Saturday, December 1, 2007

Student Protest in Lahore - Eyewitness Account

Students from 21 universities, under the banner of Student Action Committee Lahore, gathered today at Liberty Chowk to publicly voice their dissent. The streets were lined with hundreds of Police Elite forces which warned the students that they would be arrested if they did not disperse within fifteen minutes. Amidst chants of "NO" to this question of dispersal, student's made it clear that police or no police, they would not disperse without making themselves heard. Students brandishing colorful placards and wearing black armbands flooded the liberty roundabout. Some members of the civil society, the lawyer's movement, doctors, and human rights activists also came to express solidarity and support for the student initiative.

The students sat displaying their banners and placards peacefully while negotiations with the Police SP were made. Afterwards, everyone made a human chain around the enormous roundabout, and chanted anti-Musharraf, pro-judiciary and pro-democracy slogans. After circling the roundabout for half an hour the procession of nearly 600 gathered in the middle, chanting freedom slogans with ever more vigor.

There were speeches made by students from a few of the participating universities, the content of which resonated around the necessity of empowering the common people of Pakistan and putting an end once and for all to the tyranny of the military. The students made it clear that this movement will be a long term struggle to ensure that true democracy is given a chance to take root in the country and that justice prevails. The students made it very clear that no elections can be legitimate without a free and independent judiciary overseeing them.

One demand declared as non-negotiable was the restoration of the judiciary as of 2nd Nov. Without the judicial organ being independent and un-terrorized, it will fail in its function of providing the necessary check and balance on the executive. After the speeches, the national anthem was sung by the all assembled. After this hour long protest, the gathering peacefully dispersed, distributing flyers to the public to educate them of their demands.

What made this assembly remarkable was the level of organization that was evident. Not a single flower was trampled nor any paper trash left behind; the students stuffed their own pockets and bags with the litter instead. Today's protest will not be forgotten easily from the memory of the people of Lahore. Today's country-wide protest demonstrated to the people of Pakistan the unwillingness of the youth of the nation to silently sit through the slow death of their nation.

Hundreds rally in Islamabad - Eyewitness account

The Protest Rally in Islamabad on Friday turned out to be a huge success, with around 300 people showing up to express their outrage at the continued subversion of the judiciary and media, and to stress on the boycott of the upcoming elections. The protest, co-ordinated with similar rallies around the country and abroad, consisted of students, journalists, lawyers, civil rights activists and ordinary citizens of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, who showed up despite the downpour in the twin cities in the afternoon. The crowd first gathered outside the Press Club at 3 PM, holding placards in support of the judiciary, prominent figures in the movement, such as Muneer A Malik, as well as the media. The protestors chanted slogans against the unconstitutional acts of the government and hailed Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his supporters as the heroes of the day. Several prominent figures from among the student, journalist and legal community stepped forward to address the gathering and outline their demands.
After 4 PM, the protest moved in the form of a car rally to the Marriot Hotel, near the Judicial residence. There, the numbers of protestors swelled as lawyers and members of civil society joined them in their march towards the Judge's residence. In the highly-charged atmosphere, the protestors pledged to prevent the eviction of the judges from their residences, as threatened by the government. Several prominent figures, such as Asma Jahangir and Roedad Khan joined the protestors, as they marched towards the Judicial residences.
Also prominent among the protestors were relatives of the missing people illegally abducted by intelligence agencies throughout the country. Carrying photos of their loved ones, the people joined the procession, calling for the reinstatement of the judges who had tried to get their relatives released from illegal custody.
The procession stopped at the police barricades, where the sloganeering continued even as hundreds of police personnel surrounded the protestors and prevented them from going further. Several more speeches were made as the protestors pledged to continue their struggle and boycott the elections until the judiciary, constitution and media was restored. The protestors then dispersed with plans to stage another major rally in the coming few days.

The movement continues..

In Complete Unity

Pictures of Student Rally in Lahore, Friday, 30th November

Nationwide Student Rally - Student Action Committee, Lahore Protest at Liberty Chowk

Student in many of the major cities of Pakistan gathered today in a coordinated mass protest. In Lahore, student protestors from 21 universities converged at Liberty Chowk today under the banner of Student Action Committee Lahore. They wore black armbands and brandished colourful placards. They were also joined by some lawyers, doctors and other members of the civil society, and a total of nearly six hundred people circled the roundabout in a human chain. They vigourously shouted pro-judiciary slogans, with a number of students making speeches calling for first and foremost the immediate restoration of the judiciary and then the devolution of power to the common people through a free and fair electoral process, with a withdrawal of military influence from all civilian affairs. The students stressed that no one should expect their movement to soon fizzle out, for they are definitely in it for the long haul and would not stop agitating for the cause of truth and justice. The students made it clear that no elections would be considered legitimate without the restoration of the pre-Nov 3rd judiciary. The gathering dispersed after the singing of the national anthem and distribution of flyers aiming to spread awareness about their demands. As one student said, "We have proved today that people do not need to fear student politics. We have not triggered chaos and violence. We made sure to make our protest totally peaceful and also totally environment friendly, with not even a single flower being trampled and no littering on the grass. The students of Pakistan have come out with a sincere desire to work for and call for the welfare of our nation." The protest took place facing hundreds of members of the Elite Police Force, who initially issued an ultimatum to the protestors to disperse within fifteen minutes or else face arrests. Faced with loud refusals by the students, however, the police remained on the sidelines and the protestors continued their rally for an hour.

Talat Hussein Live outside the Press Club

Talat Hussein takes his show to the streets in Islamabad. Also present are Mushtaq Minhas, Kashif Abbasi, Nusrat Javed and Nasim Zehra.