Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lifting of Emergency not enough: Human Rights Watch

(Courtesy DAWN)
The US-based Human Rights Watch said Saturday that President Pervez Musharraf's end to the state of emergency in Pakistan would not restore real constitutional rule as it “provides legal cover to laws that muzzle the media and lawyers and gives the army a license to abuse.” Ali Dayan Hasan of HRW said in a statement: “a genuine restoration of Pakistan's constitution would require Musharraf to return to the constitution and judiciary that existed before November 3.” The HRW pointed to a series of decrees issued under emergency rule, including a ban on any later challenges to the legality of the emergency and an amendment to allow the military to try civilians. “The military is Pakistan's principal human rights abuser, yet Musharraf has changed the law so that it can play judge, jury and executioner,” Hasan said. HRW said the United States and Britain should speak up against the president, a key ally in the US-led “war on terror”. “Instead of playing along with Musharraf's power-grab, they should condemn his latest ploy for legitimacy,” the group said.

Rally outside Aitzaz's house

Around 200 people gathered outside Aitzaz Ahsan's house today at around 7 PM in a continuation of the vigils that have been taking place there since the announcement of his withdrawal of his candidature from the elections. Lawyers, students and other concerned citizens shouted slogans calling for his release and other illegally detained heroes, like Ali Ahmed Kurd, Tariq Mahmood and Muneer A Malik, as well as the reinstatement of the judiciary. As their numbers swelled, the protestors marched in the form of a rally towards the main road next to Zaman Park, where they formed a human chain on the sidewalk, while contiuing the charged sloganeering. At the time this report was being penned down, the protest was still underway.

Student Action Committee Lahore issues call for the 17th

Emergency lifted: nothing restored

We, the people, are the rightful masters of both congress and the courts - not to overthrow the constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the constitution. - Abraham Lincoln

Even after the emergency has been lifted, the country is still under the stranglehold of the regime. The Student Action Committee (Lahore) will continue to fight for our country’s rights.

Without an independent and free minded judiciary, we the people will never have protection.

Without an unshackled media, we the people will never have a voice.

Join the Student Action Committee (Lahore) and other civil society groups in pushing through the barriers to freedom.

Come join us in a peaceful protest at Nasir Bagh on the 17th of December 2007 at 1 pm.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government. - Edward Abbey

Student Action Committee (Lahore)
Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with any political party, rather we represent the collective conscience of the students of Pakistan. Joins Us:

Declaration by Pakistan's former Ambassadors

We, as former ambassadors of Pakistan, deplore the imposition of the state of emergency and suspension of the Constitution by General (R) Pervez Musharraf. As the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared on 3 November, 2007, these steps, which amount to the imposition of martial law, are unconstitutional and illegal. Besides undermining the rule of law and delivering a severe blow to the independence of judiciary, they have dangerously destabilised the country. They also have incurred international opprobrium and badly tarnished Pakistan's image. We, therefore, demand:

. Immediate restoration of the Constitution and the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as constituted before the declaration of emergency on 3 November 2007.

. Formation of neutral caretaker Cabinets at the Federal and Provincial levels and reconstitution of the Election Commission to ensure the holding of free, fair and transparent elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies.

· Immediate release of all persons imprisoned or detained under the emergency, including judges, lawyers, journalists, students and others.

· Full restoration of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the lifting of all restrictions imposed on the media.

· Strict adherence by the armed forces to their oath and constitutional role, in accordance with the directives given by the Quaid-e-Azam.

· Strict application of the principle of accountability of holders of public office.

We call upon the parties and the candidates participating in the elections to make a solemn commitment to treat the reinstatement of the judges of the superior judiciary as the top priority issue after the elections. The nation also expects that political parties and members of future national and provincial legislatures would adhere to recognized democratic norms in their future conduct and pay serious attention to the overcoming of the daunting challenges facing the nation. We express our deep appreciation to the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts who refused to take oath under the PCO, the lawyers for leading the movement for the restoration of the rule of law, the journalists for resisting the regime's efforts to gag the media and the human rights activists, students and other members of civil society for lending their full support to the democratic movement. We express our solidarity with the nation in its demand for the full restoration of democratic and constitutional rule in the country.

1. Mr. Riaz Piracha, former Foreign Secretary
2. Dr. Humayun Khan, former Foreign Secretary
3. Tanvir A. Khan, former Foreign Secretary
4. Shamshad Ahmad, former Foreign Secretary
5. Riaz H. Khokhar, former Foreign Secretary
6. Dr. S M Koreshi
7. Gul Haneef
8. Amin Jan Naim
9. Touqir Hussain
10. Karamatullah Khan Ghori
11. Amir Usman
12. Javid Hussain
13. S. Azmat Hassan
14. Naeem U. Hassan
15. Shafqat Ali Shaikh
16. Karam Elahi
17. Afzal Akbar Khan
18. Mazhar Qayyum
19. Asif Ezdi
20. S. Iftikhar Murshed
21. Iqbal A. Khan
22. Shirin Safdar
23. B.A. Malik Islamabad,

13 December 2007

Pictures from Student Rally in Peshawar

What if we lose?

- Haray bhee to bazi maat nahin!
I have a feeling that fellow students, lawyers, and many other citizens want to pose us a tough question. Something – perhaps love for us or fear of breaking our hearts, hope for the movement or despair of ever convincing us to quit it – keeps them from saying it loud. The question is: What if we lose?

We hope that this wouldn’t happen. Somehow the powers-that-be will quiver before the moral force of our argument and if they don’t, whatever political government that emerges out of the elections will. Nonetheless, let us suppose what the cynics have always believed. Suppose that no one listens to us and, as Kamila Hyat put it, ‘in our lonely walk’, we end up no where? What if our movement fails to bring the legitimate judges back? What if one by one, those trampled flowers wither and vanish and freedom’s tender wings remain forever clipped in this country? What good is all the hue and cry we raised and still raise, and all the effort that it takes, if the movement’s objects are never achieved?

If that happens - it being the worse that could possibly happen - I believe our efforts would still not have been in vain. The great thing about a social movement is that it is never lost. We are lucky to be engaged in a principled moral endeavor, in love’s lonely labor, which even defeat cannot render futile. As Faiz put it:

Yeh baazi ishq ki baazi hae, jo chaho lara do dar kaisa?
Gar jeet gaey to kia kehnay, haray bhee toe baazi maat nahin. - Faiz

There are gains produced by this movement that even defeat cannot wipe off. For one, the movement has left countless individuals who participated in it, particularly students and young lawyers, fundamentally changed. The legal profession in Pakistan has not been known for a display of integrity or honesty. When these young protesting lawyers go back to their trade, they will hopefully take home with them some of this principled behavior.

Students of elite institutions like LUMS and FAST have also long been known for a lack of social and political sensitivity. If you were ask them about the state of affairs in this country the standard response would be either of the two: “There’s nothing you can do about it”, or “I plan to settle abroad”. Today, the same youth is preparing to inherit this country with all its struggles and all its bounties. Even if they withdraw now from the arena of practical politics, they will take back with them a deeper concern for and engagement with the problems that common people in this country face. I know many students who seemed destined to become ruthlessly effective tools in the machinery of global economic imperialism – this brief brush with activism has left them thinking. Some, if not all of them, have resolved to utilize their undisputed talents in fighting the people’s war in whichever field of life they end up in.

Many eyes, formerly blind, have come to see the gravity of the situation around them. Inwards, those very eyes shall soon turn. Perhaps, they will uncover some remedy to that impoverishment which globally afflicts the human soul in this age of materialism, objectification and commodification. As resistance to the evil outside blossoms, let each and every one of us reflect also upon the very meaning and purpose of human existence, social life, our daily live, education and all other endeavors. In many minds, that introspection has already begun, sharp tongues are wagging and desiccated pens like mine are pouring floods – how can the effort then be considered futile.

Beyond the contribution it has made to the individuals involved in it, the current civil society movement has already bequeathed a legacy to the nation at large. It has given the country an inspiring glimpse of what politics can be, if it is done honestly and in a principled manner. Also, it has dispelled a notion that the 90’s experience popularized; the notion that, in this country, elected government and corruption can never be separated. By infusing into popular discourse the ideas of rule of law and strict constitutionalism, this movement has revived the hope for bringing in rule-bound elected governments, which are effectively restrained from corruption and authoritarianism by judicial independence and the vigilance of media and civil society.

We are a nation that has lost its heroes, not to gradual erosion by history but to swift corrosion worked by mysterious forces. Political leaders either lost or sold their credibility ages ago. War-heroes slip out of our fingers once we begin to contemplate the possibility that maybe we really didn’t win all those wars and they were sparked by the ambition and adventurism of certain power-hungry individuals. Even sportsmen have become quite disappointing. Recently, forces bigger than our miserable bully-of-a-state have stolen the integrity of the nuclear scientist, denying our last civilian hero.

Today, however, a whole new crop of national heroes has sprung up – lawyers, judges, activists, not one but dozens. As I pen these words, from within the sobering darkness of their prison cells and sub-jails, the likes of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary and Advocate Muneer A. Malik are defining the true meaning of integrity. In their own neighborhoods, people are finding heroes like Justice Siddiqi of Lahore, in whose defense they can willingly sacrifice their liberties, and others in turn are willing to risk their own liberties and comforts so as to secure their release.

Finally, this episode has shown the world a picture of Pakistan that it had never seen before – a picture so inspiring that some Americans lawyers have actually decided to copy us. In this age of cultural imperialism and the exercise of hegemonic soft power, this is no less than a miracle. It is the one of those miracles that only true love for a cause can bring about – love which is incomplete without a passionate hope of success, but remains as valuable a sentiment, even when it stays forever unrequited.

Account of Saturday Rally in Karachi

pix up at
- Well done, all those who worked so hard on getting together a show
of strength in Karachi. It went smoothly & peacefully. The only
downside was that the hired pickup with speakers leading it often went
too fast (maybe pushed by the police who wanted the rally to end
quickly) and that the event coincided with the Irtiqa seminar on the
judiciary held at the Press Club (because of the rally date change),
presided over by Minhaj Barna (who launched his book of poetry right
before the Live with Talat event).

Protesters started to assemble at Regal Chowk at around 4:00 pm.
Within minutes the crowd swelled up to a few hundred under the
watchful eyes of a dozen or so policemen. Participants shouted slogans
against Musharraf and the Emergency and called for the restoration of
the judiciary and media freedom. One constable watching the spectacle
of diverse flags (including several Pakistan flags) and placards
amidst the din of traffic and full-throated slogans told a journalist,
"In our hearts we say the same thing as you. But what we are on duty
and we can't join you."

The diversity of the participants cut across the divisions of right-
and left-wing politics, ethnicity, class, education and gender. People
from various walks of life present ranged from lawyers, doctors,
engineers, journalists, writers, to labourers, students, and
housewives, as well as the families of the victims of enforced
disappearances in Balochistan, brought to the rally by Baloch Students
Organization (BSO) Azad and their dynamic chaddar-clad central
executive committee member, Karima Baloch.

Several political parties participated, including Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Tehreek, PML-N (Shazia Faizi), National
Worker's Party (Yusuf Mastikhan and Usman Baloch), Labour Party of
Pakistan (LPP, Nasir Mansoor), International Socialists, Communist
Mazdoor Kissan Party(CMKP), Pukhtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party (PMAP),
Jamat-e-Islami, and Shabab-e-Milli. Other groups included Islamic
Lawyer Forum, Railway Workers Federation, the Human Rights Commission
of Pakistan (HRCP), Aurat Foundation, Women's Action Forum (WAF),
Democratic Labour Action Committee, and the PC Workers Union.

Police officers initially refused to allow the rally participants to
make their way in a procession through the crowded Saddar area to the
Karachi Press Club barely a kilometer down the road, but had obviously
been briefed not to use force. After some negotiations, they allowed
the rally to proceed.

An interesting mix of slogans was heard as leftist and right-wing
parties marched sided by side, ranging from "Asia Surkh Hai!" (Asia is
Red) to religious-oriented slogans. Participants held up placards
featuring images of Che Guevara, the 'non-PCO judges', and the
'disappeared'. "This is the essence of democracy," remarked a

Akbar Shah, an elderly tourist guide in a shabby shalwar kurta and
tennis shoes standing on the sidewalk raised his hands in appreciation
as the rally turned towards the Press Club and talked aloud to
himself, "Go Musharraf go, so nice, good slogans."

Enthused by the crowd, he accompanied them to the Press Club where
leaders from various parties addressed the gathering from the back of
a hired pick-up vehicle. They condemned the illegitimate usurpation of
power by Musharraf and urged for the restoration of Judiciary which
can be the corner stone for the return of democracy in Pakistan.