Thursday, November 29, 2007

Student Action Committee Lahore urges boycott of elections

The following is a letter from the Student Action Committee Lahore to the country’s political parties on participation in the upcoming elections:

To the leadership of the APDM, PML-N, PPP and PTI,

The students of over 15 universities and institutes of Lahore have united to form the Student Action Committee, Lahore. We are also collaborating with the Student Action Committees of Islamabad and Peshawar. Together, we call to you at a time when the nation is required to unite. The institutions of the state have been maligned again and we, the students, have united to oppose their blatant subversion. In the absence of organized structures, it has taken us a while to unite, but united we stand to ensure that our country has a future. Our voices were raised and, then, attempted to be muffled from the first day following the emergency but we have remained steadfast in the face of mounting pressures and we request you to do the same.

Collectively, we have demanded the lifting of Martial Law, the reinstatement of the judiciary, the restoration of the constitution, the freedom of the media and the release of protest prisoners before we can even consider the upcoming election to be free and fair. Therefore, we have collectively agreed that unless the aforementioned are undertaken, we shall advocate a complete boycott of the elections and attempt to mount a movement for the fulfillment of this struggle.

This letter is a call to you with a single agenda – a boycott of the scheduled elections – for we must lend no legitimacy to any course that the present executive takes to justify the imposition of martial law against the judiciary and the citizenry of
Pakistan. Therefore, in this appeal to your party leadership, we call upon you to stand by your own manifest cause – the restoration of democratic rule to Pakistan.

What is vital today is that we stand together for the judiciary, who had begun to take the first steps to uphold our constitution. The restoration of the judiciary to its position as of
the 2nd of November 2007 must be a pre-condition before extending any degree of participation in the electoral process. These elections are a slight to democracy and all its advocates.

Therefore, we make this call to your alliance to stand steadfast for once: for we have oft seen you waver since your creation. We need our political leaders to stand together for the cause that they have oft championed. If you do stand steadfast and withdraw from the upcoming mockery (the elections) then we do promise that we will do our utmost to stand by you in protest and, perhaps, even, stand ahead of you for this country, in our united struggle for the institution of true democracy in the country.

Our task is simple and needs no elaboration: the restoration of people’s rule to the citizens of
Pakistan. If, indeed, you be ready to stand by the people of this nation, then, we shall commend you and respect you and struggle alongside you for the sake of our future. However, if you too give in to the imperatives of short term power then unfortunately, you too shall stand as an affront to our cause.

We, the humble students of the universities and institutions of
Lahore, hereby, call upon you to boycott the upcoming election as candidates and as political parties. We shall call upon the people to do so in our capacity as (inshallah) the next generation of Pakistan. We hope that in doing so we can collectively mount a campaign that may change the currently teetering course of our nation.

In anticipation of principles,

The Student Action Committee, Lahore

Retired Senior Officers urge Musharraf to step down as President

A group of retired senior officers from the armed forces, including several Lt -Generals and Major Generals urged General Musharraf on Tuesday, to step down, not only as the Army Chief but as the President of Pakistan as well. They called on him to restore the constitution, revoke the PCO, withdraw media curbs, reinstate the pre-emergency judiciary and release political detainees. In their joint statement, they also said that since the President had admitted in an interview to performing an illegal act on the 3rd of November, he had lost all moral and legal authority to retain his position. They further stated that he was responsible for bringing the Armed Forces into disrepute. The statement contained the signatures of Air Marshall (Retd) Noor Khan, Admiral Fasih Bokhari, Air Chief Marshall Pervez Mehdi, Air Vice-Marshall Abbas Mirza, Lt-Gen Talat Masood, Lt-Gen Asad Durrani, Lt-Gen Ali Kuli Khan, Lt-Gen Naeem Akbar, Lt-Gen Jamshed Gulzar Kiani, Lt-Gen Ghulam Mustafa, Maj-Gen Saeed Ahmed, Maj-Gen Rizwan Qureshi, Maj-Gen Pervez Akmal, Maj-Gen Ziaullah Khan, Air Commodore Aurangzeb Azim, Brig Shaukat Qadir, Col Ahsan Siddiqui, Capt Naeem Sarfaraz, Capt Safir Mallal and Commander Mumtaz Fazal Naqshbandi.

Students welcome removal of uniform but stress restoration of the judiciary

Members of the LUMS Student Movement welcome President Musharraf's long-awaited move of removing his military uniform. However, they stress that this does not detract from the main issue which has mobilised such a storm of opposition to the regime's actions in recent weeks; the primary issue continues to be the restoration of the legitimate judiciary as it was before November 3rd, 2007. The Judiciary's independence and soveriegnty is the fundamental right and demand of the people of Pakistan. The students express the hope that the removal of President Musharraf's uniform is not merely a cosmetic overture and marks a real change of attitude in the government towards beginning a genuine process of lessening the degree to which the military is entrenched within the affairs of the executive and affecting a real seperation between the judicial, executive and military institutions of the regime. Students' protests in defence of the judiciary will continue unabated.

Is there a safe passage?

By Javed Hussain

IN 1933, Hitler was nominated the chancellor of Germany by President Hindenberg. But before he could take office he was required to get his appointment approved by a new Reichstag (parliament).

Afraid that his Nazi party would not win an absolute majority in the elections, Hitler decided to create a situation which would necessitate the imposition of an emergency. He engineered the burning of the Reichstag. Following this he got the president to issue an emergency decree for the ‘Protection of the people and the state’, which enabled him to suspend fundamental rights and imprison anyone without trial.

The Reichstag elections were held in November 1933 in which the Nazi party got 43.9 per cent of the votes, not an absolute majority. Therefore, in order to free himself of any parliamentary restraint, he sought the passage of the ‘Enabling Act’, which would give him the power to make laws without the approval of the Reichstag.

Since the Act deviated from the constitution, it needed a two-thirds majority to be adopted. Using subterfuge, intimidation and violence, he managed to get the Act passed by 444 votes to 94.

He thus became a legal dictator and promptly brought all political and social institutions, including the press and the courts, under his control. But he made sure that the privileged position of the army was secured.

Seventy-four years later Hitler’s extremist political credo is being replicated in Pakistan. In 1999, people had welcomed the Musharraf coup. Many thought that the saviour had finally arrived. They had great expectations for their country’s and their own future. Yet on Mar 9, their hopes came crashing down as he showed his true colours.
He thought that by intimidating the Chief Justice he would force him to resign; he was surprised. He then filed a reference; he was surprised again.
... But his scheme could fail if the political parties get their act together and spearhead the movement launched by the lawyers, journalists and civil society. If the movement reaches a crescendo before the elections, it could force a rethink on his western and local sponsors about the wisdom of supporting a person who has become a liability.

One of Hitler’s cronies had thundered that “the government will brutally beat down everyone who opposes it. We do not say an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; no, he who knocks out one of our eyes will get his head cut off, and he who knocks out one of our teeth will get his jaw smashed in.”

From the stage at the carnival in Islamabad [May 12], while the dead and the dying were lying in the streets of Karachi, the president had thundered in similar style.

While the dissenters were “brutally beaten down”, they continue to resist. The courage, honour and sacrifice of people like Asma Jehangir, Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Tariq Mahmood, Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry and his colleagues, and Imran Khan, have not only turned them into national heroes, but also inspired the tormented people of Pakistan to rise from their slumber. He will be surprised yet again.

Like Field Marshal Paulus and his 6th German Army at Stalingrad, he has been encircled. But unlike Paulus, a safe passage may yet be made available to him.

The writer is a retired brigadier of the SSG of the Pakistan Army.
( The above piece was posted on "Dawn" newspapers' opinion page, of the Nov. 28th circulation.)

For many Pakistanis, an Economic Emergency

(Courtesy The LA Times, Nov 28, 2007)
Henry Chu
MUSTAFABAD, PAKISTAN -- Mohammed Rafiq has only to look at his dinner table to find reasons to hate President Pervez Musharraf.

What would a meal be without chapati, the flatbread that is a staple of Pakistani cuisine? But flour, when you can get it, costs a third more than it did just a few months ago. How can anybody drink unsweetened tea? But the price of sugar has shot up by half.

"These are basic necessities," said Rafiq, 50. "The maximum wage for a laborer is 200 rupees a day [about $3.30]. How can he manage everything on that?"

Pakistanis' anger with Musharraf's military-backed government has hit a new high since Nov. 3, when he imposed de facto martial law. Civil liberties have been withdrawn, and images of bloodied protesters getting hustled away by police have sparked outrage here and abroad.

But the president's deepening unpopularity at home has as much to do with economic as political grievances. Conversations with ordinary Pakistanis quickly turn from the state of emergency of their national polity to the state of emergency afflicting their household budgets. Price hikes are routinely cited as one of the biggest problems, if not the biggest, facing the nation.

In Islamabad, the capital, Musharraf and his ministers frequently boast about Pakistan's robust annual economic growth rate of 8%. But on the ground in towns such as Mustafabad, outside the eastern city of Lahore, people complain of hard times.

Workers like Rafiq, who serves tea from a roadside stand, have watched in alarm as the cost of such staples as rice, tomatoes, onions and cooking oil seems to increase weekly.

For that alone -- never mind emergency rule, to which they also vociferously object -- Musharraf ought to go, many Pakistanis say.

"I'm 40 years old, and I've never seen a ruler like him," farmer Sajid Khan said in disgust. "The government has [lost] control over prices. Shopkeepers are raising prices however much they want, and there's no authority to check that."

"All of Pakistan is suffering," said Mohammed Aftab, a dark-bearded young driver. "It's all because of Musharraf."

Economists say the blame for steep inflation cannot be laid entirely at the government's door. Like other countries, Pakistan is a victim of the relentless climb of oil prices. Getting goods to the market, especially on the woefully inadequate roads, is a more expensive proposition than before. The rise in the price of crude also has boosted the cost of utilities such as electricity.

But policies directly within the government's purview have contributed to the problem, said economics professor Qais Aslam. The state price-support program for farmers, rather than benefiting them and consumers, has enriched middlemen and owners of flour and sugar mills -- many of them politically well-connected. They have hoarded their commodities and artificially pushed up prices.

And sectors that have shown impressive growth, such as services and real estate, have proved most profitable for the educated, landed Pakistanis who already occupy the upper stratum of society and shop at designer stores in big cities, not the millions who eke out hard lives in the villages. Annual per capita income in Pakistan is only $720, according to the World Bank.

"The government's policies have helped the rich make more money rather than helped the poor settle their budgets," said Aslam, who teaches at the University of Central Punjab in Lahore. "The economic gains have not been translated into social gains."

When Waseem Abbas peers out from behind the counter of his corner store here in dusty Mustafabad, he sees nothing for the government to brag about.

One of Musharraf's allies, the chief minister of Punjab province, came to the area recently for a pomp-filled ceremony marking the supposed completion of a road in front of Abbas' shop. Abbas just laughs, because the road is still in sorry shape, like so much else here, despite official self-congratulation over Pakistan's economic growth.

"How can you say that when you don't have electricity in this country, when you have load-shedding for five hours a day? How can you say there's prosperity?" said Abbas, who turned his anger on Musharraf. "He's a liar."

Customers sometimes quarrel with Abbas and his business partner, Abdul Razzaq, over the prices in their store. But the owners say they feel as hammered as anybody by an acute shortage of flour and by price hikes, since last year, of nearly 100% for rice and 100% for ghee, or clarified butter.

The simmering economic discontent has not translated directly into protests. The demonstrations that rocked Pakistan's streets after Musharraf's Nov. 3 edict were political, and were led by lawyers, human rights activists and other professionals.

Lower-income Pakistanis have shied away, out of grim economic reality. "We don't have time to go and protest," said Aftab, the driver. "If we do that, who will earn our money for us?"

But the significance of political change is not lost on them. Musharraf must step down as president, they say, because of his autocratic ways and the lack of improvement in their lives. An elected leader would at least feel a sense of obligation to voters and could be called to account for failing to deliver, they say.

"Democracy should come," Razzaq said. "Democracy is the only solution."

(Original version on,1,3970417.story?coll=la-headlines-world)

Important: Pressure PML-N

Thank you for your help in putting pressure on PPP. The campaign turned out to be great and inside sources suggest that they party leaders had an overwhelming number of people contacting them.

PML-N is in a meeting right now which will decide their position on the elections. EVERYONE START SMSING/CALLING ASAP! If they get enough calls/msgs/ etc we can perhaps convince them to boycott these sham elections under a puppet judiciary.

Please also forward this to as many lists as possible.


Raja Muhammad Zafar-ul-Haq

Makhdoom Javed Hashmi

Muhammad Ali Khan Hoti
0937-862049 (off)
0937-863159 (R)

Mr. Saranjam Zamindar

Begum Tehmina

Syed Zafar Ali Shah

Ahsan Iqbal
051-4860058 (fax)

Muhammad Pervez Malik
9221577 (lodges)
9207477 (279)
042-5710332 (o)
042-5710333 (o)

Iqbal Zafar Jhagra

Ch. Mohammad Jafar Iqbal
051-2856501 ®
051-2651000 (O)

Khawaja Muhammad Asif

Sardar Rahim

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

Raja Ashfaq Sarwar

Khurram Dastgir Khan

Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan

Ch. Nisar Ali Khan

Ghulam Dastgir Khan

Ch. Abdul Ghafoor

Begum Najma Hameed

Safdar Rehman

Sartaj Aziz

Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa

Khawaja Saad Rafique

Syed Ghous Ali Shah

Pir Sabir Shah

Iqbal Zafar Jhagra

Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir

Syed Zafar Ali Shah

Begum Ishrat Ashraf

Raja Nadir Pervez Khan

Khawaja Saad Rafique

Video of Student, Journalist Protest at Lahore Press Club, Tuesday

Students Action Committee - Tester Protest - GEO Stall Davis Road, Lahore from formanite10 on Vimeo.