism, and armed with a new resolve rid our politics of prevailing feudal- military system, there is no hope.