Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Student Action Committee Lahore stages first protest

Students Action Committee, Lahore staged their first protest today. This was termed as a 'tester' before the mega protest they have announced on coming Friday, to analyze the reaction of cops and the students.Around 70 members of the Students Action Committee, Lahore gathered at Lahore Press Club building around 2 PM. Students representatives from FAST, NCA, PU, LUMS, LGS, BNU, UCL and a few other institutes were welcomed by the Lahore Press Club Management where they first started designing placards. The students then started chanting slogans 'Go Musharraf Go !' , 'Laathi Goli ki Sarkay, Nahe Chalay ge Nahe Chalay ge' and 'Adlia' Azaad Karo'. The members of Lahore Press Club and lawyers joined them soon and media guys shot the action. 'Chillars' (Police) ? Obviously they were there, even before the students were there. The cops assembled at the gate of the Lahore Press Club building to monitor the situation. Later, the students decided to move out of the building, quite daring and bold step, knowing that the cops were ready for action. But quite surprisingly they did not interfere. The students, holding the placards moved out and queued up at the foot-path around the Press Club building. The cops told the students not to come forward on the road. The sloganeering continued even there for 15-20 minutes and pamphlets were distributed to the pass-byers, motorists and those in cars. It was encouraging to see people passing by showing victory sign (with fingers) to the protesters - at least people support the cause if can not participate.The students, forming a human hand-chain moved to the GEO Stall, opposite to Jung building at Davis Road to sow solidarity and support to the media guys and to raise their voice against the curb on media. Team GEO warmly welcomed the students and handed over the mic to the students for sloganeering, which continued with a few new ones added as per the environment, like, 'GEO ko jeenay do' , 'Media ko azaad karo' etc. One of the students then recited a couple of revolutionary poems from Jalib and Faiz.

(Courtesy ALE Expressed:

Between Despair and Hope

Rasul Bakhsh Rais

What would define chaos better than a swift reconstitution of the judiciary, imposition of Emergency rule and holding the Constitution in abeyance? This institutional chaos has pushed the elections as an issue to the margins of political debate. Why would anyone consider elections under the conditions described above as sincere, credible, free and fair?

After eight years of Musharraf- centred politics, we see some signs of change in the politics of Pakistan. The first major change that will redefine politics issues, alignments and the political process in the coming weeks and months is the announcement that General Musharraf is going to take off his military uniform on November 29 and get himself sworn in as a civilian president. Many a times before, pledges, declarations and commitments were not honoured. Therefore, there should be a bit of caution while accepting that the final episode of General Musharraf's career is about to begin.

The moment it happens, the dynamics of Pakistani politics will greatly change, and that will be a very positive development for the country. It would mark the beginning of a major political transition. The indications of such a transition are apparent: Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, two leaders the General despised the most and kept out of the country for nearly a decade, have returned.

What made General Musharraf and the ruling clique rethink their position on the leaders of the two major political parties? Not a sudden change of heart about democracy and constitutional rule, but a sudden loss of moral authority, because otherwise, Musharraf was and is Chief of the Army Staff and the 'elected president' who has the support of three major political groups that were ready to follow his political direction.

The General has come to realise that between March 9 and November 3, he placed his own ambitions above Pakistan, its vital institutions and norms of governance. While this inversion of priorities was apparent to even the dullest of political minds, the General was adamant that all his thoughts and actions were guided only by considerations for Pakistan's security, stability and prosperity.

The people of Pakistan accepted him without questioning the legitimacy of his military takeover and all institutions, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, extended him whatever support he needed to fulfil his pledge of guiding Pakistan to genuine democracy and improving the economy. Contrary to popular expectations, his politics was based on the familiar thought that politicians can be bought for a bargain. Musharraf's every political move, including allying with some of the most corrupt politicians in the country and rigging elections, proved beyond any doubt that he did not represent the forces of social and political change but was quite comfortable with the herd as long as he was the shepherd.

In Pakistan's cyclical history, there is a strange pattern where every military ruler undermines his position by committing blunder upon blunder even before the opposition forces do anything to him. Mr Sharif's return to Pakistan, despite regular threats that he would not be allowed into the country before completing the term of his exile and last ditch efforts by the regime to stop him, tells a great deal about how much the Musharraf's government has weakened. Emergency rule is the only armour protecting his dangerously exposed political flanks. But even that has hardly served its purpose. Everything that Musharraf has attempted since March 9 has backfired badly.

Pakistan is in serious trouble today with a lot of uncertain, unstable and even chaotic situations. What would define chaos better than a swift reconstitution of the judiciary, imposition of Emergency rule and holding the Constitution in abeyance? This institutional chaos has pushed the elections as an issue to the margins of political debate. Why would anyone consider elections under the conditions described above as sincere, credible, free and fair?

There is now an increased possibility of more political parties boycotting the elections with the return of Sharif, who considers Musharraf to be the mother and father of all of Pakistan's problems. He has presented a charter of demands that will be difficult for the Musharraf government to accept, including the General's removal from power. If Sharif decides to stay out of the elections, even if Bhutto participates, the polls will have no integrity at all.

Also, the return of the two old political rivals is not a precursor of a major change in the politics of Pakistan, other than perhaps ousting Musharraf, and even that has serious question marks attached to it. While there are ample reasons for the lack of trust and confidence in mainstream political parties whose leaders have little regard for democracy within their own parties, in the objective conditions of the country, they can be the only medium of political transition in the traditional sense of politics. It is not clear whether their ascendancy in the post-Musharraf era will be the beginning of a major political transition in the structural sense. It could be more of the same old wine in new bottles.

The real indications of change and hope are in the new social movement of the students, media, lawyers and intelligentsia. It is not about conventional politics and leaders with their ambitions and deals. It is about the basics of Pakistani politics and society that need to be defined in the vastly changed national and global climate. There is a realisation that simply changing political horses who have been tried before will not help Pakistani society modernise and progress. Structural change with respect to the independence of judiciary, constitutionalism, rule of law and fundamental freedoms including, most importantly, the media, will gradually move society in that direction.

The sentiment and capacity of the new social forces, and their willingness to accept suffering for the cause of true democracy and civility in politics is as mesmerising as its courage and youthfulness. Musharraf, despite a good start, lost moral power and influence because he failed to go with the forces of change and elected to rely on politicians of questionable integrity. The fate of two other leaders, each tried twice in the past, may be no different if they don't embrace the ideal of the new social movement, which wants real change and is willing to fight for as long as it takes. This is the true sign of hope.

The author is a professor of Political Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He can be reached at

Details of Justice Tariq Mahmood's condition

(Courtesy The News)
ISLAMABAD: The moving ordeal of an ailing but defiant Justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood lodged in the Sahiwal jail for the last 23 days, as narrated by his struggling wife, brought tears to the eyes of hundreds of members of the civil society and political workers who watched the 'Capital Talk' show of Geo TV live on the footpath of Islamabad on Monday.
Justice Tariq, once the top judge of the Balochistan High Court, who had resigned after refusing to conduct the controversial presidential referendum of 2002, was now being made to sleep on the cold floor of the Sahiwal jail to break his nerves and punish him for his acts of defiance since he quit the judiciary to register his protest.
As his health condition deteriorated in the Sahiwal jail, Tariq Mahmood who is said to have developed severe back pain has now been rushed to a Lahore hospital for his medical tests. To acknowledge his act of defiance, lawyers' community had elevated him to the prestigious office of president of Supreme Court Bar Association. He again earned respect after he became member of the legal team which successfully defended the deposed chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
She told the shocked audience of the show amid moving scenes how her husband was being ill treated in the jail and taught a brutal lesson for his commitment to the forces of truth and justice.
Justice Tariq was arrested on November 3 along with Munir A Malik, Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmed Kurd, the dream team which fought the case of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
Hundreds of participants stood up to show their respect to the wife of Justice Tariq and to show their support and admiration. Mrs Tariq asked in a very emotional tone what was her husband's fault who had only tried to stand with the people who were struggling for freedom.