Friday, December 7, 2007

Update on arrests from outside Justice Siddiqui's residence

Last night, ten people were arrested from outside Justice Shahdi Siddiqui's house while holding a peaceful vigil. Amongst those arrested were two FAST students, a LUMS alumnus, Amanullah Kariapper, and a member of the LUMS law faculty, Saima Khwaja.

Upon hearing the news, about 25-30 students form LUMS left for the Racecourse police station. Civil society activists and lawyers had already assembled outside and were joined by students from LUMS, BNU, and FAST. The protestors chanted slogans, sang songs, and recited poetry after forming a peace sign with candles.

About 4 am, it was decided that the crowd should disperse and return with reinforcements at 8am. Once the protesters left, those arrested were moved to an unknown location. After hours of trying to locate them, it was discovered that their hearing was to be held at the Cantt Kutcheri at 11:30 am. The protestors arrived at the kutcheri and learnt that the 'miscreants' had been charged with disturbing the peace. They were not allowed bail.

The prisoners were then divided and some were shifted to Kot Lakhpat jail, while others were taken to Cantt Jail on Ferozepur Road. The protestors continued their protest outside Cantt Jail, joined by the parents of those arrested, until police pressure became too great to remain. They dispersed and then met at Lawrence Gardens to discuss plans for Monday, specifially for the protest to be held outside the high court to mark International Human Rights Day (10th December).

(Eds - This is the bare bones of what happened. We will be updating you as details come in)

Pictures from the Protest outside the Lawrence Road Thana tonight

Protest outside Lawrence Road Thana at 8 AM, TODAY

Over 100 people have been protesting the arrest of students, lawyers and members of civil society for the past few hours, who include two students from FAST, a LUMS professor and a LUMS alumnus, along with other activists and teachers. At the time of writing of this report they have been completely outnumbered and surrounded by a police force armed with batons and shields. Owing to the arrival of night and the absence of ANY media there has been a joint consensus to come again at 8 AM in the morning with more people.
According to Police, the Lahore High Court Chief INjustice, took a Suo Moto notice AGAINST the IG Punjab Police, Governor Punjab and a few other high officials for not being able to remove Justice MA Shahid Siddiqi from his house and ordered them to arrest all 'miscreants' disrupting 'law and order'. Those arrested will be taken to the Kangaroo Lahore High Court at 11 am.
We strongly urge every student, lawyer, activist, member of civil society and any other sympathizer to come to the Lawrence road Thana (off Jail road) at 8 am.We need to make sure that these heroes of Pakistan do not 'disappear' from the radar.
Please also inform every media person you know. We need to make sure that these protesters can face a fair trial and are not held at a secret torture center without any access to legal counsel or support.

Students, teachers, activists arrested in Lahore

The authorities are now stooping to even lower lows. As you are aware, lawyers students and civil society have been keeping vigil outside Justice Shahid Siddiqui's house to prevent his forced eviction by the Punjab government. The police has just now arrested these citizens and taken them to racecourse jail. All in Lahore are urged to to express your solidarity outside the jail.
Many students (from FAST) and a LUMS professor have also been arrested !!! The details are unknown as yet.
Please inform all everyone you can.

People's Protection and Mercy Season


As the sun sets over 14 Tollington Road, GOR Lahore, outside a posh bungalow, people are chanting slogans against the government and vowing to protect an old, ailing gentleman-judge who has refused to take oath under the much-maligned PCO. The Registrar loyal to the government has threatened eviction, but the people who still consider “Justice Sahab” a legitimate sitting judge of the Lahore High Court stand guard outside the house, at all times of the day and the night. They vow that they shall not let anyone evict the judge. He is under the People’s Protection, as they continue this drarna-cum-vigil.

Any astute and seasoned observer of Pakistani politics will tell you that in the heart of a leafy elitist district of Lahore, outside a posh residence of a High Court judge, people sitting on charpoys and staging protest is a very surprising phenomenon.

But the fact remains that the people are extending support to those who seek it. On God’s earth, there is no protection greater than that offered by his people, when they stand united, and in defense of principles they hold sacred. Today, the public believes that the judges stand for their inalienable rights against an increasingly lawless and barbaric state. The people now believe that protecting the judges is key because it is they who act as society’s bulwark against the fierce onslaught of totalitarianism.

It is important to remember that this is not an old phenomenon. People have had a lot of scores to settle with the judiciary. Not long ago, the judiciary was considered part and parcel of the civil-military establishment that upholds the system of capitalist exploitation in this country. The lower judiciary still lingers under that stigma. As for the higher courts, it took no more than a few concerted gestures of honest, principled commitment from a majority of the higher judiciary – and khalq-e-khuda(God’s peopple) forgave all their past sins. More that that, khalq-e-khuda is actually holding them in a warm, pretective embrace. Standing outside the Judge’s residence, today no one would even bear mention of those embodiments of judicial sins that extend from Dosso to Zafar Ali Shah and Nawaz Sharif v State and countless others. Those cases are history and today is another day.

Everyone explains this by saying that this nation has a very limited political memory. I think that the real explanation lies elsewhere. For one, we are a people who were raised to suspect everyone and criticize all. We are given to weaving conspiracy theories, to ridiculing policies, laws, ideas, anything and everything except, of course, if it is an order backed by the threat of immediate sanction from a power that currently prevails. One after the other, the nation’s hopes and the heroes who embody those hopes (political leaders, entrepreneurs, sportsmen, nuclear scientists) have all been seriously, and often maliciously, discredited. People are desperate for just about any straw of hope that they may cling on to. And if, in such a time of crisis, the higher courts, despite their tarnished history, extend a full helping hand, nay a strong arm, why wouldn’t the people respond. Add to that the fact that in harder times, people, like their God in heavens, become oft-forgiving.

No one should ignore the public’s new-found, infinitely magnanimous and reconciliatory mood. Talking of reconciliation, it is one thing to reconcile your disputes with the powers-that-be in the state and quite another to seek reconciliation with the people’s fury. In all honestly, the latter is worth more – particularly for any politician or officer of the state with a pretence to serving the people.

Now is truly a time of National Reconciliation. The example of the judges proves that God’s people, just like him, have opened the floodgates of mercy. Political parties should not lose this opportunity to clean the very many stains of their past by openly embracing the people’s demand for the restoration of judiciary and fundamental freedoms. It may be a bit premature to say this, but it appears that the same offer is open to the police. If today the people have embraced the higher judiciary, what stops the police from doing a just a little to deserve the same treatment. Even the army and all other organs of the states, who are taking a severe beating in their respective jobs and wouldn’t mind some help, should seriously reconsider their options. Wouldn’t it be better if the strongest state institution of Pakistan, instead of locking horns with the people, joined them in their march towards a better, freer future?

A proviso must be added to this discourse: the current Mercy Season may end anytime soon. As soon as the first is fired against them and their first martyr falls, ranks will frozen and people on the other side would be become ‘others’. Any political party or institution of the state that wants to close ranks with people should do it now, when they still can. You can shop for the People’s Protection before blood is spilled; after that, the Sale will be over and the price to pay for missing a historic opportunity will be very high.