Tuesday, December 11, 2007
(Courtesy The News)
"I turn and turn in my cell like a fly that doesn't know where to die", was the cry of agony by Antonio Gramsci in the prison he was condemned to by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Gramsci painted not just his own pain.
Darkness had fallen upon Italy. Mussolini had seized power in October 1922 and established his rule with a combination of bribe and barbarity. In the November of 1926, faced with a crisis that nearly toppled him, Mussolini had consolidated his regime through emergency laws also known as "Exceptional Laws". Parliament was rendered meaningless. Opponents of the regime were jailed in their thousands; many of them were murdered and quite a few had just--disappeared. The judiciary had winced a bit but had been straightened up. The constitution was being violated with abandon and the laws rewritten. Teachers in schools and universities had to swear an oath of loyalty to the regime. The press too had been gagged with newspapers' offices being attacked, burnt and closed down. Only those who possessed a certificate of approval from the regime could practise journalism. The fiercest opposition to all this was also the most isolated and had not come from the main democratic parties. It was also memorably brave.
The main democratic parties opposing Mussolini's misrule couldn't agree among themselves. They feared mass radicalization as much as they opposed the fascist rule. Gramsci's efforts, in his days of freedom, to win them over to the idea of a countrywide "political strike" had met with failure. He had said:
"Will there be a compromise between fascism and the opposition bloc? A compromise cannot be totally ruled out. However, the crisis which the country is passing through is not a superficial phenomenon, curable with little measures and little expedients. If such a thing occurred, it would mean the suicide of the major democratic parties...There cannot exist a representative assembly under a fascist regime. Every assembly at once becomes a legionaries' encampment, or the antechamber of a brothel for drunken junior officers."
These words had fallen on deaf ears.
But the regime was facing a formidable moral and intellectual challenge in the person of Antonio Gramsci, Marxist theoretician and head of the Italian Communist Party. In his speech to the Italian parliament on May 16, 1925, he had torn to shreds the Great Leader's idea of how he was serving the country and the nation. And then he had said:
"Notwithstanding your…speeches, you have not overcome your contradictions: you have instead made them more strongly felt by the popular classes and the masses. You have added new dust to that already accumulated and you believe you have suppressed with a law the most lethal effects of your own activity."
At one point Mussolini had interrupted the speech saying: "The readers of newspapers don't count. The readers of newspapers are regularly wrong.
"Gramsci had gone on undeterred: "You can conquer the state, you can change the laws, you can seek to stop organizations existing in the form in which they have existed up to now; you cannot prevail against the objective conditions under which you are constrained to move."
This was Gramsci's last speech to the parliament. In accordance with emergency laws, Gramsci was arrested and put in solitary confinement. He was sentenced to more than 20 years of imprisonment through different trials. At one such trial, Gramsci's prosecutor had stated: "For twenty years we must stop this brain from functioning." But to the immense benefit of humanity, it wasn't a fly that turned and turned in that cell, but a mighty brain that worked and worked under constant physical and psychic pain. By the time he died, at the age of 46 and having suffered ten long years in prison from Potts disease, arterio-sclerosis and several other ailments, he had written more than 30 notebooks and 3000 pages of history and analysis. In 1947, two years after Mussolini's body was buried in an unmarked grave, these writings known as the Prison Notebooks saw the light of day and became a fountain of critical thinking where many a mind has drunk insight and inspiration. No serious discourse on sociology, politics, state and civil society remains uninformed by Gramsci.
Years before he was arrested and incarcerated, years before anyone else had seen the danger coming, Gramsci, then a 25-year-old radical journalist, had warned Italy in a newspaper editorial against the indifference of the many where a few sections of society are risking their life and limbs for an ideal. He had written:
"Indifference is actually the mainspring of history. But in a negative sense. What comes to pass, either the evil that afflicts everyone, or the possible good brought about by an act of general valour, is due not so much to the initiative of the active few, as to the indifference, the absenteeism of the many. What comes to pass does so not so much because a few people want it to happen, as because the mass of citizens abdicate their responsibility and let things be. They allow the knots to form that in time only a sword will be able to cut through; they let men rise to power whom in time only a mutiny will overthrow. The fatality that seems to dominate history is precisely the illusory appearance of this indifference, of this absenteeism. Events are hatched off-stage in the shadows; unchecked hands weave the fabric of collective life -- and the masses know nothing. The destinies of an epoch are manipulated in the interests of narrow horizons, of the immediate ends of small groups of activists -- and the mass of citizens know nothing. But eventually the events that are hatched come out into the open; the fabric woven in the shadows is completed, and then it seems that fatality overwhelms everything and everybody. It seems that history is nothing but an immense natural phenomenon, an eruption, an earthquake, and that we are all its victims, both those who wanted it to happen as well as those who did not, those who knew it would happen and those who did not, those who were active and those who were indifferent. And then it is the indifferent ones who get angry, who wish to dissociate themselves from the consequences, who want it made known that they did not want it so and hence bear no responsibility. And while some whine piteously, and others howl obscenely, few people, if any, ask themselves this question: had I done my duty as a man, had I sought to make my voice heard, to impose my will, would what came to pass have ever happened? But few people, if any, see their indifference as a fault -- their scepticism, their failure to give moral and material support to those political and economic groups that were struggling either to avoid a particular evil or to promote a particular good. Instead such people prefer to speak of the failure of ideas, of the definitive collapse of programmes, and other like niceties. They continue in their indifference and their scepticism."
Italy eventually saw and suffered one of the most brutal dictatorships known in history. Before his infamous speech proclaiming the end of the democratic illusion, Mussolini had ordered violence on the opposition and prevention of newspapers from publishing dissent, saying that as public opinion saw him firmly in control, "the fence-sitters, the silent majority, and the place-hunters" would all be brought round to him. The same fence-sitters and the same silent majority Gramsci had criticized in his editorial. Having trampled Italy's political conscience, Mussolini made his speech, openly accepting that he had violated all democratic norms and committed all that violence--for the greater good of Italy.
George Orwell, writing at a different time and a different place, but tormented by the same demon of the 'greater good', uttered a piercing shriek: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever". A week later after the publication of "1984", Orwell tempered his despair with hope: "Don't let this happen. It depends on you."
It was as if the spirit of Gramsci had spoken through him.
The writer is a staff member (of The News). Email: email@example.com
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 5:17 AM
We have all seen over the past couple of months pictures of brave lawyers in Pakistan risking their careers and even their own health and safety to stand up for their nation's constitution. At the same time, we are witnessing at home a similar - if not quite as acute - assault on our own Constitution by the Bush administration. Yet we have not seen a coordinated movement of lawyers in defense of the Constitution in this country.
It seems like this is about to change. The American Freedom Campaign, in conjunction with the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Alliance for Justice, has launched a campaign called "American Lawyers Defending the Constitution" (ALDC). Conceptualized just last month, the campaign has already brought together scores of law professors and other prominent lawyers, including Governor Cuomo.
Overall, more than 700 lawyers and law students have signed on to the campaign's first project - a sign-on statement to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, calling for hearings to investigate unconstitutional and potentially criminal activities by the Bush administration.
We are pushing to have more than 1,000 lawyers and law students sign the statement before it is released later this week. With that kind of backing, we can open some eyes in Washington and help congressional leaders realize that they are not fighting a partisan battle in Washington; they are fighting for the survival of our Constitution.
If you are a lawyer or a law student, please take a moment to sign the statement - which is included at the end of this post - by clicking on the following link:
If you are not a lawyer or law student, please email this post to any friends, colleagues, or family members who are. And encourage them to do the same.
The need for this kind of leadership from lawyers in this country has never been greater. From wiretapping to torture to extraordinary rendition, the Bush administration has ignored and disrespected our Constitution and our laws. It is time for someone to hold them accountable.
In particular, we need members of Congress to appreciate their constitutional duty to defend the nation against an overreaching executive branch. Upholding this duty requires them to move forward in both chambers with contempt citations against Bush administration officials - including chief of staff Josh Bolten, former White House counsel Harriett Miers, and former deputy chief of staff Karl Rove - for defying congressional subpoenas. Urging action on these contempt citations will be an immediate and primary focus of the "American Lawyers" campaign.
When a nation's leader the suspemds the constitution - as President Musharraf did in Pakistan last month - the need for protest is urgent and obvious. But when a nation's constitution is slowly undermined and its value gradually diminished, it is more difficult to stir the passions of citizens. We are faced with that situation in the U.S. today and it is time for the legal community to rise up in defense of the rule of law.
As Governor Cuomo said in the same speech mentioned at the top of this post, "There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. This is the time for lawyers to speak."
We hope all lawyers and law students will make their voices heard.
* * * * *
The ALDC sign-on statement:
Message to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy from American Lawyers Defending the Constitution:
We are lawyers in the United States of America. As such, we have all taken an oath obligating us to defend the Constitution and the rule of law from those who would violate and subvert them, and to hold wrongdoers accountable.
We believe the Bush administration has committed numerous offenses against the Constitution and may have violated federal laws. Evidence exists that it has illegally spied on Americans, tortured and abused men and women in its direct custody, sent others to be tortured by countries like Syria and Egypt, and kept people in prison indefinitely with no chance to challenge the bases of their detention. Moreover, the administration has blatantly defied congressional subpoenas, obstructing constitutional oversight of the executive branch.
Thus, we call on House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to launch hearings into the possibility that crimes have been committed by this administration in violation of the Constitution, federal statutes, and international treaties. We call for the investigations to go where they must, including into the offices of the President and the Vice President. Should these hearings demonstrate that laws have in fact been broken by this administration, we support all such legal and congressional actions necessary to ensure the survival of our Constitution and the nation we love.
Naomi Wolf is the co-founder of the American Freedom Campaign and the author of the New York Times bestseller, End of America (Chelsea Green).
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 4:42 AM
(The Emergency Times Eds- The following is an open call by the PAACS to get various civil society organizations to endorse a letter to the Chinese ambassador in the States protesting the meeting of the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan with the illegally appointed Chief Justice, Abdul Hameed Dogar, and his subsequent comments. We strongly urge any such organizations who may read this and agree with the contents of the letter to follow through on the instructions given below to record their disapproval of the Chinese ambassador's statement )
I just wanted to assure you that you are not alone in your struggle for the restoration of the Constitution and the reinstatement of the deposed judiciary. On behalf of Pakistani American Attorneys for Constitutional Supremacy (PAACS), I commend your dedication for a just cause. We all know very well that we cannot achieve the objective of having an independent judiciary unless the deposed judges are reinstated. Furthermore, we cannot expect to have fair elections without an independent judiciary. I am forwarding to you a draft letter which we plan to forward to the Chinese ambassador to the US. A number of organizations have committed to endorse this letter. I would highly appreciate if you can place this letter on your emergency email list so that other interested organizations may endorse it. We will be needing the names of the organizations, addresses and contact persons' information. The interested organizations may email the information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a long and uphill battle ahead of us, but eventually justice will prevail.
Saleem S. RizviOrganizer -PAACS
Mr. Zhou Wenzhong Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the United States of America
The Chinese Embassy2201 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 110Washington, DC 20007
We, the listed below organizations , reflecting the overwhelming consensus among majority of the people of Pakistan, the Pakistani- American community, and Pakistani Diaspora overseas forward this letter to you to express our deep concerns regarding the visit of the Ambassador of China to Pakistan, His Excellency Mr. Luo Zhaohui to the current (unconstitutionally nominated) Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr. Abdul Hameed Dogar, at his chamber in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
According to the report issued by your government, "The Chinese Ambassador conveyed his good wishes to the Chief Justice of Pakistan on assuming the highest judicial office of the country".
"We would respectfully like you to know that the above-mentioned visit and the official statement about it convey a wrong message to the Musharraf government. The visit extends an equally wrong message to the people of Pakistan who are struggling to reclaim their democratic rights, in the face of a grave situation where the Constitution is held in abeyance, the state structure is being destroyed, civil rights are suspended, the media is gagged, judges and eminent lawyers are under house arrests, political activists are on the run, and the police and intelligence agencies are fully deployed to commit violent acts against the civil society by the Musharraf government in Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan find this visit highly troubling, especially in view of a long history of unwavering friendship with the people of China. Their friendship is legendry, and so is their struggle against injustice, inequality and their fight for the uplifting of ordinary people. Therefore, the people of Pakistan and Pakistanis around the world do not understand the meaning and timing of this untimely" visit of good will". However, what they clearly understand is that this visit has the potential for damaging the perception of the government of China in the minds of the millions who are fighting for a constitutional and democratic system in Pakistan. It is crucial to note that the current chief justice did not take the oath under the Constitution of Pakistan to defend and preserve it. He took the loyally oath under an illegal Order called “PCO” issued by the then army chief, General Musharraf.
In response to a Gallup Poll in June 2007, when asked how important it is to them personally to have a democratically elected government in Pakistan, about half of Pakistanis (49%) say it is “very important,” and an additional 20% say it is “essential” and something they cannot live without. On the other hand, only 6% said it was not important. Please also note that more than 70% believe that the imposition of Martial Law is not in the national interest
We are also sure that you know very well that there is an overwhelming consensus among domestic and international political observers that the principal reason that General Musharraf imposed Martial Law was to silence the higher judiciary. It was the first time in the history of Pakistan that the judiciary began to exhibit a considerable degree of maturity, independence, and assertiveness, which was seen by General Musarraf as a threat to his personal ambition. He therefore imposed Martial law and deposed the judiciary in the name of public interest,. It is also the first time in the history of Pakistan that the entire higher judiciary has been dismantled and judges were placed under “ house arrest”, at the whim of one person.
The Musharraf regime claims that it is not a martial law, rather it is a state emergency. Please keep in mind that a state emergency can be declared only under the Constitution. Please also note that it can be declared only by the President. Now the question is whether General Musharraf has imposed what he termed as a state of emergency rule on the people of Pakistan, as the President. The answer is NO, because he declared it as the army chief. Another question in this context is whether he has declared it under the Constitution. Again the answer is No because he has held the Constitution in abeyance. Simply said, he has suspended, or even worse, abrogated the Constitution. Therefore it is not an emergency - rather it is martial law declared by the army chief. One could also ask what is the army chief’s source of power to declare either martial law or an emergency?
General Musharraf did not stop there. In order to keep power in his own hands, he made an amendment in the PCO as the army chief giving the President (which he is now) the power to lift what he called an emergency, depriving the current army chief the power to lift it.
At this critical juncture, we express our outrage at prolonged and illegal house arrest of eminent lawyers and deposed judges in Pakistan and demand their immediate release. According to confirmed reports, their homes have been turned into “sub-jails” by the Musharraf government. Consequently, their entire families, including children in certain instances, are suffering immensely.
We also strongly and unequivocally condemn the imposition of Martial Law; the suspension of the Constitution; the dismantling, uprooting and manipulation of the judiciary; the arrest, detention and beating of lawyers, political and human rights activists and other members of the civil society; the unconstitutional infringement of freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of association, and the incommunicado detention of the deposed Chief Justice and other judges of the apex and high courts by the Musharraf government.
In view of the above, we respectfully request you to be on the right side of the struggle of the people of Pakistan by supporting their just demands that General Musharraf must undo his illegal and unconstitutional actions and take the following steps immediately:
1. Lift the Martial Law/State of Emergency,
2. Restore the constitution and reinstate the deposed Chief Justice and all other judges of the apex and high courts by reviving the pre-November 3 judiciary,
3. Release all political prisoners currently rounded up and detained, including lawyers, judges, journalists, students, artists, human rights activists and other members of the civil society,
4. Restore freedom of the press and freedom of expression by lifting all illegal and unconstitutional restrictions on the media,
5. Allow political activities and participation at all levels and all stages of the election/electoral process for the emergence of a free and open political environment, in which free elections could be held through independent caretaker arrangements, and under a transparent and accountable election commission.
We also urge the government of the Chinese Republic to exert its utmost influence on the Musharraf government to take immediate steps to release detained lawyers and judges and meet the above demands. It must be recognized that the people of Pakistan are moderate in thought and action. By keeping the moderate and progressive political and democratic forces out of power forcibly, the present Pakistani government has created a political vacuum in which extremism is quickly taking root and affecting the civil society at large. Only by restoring to an open, transparent and accountable democratic system will Pakistan and its people have the opportunity to play their due role in the global community.Respectfully submitted by the following organizations:
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:30 AM
The Right Hon. David Miliband,
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,
Government of the United Kingdom
December 11, 2007
Dear Mr. Miliband,
We write to you in response to statements issued by H.E. David Brinkley, your High Commissioner in Islamabad, as reported in all newspapers of the country.
Mr. Brinkley was quoted as saying that "Britain is not demanding reinstatement of deposed judges, as (this) was not going to happen, .. because unhappiness with the judiciary was the central issue for emergency being imposed." He further added that "Instead of demanding the restoration of the past position, we are asking for independent judiciary for the future." As self-respecting Pakistanis, we find his statements shocking and reprehensible, and their logic inherently flawed. As Mr. Brinkley himself points out, Musharraf's unhappiness with the judges was the central issue to emergency being imposed. Does he expect the people of Pakistan to accept such a ridiculous reason - one man's unhappiness - as a valid cause for the suspension of the Constitution? If such a thing were to happen in your country, would you as a loyal citizen accept or endorse it, Mr. Miliband? Would you not raise your voice, as we do, for this glaring injustice to be reversed? Would you, as an upstanding citizen of a civilized country, accept as fait accompli a situation in which those who are loyal to their sworn oath are treated as common criminals, and those who commit treason are elevated to the highest offices of the State?
Sixty-six judges, all men of great intellect, honor and integrity stand deposed under this illegal emergency. These sixty-six judges are not merely individuals who fought for the independence of the judiciary - they are the independence of the judiciary. The dregs that have been left behind to constitute the present benches merit no comment: their own judgments since taking oath speak for them. Is this the "independent judiciary for the future" that Britain is asking for? What Britain does or does not demand is ultimately not of concern to us. We know that your wishes do not necessarily take into account the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. We are also aware that this is our battle, not yours, nor do we expect any other nation to wage it for us. However, we do expect that as representatives of a civilized nation with a strong tradition of independence of judiciary and rule of law, your government should respect our right to the same.
We sincerely hope that the statements that Mr. Brinkley is alleged to have made represent his individual view or perhaps the mistaken position of the British Government of the day, but not of the British people.
Concerned Citizens of Pakistan
(One of several Civil Society groups fighting for the restoration of the judiciary in Pakistan)
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:25 AM
The GOR Detainees - students, lawyers and citizens standing guard outside the upright but ailing Justice Siddiqi's house - have been released. Today, at around 5: 30p.m, they were brought amidst great excitement to the Student Action Committtee's hunger strike camp outside the Press Club. Amidst the lound beat of dhols and thunderous clapping by the around 80 students, lawyers, mediapeople and ordinary by-standers, the detainees were heralded into the hunger strike camp which the students successfully manned for more than three long days and chilly, rainy nights. Finally ,the hunger and cold braved by students paid off in pressuring the government to release the innocent students and lawyers. We are particularly confident of the fact that it was not the government's magnanimity but our pressure which actualized this victory because of an intra-government fax that we were able to intercept, last night.
Students and lawyers made several fiery speeches at this moment of triumph. The students celebrated the fact that they had lived up to the challenge posed to them by staying united and committed until the release of their fellows. Both students and lawyers vowed to continue the struggle until the judiciary, constitution and fundamental freedoms are restored to Pakistan. Participats also thanked all the ordinary people who had expressed solidarity with the students during the last three days, and also the Press Club and the media community for their unflinching support. At the end there was a brief 'bhangra' session by students who could not contain their jubiliation at the release of their peers. Some by-standers, later identified as intellignece agents, could not resist joining in the dance. Although the students successfully identified the agents, the agents were forgiven and allowed to leave intact because the students would never stoop so low as to deny anyone some innocent fun. The gathering dispersed peacefully. Students dismatled the huger strike camp, cleaned the footpath and then left.
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:13 AM
President of the supreme court bar association and chief counsel for the Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has been served another month of judicial remand.
We condemned this act by the government authoroties and demand an immediate release of Mr. Ahsan, Mr. Ali ahmed Kurd, Munir A Malik and Justice ® Tariq Mehmood.
We also want to see free and independent press and media. How can we forget the role of the brave lawyers who struggled for months to get the chief justice restored and upheld the law. Now its time for us to act; lawyers, students, doctors, bankers, civil society, pensioners, human rights activists, media, business community, law abiding citizens.
We will be gathering outside house no. 10 , street no 16, f-6/3 islamabad on 13 th december at 1530 hrs to show solidarity with the honourable judges, lawyers and the media.
Please bring your family, friends, children and neighbours. It is time to act. We need to tell them that the nation is with them. Let us all be united towards one common goal " free judiciary".
The participants will walk to the judges enclave to salute them on their stance. Please do not forget to bring candles and flowers.
Please be counted and make a difference
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:04 AM
The statement of General (rtd) Pervaiz Musharaf during an interview with Al Jazeera TV that the CJP wanted to remove him illegally is absolutely incorrect simply for the reason that I was not a member of the bench which comprised 11 Honorable Judge's (four have since taken oath under the PCO) and the case which was still being heard was to continue on Monday, November 5, 2007. This is the same Supreme Court which decided in favor of General (rtd) Musharaf on his dual office case and I was not member of that bench and the decision was applauded. If a case is decided in favor all is well. But if there is a self created fear it will be against you then the Supreme Court is called as conspirator, so much so that the case which was being heard on the merits and which had not been decided yet and where the Governments (General (rtd) Musharaf) own counsel were delaying it on one pretext or an other. Let no one forget that I did not sit on either of the benches despite the fact that in accordance with the judicial system prevailing in Pakistan every judge is independent and therefore in a position to give a decision on any case placed before him. General (rtd) Musharaf has taken different positions and enumerated different reasons for justifying his actions of Nov 3 rd 2007. Details in this behalf I will discuss no sooner than I am released from this illegal custody which is against all norms of law and morality.
Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
Chief Justice of Pakistan
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:02 AM
The room, however, was completely NGO-aunty-infested. At first, I felt trapped in yet another elite NGO-aunty tea party but further conversation marginally corroded my mental stereotype. After another hour or so, the senators arrived and the meeting formally began. The four senators (senators of their own states, not federal senators) were young men in their early thirties and had been selected from amongst a large number of candidates to spend a week or so in Pakistan trying to understand the country better. The moderator was the owner of the mansion, the young lady who had ushered us in. Besides three students, Anushay, Ammar and myself, there were lawyers, middle-tier representatives from the PPP and PML-N, journalists, representative of HRCP and Human Rights Watch and a couple of film-makers.
It would be pointless to give you a minute-by-minute account of the meeting. Besides, I don’t remember all the stuff; I can only offer snippets. First the arguments, then the people.
The civil society representatives offered the usual story; martial law is in place, the judiciary has been destroyed, rights and freedoms are minimal and Musharraf is banking on nothing less and nothing more than his American support base. The lawyers articulated their concerns fairly straightforwardly while the civil society representatives elaborated on how this was hypocritical, because the US professes to be the champion of democracy and liberal values, but its acts destroy the claim. It is against US interests because, with the current configuration of power, America’s War on Terror and support for Musharraf is alienating civil society; without their support, banking on the military alone, the US is highly unlikely to make much progress in fighting extremism.
The students added the point that without a strong and independent judiciary all governments tend to turn authoritarian and arbitrary. Therefore, if freedom, responsibility and good governance are to take root and survive in Pakistan, the illegally dismissed judges must be restored. Elections are part of the solution but democracy is incomplete without getting the judges back.
The Senators recognized the outrage against US polices amongst the civil society in Pakistan. However, they felt that, given its security concerns, the US had no choice but to back the military in Pakistan which is, among other things, crucial to the supply chain for waging war in Afghanistan. They expressed the fear that if the US withdraws its support for the Pakistan Army, the Saudis (whom they termed the biggest supporters of terrorism in the world and Islamic Fundamentalists) would fill in the vacuum. This, they believed, would put Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in even more dangerous hands. Again and again, the Senators kept insisting that instead of criticizing US policy, Pakistanis should provide alternative policies.
To this, the representative of Human Rights Watch and a few journalists responded by saying that the American aid did not have to withdrawn immediately. It would be a gradual process whereby the US should negotiate with not just the military in Pakistan but with the society in order to come to any settlement. Also, right now, even moral support in terms of a statement of two in support of the judiciary followed by some action will boost the courage of relevant actors. At the very least, the US should stop making irresponsible claims like saying that the judges issue is a mere Supreme Court reshuffle and elections will be free and fair. In the longer run, US security will remain in danger as long as common people hate it and resent its policies.
A lot of usual questions were asked and answered. The Senators did, however, raise two points which I considered to be quite enlightening. I felt that these questions caught some of us off guard and we need to think deeply about them. Why did the civil society not rise against the martial law in 1999, but rose up now? How are judges selected in Pakistan? If the government handpicks the judges, why is it still so outrageous when it makes them take a new oath or fires them? I do not mean to suggest that we have no answers to these questions, but I do feel that we need to reflect more deeply upon these key points.
As to the people, two of the senators stood out: Senator Pippy, ex-armyman, more than six-feet talk and very strongly built, he was a very sharp Republican. His questions were ruthless but relevant. The leader of the group, however, was a very sweet, good-looking and suave Democrat, whose quiet but perceptive demeanor and deep outlook inspired a lot of respect. He was quite understanding, and at the end of the meeting, profusely thanked us, terming this their ‘most lively’ meeting in Pakistan yet. Ali Dayan, from Human Rights Watch was very articulate and appeared fairly seasoned in tackling US politicians, appealing to just the right things; namely, their strategic interests. Later, over a cup of tea, he told me that he felt that the senators were ‘gaon kay loag’ (villagers) from small states, and hardly big fish in the American political arena. Aitzaz Ahsan’s son, a lawyer working with the UN was also there and he grilled the American just as his father used to grill the Attorney-General in the Supreme Court, before Nov 3.
Then, of course, there was our unforgettable hostess but I have mentioned her elsewhere…
Throughout the meeting, waiters - some dressed up in fancy sherwanis and turbans, others in ragged clothes - kept roaming miserably from one person to another, distributing tea, sandwiches, patties, pastries and delicacies of all sort and the senators kept refusing to accept their generosity. In my heart, I could feel the contempt that this must have inspired in the Senators. Maybe they share my contempt for the rich in Pakistan who have the intestinal fortitude to blame America for hypocrisy while, in their own houses, they do the same – talk of justice and rights, but engage in ruthless exploitation of the laboring class; tell the Americans to respect other humans, but force their own servants to work in harsh and humiliating conditions. Are we any better than the military? Why should the Americans leave the reins of power in our hands? Is it the perpetuation of our power and privilege that we are fighting for? I don’t have any quick answers. But as my eyes wandered from our beautiful and eloquent young hostess to the senators and back, I felt these questions plague my mind.
At the end of the meeting, business cards were exchanged. Asma Jehangir had come by then. As we stood outside the house, waiting for a rickshaw, all the aunties had left in their big cars. A rickshaw was hard to find. The weather was lovely, windy and Islamabad-cold and we were anxious to join our recently released friends at the Hunger Strike Camp outside the Press Club. We had with us a chatty, young, Lahori lawyer, who had spent a week or so in jail. Like most Lahoris, he had quite a few stories to share…
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 3:00 AM
As part of the crackdown on protests against emergency/martial law, theGovernment of Pakistan recently brought sedition charges against fourteen faculty members of the Punjab University (Lahore, Pakistan). These charges were in response to the faculty members speaking out and organizing a protest walk ontheir campus against the imposition of emergency rule (martial law) in Pakistan.The Government of Pakistan has also issued a ban on political discussions and debates on campuses, which is a violation of one of the most basic tenets ofacademic freedom.Most of you must by now be familiar with the vanguard role played by members ofthe Pakistani judiciary in the current political struggle against dictatorship. The unprecedented expression of solidarity by members of the international lawc ommunity has been extremely important in building up the pressure against thePakistani government, and in keeping up the spirits of the lawyers and their family members. Students (and educators) comprise the next largest group ofprotesters and so are being targeted in similarly illegal and brutal ways. This is a call to school and college/university faculty, academic unions and organizations to express their solidarity with the above mentioned faculty members of Punjab University as well as all those being targeted by the Pakistani state, and to demand that the government drop these charges immediately.It should be noted that even when emergency rule is lifted, these and other suchcharges will not be automatically dropped nor will the dissenting judges berestituted.
Please sign the petition and forward to others, and please consider creating faculty/student solidarity committees on your campus, and issuing separate letters of protest and solidarity. It is imperative at this stage toget as many signatures as possible, as well as to send as many letters/faxes/emails to the individuals and institutions listed below as possible. You can sign the petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/drop-charges-against-members-of-the-punjab-university.html. Time is of the essence, so please sign the petition and fax your letters ASAP.Your voice counts.Below are links to three related articles. If you have any questions please email ConcernedAcademicsOfPakistan@gmail.com.
Shefali Chandra (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Lubna Chaudhry (SUNY, Binghampton)
Sofia Checa (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Arslan Razmi (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Rakhshanda Saleem (Harvard Medical School and Lesley University)
Sahar Shafqat (St. Mary's College of Maryland)
Saadia Toor (College of Staten Island, CUNY)
-Sedition case against 14 PU teachersDAWN, November 22 2007http://www.dawn.com/2007/11/18/nat11.htm
Political debate banned in collegesDAWN, November 22 2007http://www.dawn.com/2007/11/22/nat9.htm
LUMS professors, students charged under MPO Daily Times, December 05, 2007http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C12%5C05%5Cstory_5-12-2007_pg7_5 -
Send your letters/faxes/emails to:General (Retd.) Pervez MusharrafPakistan SecretariatIslamabad, PakistanFax: (92) 51-922-1422
Email: CE@pak.gov.pk , email@example.com, or via the websitehttp://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx
Embassy of Pakistan in Washington,
DC3517 International Court,
NWWashington DC, 20008
Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani: 202- 243-6500 Ext. 2000 & 2001
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
Punjab University Administrators:
Dr. Muhammad Arif ButtVice Chancellor, Punjab UniversityLahore, Pakistan
Phone: (92) 42-923-1098, Fax: (92) 42-923-1101
TEXT OF PETITION
General (Retd.) Pervez MusharrafIslamabad, PakistanMr. Musharraf:We, the undersigned, are appalled by the charges brought against 14 faculty members of the Punjab University under sections 124-A, 188, 143/149 and 16-MPO. They have been charged with sedition and provoking the masses against thegovernment for its action of imposing emergency and promulgating the PCO.The charges against the Punjab University faculty were registered after the said academics organized and participated in demonstrations against the promulgation of emergency and abrogation of the constitution. These were peaceful protests held inside the campus. We demand the withdrawal of the charges against the faculty members of Punjab University.We are also appalled by the restrictions on academic institutions and civil society in general including the ban on open debate in all colleges and universities, as well as the curbs on constitutional rights of freedom of assembly and association of the citizenry of Pakistan.
University campuses are supposed to be the center of political debate and activity, not zones of repressive censorship. The undersigned condemn the curbs on free speech and attempts to silence voices through intimidation and harassment. We also condemn the suspension of the constitutional rights of freedom of assembly andassociation. The ban on political debates on campuses is a violation of the most basic tenet of academic freedom; we demand that this ban be lifted immediately.We express solidarity with our colleagues at Punjab University and all those in Pakistan engaged in the just struggle to end the state of emergency and restore the constitution and the rule of law in Pakistan.
cc. Pakistani Embassy in Washington,
DCVice Chancellor, Punjab University
( The Emergency Times Eds- The charges against the 4 Lums Professors have just recently been dropped and those arrested from GOR released ( all charges dropped). The pressure being mounted by civil society and the students to add to the regular grilling by the lawyers, human rights activists and the journalists is beginning to tell. The defiant struggle is finally beginning to bear fruit. The Punjab university faculty members who chose to voice a thriving conscience must also be fought for with equal vigour. We will not allow the state to bully the soldiers of justice into submission. The SAC calls for support for these faculty members.)
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 2:40 AM
The Following is an open letter from Masood Sharif Khan Khattak, who has defected from the PPP as a result of Benazir's stance regarding the restoration of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary.
TO: - MOHTARMA BENAZIR BHUTTO
CHAIRPERSON PAKISTAN PEOPLES PARTY
Dear Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto,
After resigning from the basic membership of the Pakistan Peoples Party on 27 Nov, 2007, I am writing this letter to you elaborating my views, as a common Pakistani, on some burning issues confronting Pakistan today and how these issues, in my opinion, need your attention as a national political leader. Keeping my past association with the PPP, and with you, I assumed that I do have the privilege to write this letter, irrespective of how variant my views maybe with the current stance/political posture of the PPP. This letter will also be sent to all those who received my email addressed to you when I tendered my resignation on 27 Nov, 2007. Thus, this letter is an open letter which I am constrained to write because of the numerous emails and phone calls that I received in response to my resignation from the basic membership of the PPP. All those Emails and phone calls urged me to state the reasons that forced me to resign from the PPP. Every one of them said that as Pakistanis they had a right to know, especially so, in the given political crisis prevalent in the country. Respecting their viewpoint I had to make this letter an open letter. I hope this letter will, indeed, amplify, and make it obvious, to everyone the precise reasons due to which I resigned from the basic membership of the PPP. Many people were very surprised on why I, who had served the PPP so selflessly, so honestly, so sturdily and so professionally, in the toughest of times, as well as when I served you as your Intelligence Chief (DG IB) when you were the Prime Minister, had resigned. They too asked me vehemently to spell out the reasons. After this letter I will put aside the aspect of my resignation from the PPP and move on to serve Pakistan in my own humble manner. I, like millions of Pakistanis, believe in the BHUTTO LEGACY which stands for "PEOPLE i.e. THE AWAM BEING THE FOUNTAIN OF UNDILUTED POLITICAL POWER" – This legacy was left behind by none other than your own illustrious and incomparable father, SHAHEED ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO. On 04 April, 1979 , the darkest and most horrible day in Pakistan's political history, your great father SHAHEED ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO did not walk to the gallows alone and leave behind, for us all, THE BHUTTO LEGACY. With him, on that day, marched every single Pakistani in an invisible manner. Even those that may have been his detractors walked with him on that black day. I was a career army officer at that time. I too marched with him. On that day Pakistan was gripped by a devastating and extremely explosive silence. There was not a heart that did not skip a beat. There was not an eye that was not wet. Many Pakistanis, rich and poor, did not eat for days. Most of us were shameful of the fact that we had been silent spectators while all that happened. In contrast, today, when Pakistan's judiciary is literally being manhandled and beaten into submission, most Pakistanis have, fortunately, chosen not to be silent again, as in 1979, come what may. I have decided, humbly, to be counted amongst those Pakistanis. All my personal sufferings and difficulties, including three years of imprisonment, did not bother me at all because of the strength of my belief and my political adherence to the BHUTTO LEGACY. I have to admit that I have not had the heart to see the diminishing of that mighty legacy in recent months. Today, whatever PPP might say through press statements or press conferences, one has to have only a slight bit of common sense (not even intelligence) to see that the BHUTTO LEGACY that we all were ready to sacrifice for, to any extent, stands effectively neutralised. I am not the only one who feels like this. The people around you also know this but in their eagerness to get some share in whatever power structure that, they think, may soon be created just keep pushing you on towards the path that can only be politically disastrous for you. Your current political posturing has already taken out a huge amount of sting from your political standing, as well as that of the PPP. Because you are someone who has been my leader, someone who cannot say that I have ever been insincere to the Party, or yourself, even in the worst possible times, I beseech you to change your political course even now. You still have some time on your side to do so. That time is passing away at a breakneck speed. Synchronise your voice, without fear of any sort at all, like you use to in the past, with the throttled but very strong, powerful and volcanic voice of the poor, downtrodden and honourable Pakistani citizens. Synchronise your voice with that of the AWAM. Your and my leader, and that of millions of silent and active Pakistanis, was SHAHEED ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO. You have always called him QUAID-E-AWAM and that is what he rightfully was, and will always be. The same AWAM, that holds SHAHEED ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO in such high regard, as if he was still alive and amongst them nearly 30 years after his judicial murder, is calling on you to switch political course for the PPP and march in step with them. If you decide to ignore this clarion call they i.e. the AWAM, the civil society of Pakistan, the people of Pakistan as a whole, are going to give their verdict against the PPP in the forthcoming very debatable and controversial elections. The outcome of those elections, even if favourable to you and the PPP, at best, is going to be a short and temporary phase that will then lead to another election that will truly be free and will bring about a proper long lasting Constitutional government. As a two time former elected Prime Minister of Pakistan and all set to take part in the forthcoming elections, I would like to put before you just two simple questions. FIRST, CAN THERE BE A FAIR AND FREE ELECTIONS IN A COUNTRY IN WHICH IT'S SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE, ALONGWITH A NUMBER OF JUDGES OF THE SUPREME COURT AND OTHER ECHELONS OF THE HIGHER JUDICIARY, ARE LOCKED UP SHAMELESSLY AS IF THEY WERE ORDINARY PICKPOCKETS? SECONDLY, CAN THERE BE FAIR AND FREE ELECTIONS IN A COUNTRY WHERE, ALONGWITH THE SUPERIOR JUDICIARY THE ELECTED SUPREME COURT BAR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT NAMELY, CHAUDHRY AITZAZ AHSAN, AND HIS OTHER COLLEAGUES, ARE LOCKED UP. I salute all these super souls. I also salute all those who may not have attained personal fame but have made themselves counted. They are now real life legends - real life national heroes. Pakistanis from across all sorts of divides unanimously applaud these heroes. I shall be failing miserably if I do not mention the role of the media in educating the Pakistani civil society and the general masses about how things stood in the country over the recent past. I have to make a special mention of GEO TV as it has now become a symbol of media freedom by not submitting to the unjust demands of the government spelt out under the garb of code of conduct. I hope GEO never opens up as anything other than what it was like, or better still. Some channels have opened up but have no viewers as they got back on air with hands folded and heads bowed. We hope to see GEO back, even more vocal and fearless. Lots of brave people have emerged in the media over the last few months. Dr Shahid Masood, Hamid Mir, Kamran Khan, Talat Hussain, Ansar Abbasi and many more are now household names just like Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Mr Ali Ahmed Kurd, Justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood, Munir A Malik and company. Their names have already found a place in the history of the now inevitable creation of the new look Pakistan. The Chief Justice, other judges of the higher judiciary who did not accept the PCO, lawyers and the media persons that I have mentioned, and thousands of others whom we do not know by name, will all go down in our history as the pioneers and engineers of what is bound to happen, and, in fact, is about to happen – the emergence of a truly independent Pakistan where law will reign supreme and information will flow freely thus leaving no room for deviations for anyone, however high and mighty. The Constitution will then not be thrown out of the window as if it was a used tissue paper. The foundation stone, or the first brick, for the struggle for that truly democratic and independent Pakistan, which is now on the verge of emerging, was actually laid on 04 April 1979, when SHAHEED ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO, still being the first elected Prime Minister of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was walked to the gallows in that very Constitutional capacity – The Prime Minister. To my understanding he was the Constitutional Prime Minister even at the time he was taken to the gallows. As a Pakistani my head hangs in shame on that event. Whether SHAHEED ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO'S own founded PPP now upholds the BHUTTO LEGACY, or not, such an extreme sacrifice on the part of the founder of the PPP towards the cause of millions of downtrodden Pakistanis can never go in vain – and it will not. This was proved, most unexpectedly, when Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, now the Chief Justice of the people of Pakistan (not only of the Supreme Court alone), in the Army House, on 09 March, 2007, and in the presence of powerful uniforms galore, was given the courage by ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY to refuse to resign and thus to lay the second brick towards attaining the truly democratic and independent Pakistan that my generation has yearned for through all these endless and utterly wasted decades. There is no coming back now. No power can undo these two bricks now cemented together by the civil society. Things may be delayed but only for a while. Pakistanis i.e. educated and enlightened Pakistanis have taken to the streets for a just cause i.e. an independent judiciary and the restoration of the judiciary to what it was prior to the imposition of emergency on 03 Nov,2007. Success is guaranteed and Pakistan has to become truly independent if it has to survive. Survive, it will, INSHA ALLAH. Having said that, I sincerely urge you to forsake all the ill advised and ill fated political strategies that have been recently adopted by the PPP and come out openly to get in step with the people of Pakistan before it is too late and before events have overtaken you and the PPP. Time available to you is getting limited by the hour. With all the sincerity I can muster, I have to say, unambiguously and as emphatically as it can be said, that should you carry on with your present political strategy, PPP and your own political future will be damaged far beyond what you might imagine at this point of time. That polls are rigged in a masterly fashion in Pakistan is a stark reality. We also know that most people think, rightly or wrongly, that actual political power in Pakistan lies with the Army and that the will of the people is always rigged so why not negotiate political power with them i.e. the Army itself or the ruler that it imposes on the country – like General Musharraf, with or without uniform, in this case. If this is the advice and hypothesis that you are currently following, on the advice of some people, for whom being in powerful seats is the only consideration, then I guess the few political traitors of the PPP who formed the Patriots in 2002 and joined General Musharraf's bandwagon were right in doing so at that time (2002) and that the majority of the PPP that did not go with them were wrong in staying faithful and loyal to the PPP. The rest should also have followed the traitors. But they did not because of their belief in the BHUTTO LEGACY. As to who was right and who was wrong I shall say, as vociferously as it can be said, that the PPP turncoats who had formed the Patriots in 2002 were wrong then, and I will also add that you too will be wrong, now, should you go down the same road that they went on five years ago. If today, instead of calling on the support of the people of Pakistan you negotiate power sharing the people of Pakistan will never forgive the PPP and its leadership in the next general elections . The people of Pakistan expect the PPP to stand with them unconditionally in sorting out the mess in which the country finds itself. The people will pay back the PPP whenever a free and fair election is then held and that will be power, not shared power. The Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and his small band of marvellous men led by the dauntless Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan rallied immeasurable public support by calling out to the collective wisdom and conscience of the people of Pakistan and then we all saw how General Musharraf, with all his power trappings, was so humbled. General Musharraf finds himself politically isolated, vulnerable and in political quicksand even now while those frail looking Judges appear like caged tigers waiting to be released and let loose by the civil society of Pakistan. The political quicksand for Mr Musharraf is getting stickier and deeper by the day. That is the power of the people. The power spelt out by the BHUTTO LEGACY. The present political strategy of the PPP, unfortunately, does not show that PPP is in harmony with the voice and feelings of the masses. Who would know better than you that the vast majority always speaks through the ballot paper and I am afraid that what the people of Pakistan are going to say through the ballot box is not going to be good music for the PPP. I know that numerous people around you will paint you a rosy picture and ask you to ignore what I am saying but it is not going to be long before the damage is done. The day of reckoning, 8 Jan 2008, is around the bend. Having spent twenty years with the PPP and having been your Intelligence Chief (DG IB) during the time that you were the Prime Minister I am positive, beyond an iota of doubt, that you personally believe in what I am saying. I know you believe in the people, almost like faith, in the political sphere. It was this faith of yours in the people of Pakistan that had made them vote for you so that you were Prime Minister twice despite the masterly rigging and machinations of sorts against you. They will not be voting for you and the PPP if you and the PPP are seen as Musharraf's extension in any way whatsoever – this, unfortunately, is the case at this point of time. The people of Pakistan will vote you in a third time too and no one will be able to do anything, anything at all, to stop it if you go to the people of Pakistan wholeheartedly – like in 1987, the good old 'Zia Jawey Jawey' days to the applause of millions. I am sure you remember all that with a huge amount of rightly placed pride. Break out of the shell. Break the shackles put around your ankles by people around you who are of far lesser political acumen, and more so, of courage than your own self. Come into your very own. It is late already but, as yet, not too late. From you, the people of Pakistan want a repeat performance of those great days of 1987. The people of Pakistan loved that defiant anti status quo Benazir Bhutto. In that Benazir Bhutto they saw, and still see Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whom they have loved so immensely in acknowledgement of his ultimate sacrifice for their rights and for having given a tongue to the poorest of the poor amongst Pakistanis. You are on the centre stage. I, for one, wish to see the Benazir Bhutto I knew and served - The Benazir Bhutto of the people of Pakistan. Just that one picture/video clip on the print and electronic media of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in an ordinary black business suit sitting in front of a uniformed General Musharraf, looking sternly and straight into his eye, and saying "I shall not resign" put life into the people of Pakistan. You shall receive the same response if you defy the status quo, like you did in the past. Times have changed as it must be dawning on you with each passing day since your return to Pakistan in October 2007. For the sake of Pakistan and its people I urge you, most sincerely, to realign the PPP with the people of Pakistan . You will see the difference yourself. The people have now finally awakened and there will be no going back for them without real risk to the very integrity of Pakistan, if their voice, or their vote, is stifled anymore . They are only looking for someone to come forward and lead them – like u did in 1987. There is still time to alter the present political course of the PPP. If you and the PPP do not do that then I will have to say that a political leadership, at the national level, which is termed as "circumstantial leadership" will surely emerge. I can see that happening. It is nature's course. If there is a vacuum something or someone has to fill it. The support from the people of Pakistan for the Chief Justice was an open manifestation of the political hatred that they now have for a dictatorship, in general, and for the regime led by General Musharraf, whatever the façade, in particular. I am truly proud of the fact that one of my colleagues from my PPP days made the peoples support for the Chief Justice possible. He was ably supported by some of the bravest and best men in Pakistan. Whenever the history of the independence of Pakistan's judiciary is written the name of our much esteemed colleague Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan will be written there in bold and golden words because of his and his colleagues spearheading the lawyers' movement, mustering the support from the masses, and contesting the Chief Justice's case and winning it brilliantly. What is now happening to Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, being a PPP candidate on a MNA seat but kept in detention as punishment for siding with the Chief Justice, has only raised his image to unimaginable levels at the national and international levels. For the PPP, Aitzaz's unfair and totally vindictive detention alone should have been reason enough to walk away from the sham elections that we are soon to witness. He, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, deserves all praise, appreciation and gratitude from all Pakistanis as do all his other colleagues. The case of people's power was put forth superbly. They are all now household names and national heroes in their own rights. Over the past six months or so, you have had the rare and very enviable political option of acquiring the leadership of the entire lot of political parties in Pakistan. I had recommended this option to you when we met in Dubai in May 2007. The PML (N) leadership, including Mian Nawaz Sharif, was imploring you to come to the All Parties Conference (APC) held in July 2007 in London. If you had attended the APC meeting in London, in July 2007, your political stature would have been immensely raised. Those who tell you that you did the right thing by not attending the APC are not being honest with you at all. Even the religious party conglomeration MMA were saying openly on the electronic media, before the London APC, that they would like to go to Dubai to meet you and seek your support against General Musharraf's government. The option of trying to take the lead of all the political parties of Pakistan in the struggle to restore true democracy in Pakistan was the option that I think you should have adopted specially so as that would have been in consonance with the will and the voice of the people of Pakistan as well as the BHUTTO LEGACY. The opportunity should have then been taken. The option is still open, but not for long, and it should be grasped with both hands. You will need a team of real courageous and sharp men and women to handle it as, in my honest opinion, your present inner cabinet will never measure up to this gigantic political task. Let us face facts as they are. Whatever exists today is Musharraf's Regime. Whatever existed since 12 Oct, 1999, to date was also Musharraf's Regime. Whatever is going to emerge after the 08 January 2008 elections is also going to be, effectively, Musharraf's Regime and will certainly be very short lived. Even if you become the Prime Minister it will still be Musharraf's Regime. There should be no doubt on this aspect at all and choices should be made in the light of this reality. General Musharraf's losing hold over political power is now a reality and how long it might take for him to lose total control is a matter of time only. That, it is going to happen in the foreseeable future is a foregone conclusion. Had General Musharraf not lost a substantial measure of political power Mian Nawaz Sharif and you would not have been in Pakistan today. The true measure, of any political leader, lies in how correctly he/she can determine when it is time to go respectably and also upon the quality of successor(s) he/she leaves behind. So it will really be up to General Musharraf himself to decide. Many will think, and I agree, that the time to leave was quite long ago. Almost a decade in power is by itself a factor that will contribute towards quickening General Musharraf's total loss of political power. This is why, in countries like USA, you may be the best man on earth but you can be the President of the USA for eight years and no more. When that (Musharraf's total loss of political power) happens the Government formed as a result of the forthcoming elections, even if it has you in the Prime Minister House, will go with him with no hope of ever being voted back by the people of Pakistan. Is this a good political option for the PPP? The people of Pakistan are the only permanent feature in Pakistani politics and they identify themselves with the BHUTTO LEGACY – power to the people. For you and the PPP the only choice is to be in step with the people of Pakistan if the BHUTTO LEGACY and the PPP is to be saved from a huge political disaster. There is still time albeit very little. The decision about what course to go on is, without any doubt, yours and that decision is now going to be a make or break decision for your own political future and that of the political inheritance SHAHEED ZULFIKAR ALI BHUTTO left for the people of Pakistan, THE PPP. These are truly defining moments for the future politics of Pakistan, in fact, for the very future of Pakistan itself and today it is the judiciary, the lawyers, the students and other professions that are writing the script for the future of politics in Pakistan. The PPP is nowhere in sight on that stage where the script is being written. The best decision is a decision taken to alter course after a disastrous decision has already been taken and partly implemented. There is still time, though that time is now very limited, for you to do exactly this and alter your political course in order to harmonise it with the wind of change in the country. Having said all that on national affairs I will address myself to one more important aspect which lies in the field of International Relations/Affairs and as it affects us domestically. This aspect is also related to your stand on the "war on terror". We are aware of the fact that the vast majority of people in USA, in particular, in the West, Europe and other countries that are US allies in the Iraq and Afghan wars, in general, are immensely against these wars. They voice their anti war feelings freely. The first decision that the newly elected Australian Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, has taken is to announce that there will be no Australian combat troops in Iraq by mid-2008. The Presidential candidates in USA itself are not hesitating in saying to the people, from whom they expect votes, that when they are voted into the White House they will bring the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to an end. In USA there was also a thwarted legislative move to link further funding for the Iraq and Afghan Wars with a withdrawal date that was to be around the end of 2008. Every day numerous voices, within and outside the western governments, are raised to end these two wars. In Spain, in Italy, and now in Australia the elections have been decided by mainly this one issue – Iraq and Afghan wars. People who were against these wars won and became Prime ministers in place of the people who took these countries to these wars. The writing, therefore, is on the walls i.e. the people of the west and we in the east want peace with each other. No one wants these wars. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair did not have one comfortable day in office after he took Britain to war in Iraq and Afghanistan . The British press, on this matter, was very harsh and hard on Tony Blair. Blair, a man who was a thrice elected Prime Minister through popular vote, has now gone totally unsung, in fact, with a bad taste in the mouth because the British people now know that he lied to them when he took Britain to war. Keeping what I have just said, in mind, I and all Pakistanis (if somehow they could actually join this discussion) ask you why is it that in Pakistan our political leaders, including yourself, do not express similar anti-Iraq and anti- Afghan war views candidly, and in public? All Pakistanis think it is time that our leaders also tell the world that we consider these wars most unjust. Pakistan's political leaders have to now stand up for us, and you have to be in the forefront, and get counted on this aspect in order to be with the sentiments of the people of Pakistan, in general, and those of the NWFP, in particular. Our leaders have to educate the west that we Pakistanis are a very peace loving, hospitable and progressive people. Yes, we are a religious minded nation and adhere, very proudly, to the Islamic teachings. At the same time we are NOT repeated NOT militants, extremists or terrorists. We are just simply honourable, dignified and peace loving Muslims and are proud of this fact. Religious freedom for all in Pakistan is imbibed in our much maligned Constitution. What our leaders do not do for the Pakistani people others do for us to project us as a people who believe in tranquillity, progress, prosperity, peace and harmony with everyone. Recently some US human rights activists (Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry, members of the US human rights group Global Exchange and the Women's peace group CODEPINK) came to Pakistan and held a vigil outside the house of Aitzaz Ahsan, the detained President of the Supreme Court Bar Association because they had not been given permission to see Aitzaz. They have since been deported. I am proud of what they had to say about Pakistanis in a press conference. They said:- "Aitzaz Ahsan and the other lawyers and judges still under detention must be released and reinstated before there can even be talk about free and fair elections in Pakistan," "The US government, if it wants to support democracy in Pakistan, should be supporting the lawyers, journalists, students and civil society, not Musharraf." "We were amazed by the reaction of the Pakistani people to our gesture of solidarity. All night long and then again the next morning, people came on foot, bike and car to show support for us," said Barry. "They brought us soup, tea, sandwiches, sweets, flowers. It was so touching. One woman who came to see us said, 'If someone shows us a little bit of love, we'll shower them with love in return.' That is certainly what we felt," says Benjamin. "We were visited by students, businessmen, government workers, women with their young daughters (dressed in pink), labor leaders, lawyers. A journalist came at 1am with tea, cookies and warm jackets for us to wear. The police stationed outside Mr. Ahsan's home built us a campfire to keep us warm. We left the vigil in awe of the generosity, kindness we received from the Pakistani people." This understanding of the Pakistani people needs to be spread in the west, without any fear, by our political leaders. Coming back to the aspect of wars that I was dealing with I shall say that I have been an infantry officer for nearly 20 years in the Pakistan Army and have actually seen a war (1971), am a graduate of the Command and Staff College of the Pakistan Army and have participated in active counter insurgency operations. I am also someone who has directed, personally, one of the most successful anti-urban insurgency operation in recent history of the world. With all that experience I know for sure that the fighting stamina of the unconventional forces always outlasts the fighting stamina of the conventional forces, no matter how powerful, conventionally, they may be. This is why peace was negotiated in Ireland in the recent years after a very long period of hostility. This is why the Vietnam War eventually ended. This is why the Soviet Union of yesteryears had to abandon its occupation of Afghanistan in the eighties. This is precisely why I am suggesting that it is time, in fact overdue now, for our leaders to advocate the peaceful negotiations path to the powers that today occupy Iraq and Afghanistan . The negotiations will have to take place and peace will have to return, eventually and inevitably. It has to. But will it not be better if Pakistan's political leaders respectably stand up now and convince the world powers that its time to look for peace as soon as possible. After all Pakistan is suffering immensely due to these wars on its doorsteps. If a peaceful solution to years of fighting and bomb blasts can be reached on the table in Ireland the same should also happen in Kabul and Baghdad if the will is there and if magnanimity is shown by the more powerful players in the spiralling and aimless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries on ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY'S earth, has been subjected to wars for centuries by others . In the recent and contemporary past (1979), war was thrust upon Afghanistan through an invasion by the erstwhile Soviet Union. All was fair as long as the Soviet Union was defeated. Pakistan is to date feeling the adverse effects of that war. These effects have now been compounded by the present occupation of Afghanistan by the USA and its allies. In the process, since 1979, the poor Afghans have been in an endless state of war. They have lost generations to war. Where is the free world's conscience on this aspect? Political leaders, because they shape the lives of generations, must know "that a war can only breed another war and can never bring about any solution or peace". As a Pakhtun myself, it is extremely painful for me to see and hear about Pakhtun blood being spilt at random in Waziristan, Swat, in the madrassahs of Bajaur etc, on the Pakistani side, and in the entire Pakhtun belt of Afghanistan. I also truly wonder why should a British, US or any other soldier from any far off country come and get killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Why should all this happen at all? Why cannot all be at peace with each other? The good of the world lies in peace and in initiatives aimed at development of the world's most backward areas. That is how friends are made. These wars must be brought to an immediate end if the deep scars are to be healed between the east and the west. The tribal people from Waziristan where the Pakistan Army is currently operating have always come to fight side by side with it whenever the Pakistan Army went to war with India be it in 1947-48, 1965 or 1971 (to which I am an eye witness). They were always there at the battle front in Kashmir by the hundreds, with their own personal weapons. In fact, Azad Kashmir owes it's geography to these very tribal people from NWFP who fought an organised Indian Army in the Kashmir war of 1947-48. It is also now my prayer that Pakistan and India should never ever go to war again. Not ever again. The question that goes begging then is - why is it that these same tribal people now have to fight the Pakistan Army itself? What went wrong? Where did it all go wrong? Why? These are questions that our political leaders have to relate themselves to and find a solution that brings the Pakistan Army and our own tribal population at peace with each other. Blazing guns and gunship helicopters will not provide any solution. The scars will only get deeper. People in the west are screaming hoarse against these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan . Why is it that there is not even one such voice in Pakistan amongst our political leaders? Years of aimless fighting and, as yet, there is no solution in sight. Iraq has by now seen many thousands of innocent Iraqis die on the roadsides. Can anyone calculate how many more people must have become widows and orphans because of these aimless deaths? Yours could and, in fact, should be the voice from Pakistan for projecting Pakistan and for advocating an end to the Iraq and Afghan wars because you are heard by the western audiences. Reverting back to Pakistan, do we think that the situation that exists in Pakistan today can go on endlessly and that it will not shake the very roots of our country's integrity in the not too distant future, if not controlled quickly? This is the ultimate question I shall leave you with. I, on my part, will say that the solution lies with a leader who has the solid support of the people of Pakistan and if this was not true General Musharraf's government(s) would have been successful in creating the Pakistan we have yearned for - that NEW LOOK PAKISTAN - a Pakistan which can feed its own people, create employment for them, provide them with education, provide them with social services and make foreign policies that are in consonance with the desires of the people, have the best of dignified self respecting relations with the whole wide world. To end, I will remind you that in 1992, when I was a serving bureaucrat, I had written a letter to the then President Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan and had been extremely forthright in my assessment of the then existing situation in Sindh and how it could adversely affect the very integrity of Pakistan. No serving bureaucrat must ever have written as bluntly as I did in 1992 to a very powerful sitting President. I had then sent a copy of that letter to you and you were, at that time, a former Prime Minister. You had appreciated my assessment in a very generous manner and had hoped that I would continue doing the same. I had also sent a copy of that letter to the then (1992) Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. He too, very kindly, wrote back to me saying that the way I had assessed the situation and the recommendations that I had outlined in that letter was proof of my well meaning intentions and that my letter also conveyed, appropriately, my very high sense of patriotism. I am grateful to him for having said those kind words to me. It is a different matter that when he became Prime Minister again, in 1997, one of the first things he did was to dismiss me from the service of Pakistan only because I had been your Intelligence Chief. I did not, in 1992, know that one day in late 2007 I will be writing a letter like this one to you after having resigned from the basic membership of the PPP. I do hope you will read this letter too in the same spirit with which you read and appreciated my letter, in 1992, addressed to the then President late Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan. On my part, I have written this letter with the same sense of sincerity for you and the PPP that you have seen me demonstrating all through my association with the PPP and during the time I was your Intelligence Chief and all the way till 27 November 2007 when I resigned from the basic membership of the PPP. As my views, contained in this letter, clearly indicate there was no way I could have carried on and be part of the current PPP political posture. Thus, on 27 November 2007, I parted ways with the PPP. The prerogative to take any decision either way is yours. The prerogative of what happens to your political status and to the PPP itself, at the ballot box, depending on what decisions you now take, is undoubtedly that of the AWAM – the people of Pakistan. May ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY be your Guide and your Protector and help you in making the best decisions for the PPP, your own self and, most importantly, for Pakistan. Amen.
MASOOD SHARIF KHAN KHATTAK
Posted by The Neem Revolution at 1:00 AM