Monday, December 17, 2007

Eyewitness account of the protest in Islamabad


The numbers have been increasing and today, they were big enough to mount a battle with the police..and invite heavy shelling..the number of students was significant.

it started off in Aabpara, moved to press club in front of holday inn...Imran Khan joined shortly after.. The protesters were escorted by cops all along..the police tried to stop people when they were turning into f-6, right around where the old american express office.. the women charged the police first, followed by students and everyone else..

they pushed the police back, i would say, a good 200 feet... thats when the police started baton charging... students retaliated with their own tiny sticks, and stones...somewhat like the intifada..

police shot tear gas shells...initially one...which actually fell very close to where I was and I got scared, as I was not sure what it was or how it would act.. ;-)

Thats where it got extremely bad...people were spread all over the place..there were around 2/300 police, armed atleast one APC (Armed personnel career) I must say that I was pleasantly surprised to see the emotions of students...and women...old and young...and people... there were tiny kids in the protest...people joined with their families... people were getting injured, and were retreating... many, i saw, were injured, and by this time, the entire ground was full of tear gas smoke...

by this time, people tried to stop students who wouldnt give in.. the people retreated into the parking lot of intercontinental under construction...there were cars there and they thought they would be safe from police throwing shells and stones at the crowd.. went on till dark...and people very very slowly and reluctantly dispersed... no one seemed in a hurry

my impression is that only if we could double the number we had today, (which shouldn't be a big deal), they will have to call in army to control this... the people, especially the youngsters are very angry...that was my impression... also, it was a long walk from Aabpara to Marriott Islamabad...and i met a number of interesting people on the way...

i hope the arrested are freed, and the injured get well soon... i just rambled...and i am sure i was not able to capture the energy of this protest... i salute all pakistanis who joined in you all (message for those who are away) I can understand how you feel being away.. but you are part of this struggle anyways... do you know that all those people who are away, they are contriuting by paying attention... there is something very spiritual about is a huge contribution, I must say...

we are, as they say, Brethren in the Resistance.

please keep writing, keep pushing..every effort counts..whatever we can..thanks

Questions for Musharraf and Bush

The Washington Post
By John F. Tierney and Aitzaz Ahsan
Monday, December 17, 2007

One of us chairs a House of Representatives subcommittee tasked with oversight of U.S. foreign policy, and one of us languishes under house arrest after transfer from a Pakistani jail for the "heinous" and "seditious" crime of representing, in legal proceedings, the sacked chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court.

As members of the political opposition in our respective countries and as lawyers firmly committed to the rule of law, we have a few questions for our heads of state:

How will you address the increasing anti-Americanism in Pakistan in light of the growing, and not unjustified, perception among Pakistan's democratic moderates that the United States is not willing to stand with the people of Pakistan against an increasingly authoritarian and anti-democratic government in Islamabad?

How will you respond to the inevitable international condemnation of a parliamentary "election" in which journalists are muzzled; political parties are prohibited from campaigning; Pakistani military and intelligence services visibly enforce an atmosphere of intimidation; and opposition leaders are exiled, jailed or placed under house arrest?

How do you expect to effectively compete against extremist ideology when U.S. education funding to Pakistan is one-fifteenth its military support and Pakistani funding for public education remains woefully inadequate? Thirteen million children ages 5 to 9 -- out of 27 million total -- are not enrolled in school at all, leaving them exposed to extremist mentors.

How do you expect to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda cancer spreading from Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas into the Northwest Frontier and Balochistan provinces when the military is busy pointing its guns at judges, lawyers, journalists, political opponents and human rights advocates?

How do you expect to muster the political fortitude and legitimacy to fight extremist Taliban and al-Qaeda forces when you have alienated the center-left and center-right -- the more secular components of Pakistani society?

The people of Pakistan and the people of the United States deserve honest answers to these vexing questions. They are long overdue.

John F. Tierney is a Democratic representative from Massachusetts. Aitzaz Ahsan, an opposition leader in Pakistan's parliament, has represented deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry as well as former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.

Protest outside Karachi Press Club on Tuesday

A joint demonstration has been organised for 03:00 p.m. tomorrow (December 18) outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC), to protest the State's brutalities against the Students Action Committee (SAC) rally in Islamabad today.

While the protest has been called by the CMKP and the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP), we appeal to Peoples Resistance, lawyers, students, journalists, labour unions -- every citizen -- to please join us there. A strong message has to be sent across to the State tomorrow: these atrocities will NOT stop us!

Friends of the Resistance, today's events in Islamabad proved once and for all that the so-called lifting of the emergency is nothing but a sham. If this was done in Islamabad today, it could be done in Karachi too. Aakhir kabb takk bardaasht karengey yeh tamaasha hum? Please come to the press club tomorrow to express solidarity with the brave souls who stood up to the State's brutalities today.

Countless were injured, and 40 have been arrested (including seven women). We HAVE to show Musharraf and his cronies that this brutality will NOT stop us anymore. Please join us at the press club at 03:00 p.m. tomorrow. Bring yourself, bring friends. Bring banners, flags and placards. Above everything, please try to bring as many people as possible -- there's power in numbers.
Power to the People!!!

In Complete Solidarity

23 lawyers candidates withdraw from the elections

(Courtesy The Post)
TOBA TEK SINGH: Twenty three candidates belong to lawyers' community led by APDM leader Abid Hasan Minto withdrew their nomination papers Saturday on the call of Pakistan Bar Council and APDM leadership to start election boycott campaign. The lawyers went in a procession to the offices of returning officers in district courts complex led by APDM central who withdrew from the district included Labour Party Pakistan central leader and NA-93 and PP-86 candidate Farooq Tariq, district PML-N former secretary Rana Anwar, former DBA president Mian Shahid Iqbal, advocate Safdar Ali Nasir, MMA district secretary Hafiz Abdul Basit, advocate Ch Masaad Ahmad Kahloon, Ch Afzal, Mian Shoaib Muhammad, Khalid Javed, Zahid Sattar, Arshad Javed, Mian Arshad, Ch Ijaz Ahmad, Furqan Habib, Makhdoom Nazar, Sarfraz Khan, Mian Younis, Ziauddin, Irfanul Haq, Munir Ahmad, Mehr Yaseen, Dr Arshad Alam, Attaullah and Mian Shoukat Ali Shoukat.

Update on the students arrested in Islamabad

The seven female protestors arrested have been released without charge. The 35 or so male protestors are still under arrest at the thana on constitutional avenue. According to reports, they are being charged under various offences, including 144 and 7-ATA (Anti-terrorism Act). Some students and lawyers who went to the thana to attempt to procure their release have also been arrested. On what pretext, one cannot say.

it is pertinent to note here that, although the 'emergency' is claimed to have been lifted, its draconian implications are still very much in sway. The brutal response of the police to the student rally is a clear indication of the paucity of basic rights even after the 'restoration' of our battered constitution. Let us not even talk of the continued illegal detention of several judges and senior advocates on no charges whatsoever.

Justice, anyone..?

Message from the Student Action Committee Islamabad

This is to request your urgent help. As you might know, a student protest took place today in Islamabad to protest against emergency and removal of supreme court judges and for the restoration of free media. The protest was attended by about a thousand students and people from all walks of life. In spite of lifting of emergency, however, the police resorted to violent tactics to disperse the protesters, using tear gas and rubber bullets in the process. After a brief episode of violence, most of the protesters dispersed except for few who went on to reach the CJ's house. Here, about 35 students and protesters were arrested and taken to Sectt. police station. Lawyers, students, journalists and other members of the civil society! We request you to please show up at the Sectt. police station to demand the release of these arrested students. This is your chance to stand for freedom and justice.

Police unleashes brutality at student protest in Islamabad

Police teargas, baton-charge, fire (rubber bullets) at and arrest students in Islamabad

The protest at Aabpara Islamabad today (Monday) turned ugly as police baton-charged and tear-gassed the 1000 or so students who had assembled to continue their protest against the continued unlawful acts of the government. The police, in an attempt to stop the march of the students towards the Judicial residences, resorted to repeated baton-charges and tear-gassing, ultimately firing rubber bullets into the crowd, hitting many people, including women.

Ultimately, due to the violent turn of events, a small number of students remained to continue the march towards the judicial residence, where the police surrounded and arrested around 35 people, mostly students, some of them female. At the time of the writing of this report, the detainees were being taken to Adiala Jail. The Student Action Committee Islamabad is meeting to decide the course of action to be taken at this point.

Student Action Committee Lahore continues protest

Press Release:

The Student Action Committee (Lahore) held a protest today against the derisive return to a constitution that was altered to personal specifications by President Retd. General Pervez Musharraf.

The crowd began to gather outside Nasser Bagh at 1 pm. The protest took off around 1 30 pm where the SAC (Lahore) was joined by students, lawyers, activists, academics, civil society members who were all committed to the same cause. Even citizens who were passing by joined in with enthusiasm once they heard what the rally was for.

The students in full flow, with banners reading “Emergency Lifted, Nothing Changed”, “Azaadi” “Restore the Judiciary” chanted slogans with the crowd that was pulsating with an energy that soon spilled out on the roads.

“Tor raha hai Pakistan, aaj keh dor ka Yahya Khan”, “Zinda hai Tulba” , “Pakistan ka bais e tabhai…Pervez Musharraf aur Pervaiz Elahi” could be heard from afar as the crowd proceeded from Nasser Bagh to Anarkali Chowk. Here the protestors stood and chanted some more eliciting encouragement from those passing by in their vehicles.

The police, who had been helpful in maneuvering the protest down the mall, soon realized the impact of the protest and started haranguing the crowd, especially the students, to disperse. They claimed they would press charges against students, if they did not wrap up immediately.

The students and their fellow supporters, charged with energy to be seen and heard, did not crack at such demands and continued to raise slogans at Anarkali Chowk.

The protesters marched back towards Nasser Bagh, where they gathered on top of the roundabout and continued their slogans. After a while, the crowd formed a human chain on the roundabout, demonstrating solidarity with each other as well as the public on common fronts: restoration of the pre Nov. 3rd judiciary, an independent media, and a system where every voice can be heard.

The crowd dispersed after almost 2 hours of high level activities. By the end of the day 150 to 200 people had been noted at the protest.

To be noted: the protest today was held as a reflection of the SAC (Lahore) commitment to work for the said causes regardless of the sham political displays by the regime. The threats by the police were just one reflection of how the state of emergency was lifted but nothing restored, nothing changed.

Girls from Peshawar University stage protest

Peshawar (Dec 17):Female students of Peshawar University staged a protest here to express solidarity with the judiciary and media. Earlier, the administration thwarted plans of holding a peaceful walk on campus by a group of girls numbering one hundred, when its officials along with police armed with AK-47s arrived at the gates of the UOP Girls' Hostel where the walk was expected to begin. The admin locked the hostel gate and nobody was allowed to come out. Later on, few student representatives did manage to step out however they were prevented from taking out a rally. Talking to the media they said the girls from a conservative place like the Frontier were impelled to come out as they considered it as their moral duty. They wanted to protest because of the ongoing situation in the country. According to them, there was growing resentment against dictatorship amongst the students. They expressed concern over the worsening law and order situation in the province and the tribal areas and blamed President Musharraf for throwing the region in a state of turmoil due to, what they termed, his ‘bad policies’. The students said they did not belong to any political party however they supported Imran Khan’s stand of boycotting ‘fraudulent’ elections. They called for restoration of all deposed judges and immediate lifting of curbs on the media. Afterwards, some student representatives displayed their protest placards in front of members of the press and vowed to stage another demonstration next time.It may be recalled, that a students rally was taken out in Peshawar last Thursday also (13 Dec) which was forcibly turned back by armed police and university officials.
(Campus News)

The government response to the student uprisings

Students under the emergency imposed by Musharraf have been harassed for protesting against the ill disguised MARTIAL LAW. Protesting or any right to opinion has been quenched by the government and anyone daring to practice natural freedom has been brutalized by the authorities.

Pre-emptive arrests have become a norm under the new MARTIAL LAW regime in the country as LUMS students and professors were notified of the charges by the government.

The students and professors in question had committed no crime than to practice their legal right to criticize the government. Students have also been warned against protesting on the LUMS campus, which is not on government land. There have been discontent in Government educational institutes as well. And several faculty members of Punjab University were charged with sedition. The reason given for the charges was stirring the masses against the government. Students also have been treated with immense brutality, often subjected to baton charge particularly evident during the recent protest held in Aapara, Islamabad on 4th December, 2007.

Students are also being intimidated not to protest against the government by phone calls. One female student MK talked about her ordeal, “a man called me up and asked if I was the one speaking on the phone, I asked who he was and he threatened me to steer clear otherwise he will have me picked up…he knew where I was and that I had changed the sim on my phone…he also knew there were two more people with me and warned us that shooting us was not beyond him….he threatened to attack me and made clear that he knew of my whereabouts and had all the information on me including my activity on facebook…he said that the emergency had been imposed because of what had happened in Sargodha and such attacks and offered to give me money (or contacts) to stop…he boasted of having plenty to give if only I’ll give into their submission… the place I have been staying at for the few days is constantly being visited by some people claiming to be from the MI/ISI. Last night the people asked the hostel warden to tell me to leave immediately as I would be a threat to the non-political students in the dorm. There has been a green car that has been following my movements. I received another phone call threatening serious consequences again. If the CJ was there today I could go to him for help, in fact he would have taken a suo moto notice once he read the papers but now I don't know who to go for help. There is no justice left in this country.”

Other similar if not more dire threats have been made. Another person SA got similar phone call: death threat, threats of abduction, torture and detention. They said it wasn't hard at all for them to forge a case against him that could destroy his life and cause him to be a shame for his family. KO got threats that his parents will be abducted and his mom raped before his eyes if he does not stop. In addition they said they'll leave a weapon at his place and keep him in jail for 8 year.

The human rights and Pakistanis including the very basic right to freedom of thought and expression have been infringed callously. Some international activists such as Tighe Barry and Medea Benjamin have taken note of the plight of the Pakistanis and have raised their voices with other pro democracy forces in the countries. But to turn the voices of the Pakistanis into a resounding force – in support of democracy the world over – the whole world community in particular human rights organizations to rise up and support the supporters of democracy in Pakistan.