Saturday, December 22, 2007

Call for participation - Student Action Committee US

Ghazia Aslam

All of you must be aware of the political situation in Pakistan. Following the Emergency (which was effectively a Martial Law), the judiciary was deposed, media was gagged and hundreds of lawyers were arrested. The emergency was lifted on Dec 15th but all the laws made under PCO are now part of the constitution and cannot be challenged by the courts or the legislative assembly. Media remains restricted and Judiciary is still under house arrest along with hundreds of lawyers and activists who are now being charged under Anti-terrorist act. Many international organizations have declared that despite lifting the emergency, situation on the ground essentially remains the same. One of the very telling examples of this is the police attack on a peaceful student protest on Dec 17th. 40 students were arrested the same day and were charged under Anti-terrorism Act. (Eye witness accounts of a lot of these events, along with pictures and videos, are available on

This is not all. Musharraf has categorically said that the judiciary will not be reinstated. In fact his response to a question by Washington Post was "What Judges...they ill never be reinstated." Dr. Nasim Ashraf, on the Capitol Hill, in front of the Congress members and the other educated and informed members of society said that the judiciary was deposed because the Supreme Court started meddling with the functions of the government. Can we let a simple question "Is deposing a whole institution compared to seeking constitutional redress a better solution to a misconducting judiciary " go unasked? There are other questions too like "How can free and fair elections be conducted in a situation where assembly is banned, Election Commission and the interim government is not partial, 70% of the Supreme Court judges remain deposed?"; "How the rights of the citizens are protected when there is no institution that can redress their grievances?" Someone needs to ask these questions.

Call for participation in Student Action Committee: Therefore, in an endeavor to facilitate collective action,I am calling to organize a Student Action Committee (SAC-US chapter). The group will essentially be a part of the Students Action Committee (Lahore and Islamabad) and will comprise mainly of Pakistani and Pakistani American students in the US .The short term objective of the group is to ensure that elections that do not follow a sound political process are rendered illegal by Pakistanis and international organizations. The long-term idea is that the group will become part of the civil society that will keep a check on the excesses of the government, and make sure that the situation of hundreds of missing persons does not arise again in Pakistan. The group will not be affiliated with any political party and will not have any political agenda. Amnesty International US, and Washington-Pakistan Forum (a group of Pakistani American journalists, members of American Bar Association, and students coordinated by Amnesty International) has promised to fully support the group. The efforts are underway to open a London Chapter of the same group. (Please find the expected short term agenda of the group at the end of the email).

Why Should we Participate? A lot of us are skeptical of participating in this struggle because we have all been disappointed by the political parties which will eventually form the government. There is good reason for skepticism but the need to take collective action is greater than that. Our objective is not to depose one government and bring another. The responsibility of making the government accountable to civil society also lies with us. This is the first time in the last four decades that judiciary and media have agitated for independence as institutions. If they (and consequently, we) win this struggle then the political process emerging out of this struggle would not be the same as before, even if the people in the government remain the same. This is about time we realize that democracy is not about people but institutions, that we should stop depending on 'goodness' of the individuals and depend on ourselves by building sound and strong civil society. And students are at the base of any civil society. The only point of democracy is that everyone has a voice. And, if we choose not to exercise that right now, its our fault; why do we even ask for democracy and how are we going to sustain a democracy if it emerges at any point in Pakistan if we remain skeptical of ourselves. We also need this process to create representative political parties in the long run, as effective leadership cannot emerge out of vacuum. If nothing else, participation in an event like this will leave all of us changed. I just cannot resist quoting Faiz at this point; Gar jeet gaey to kia kehnay, haray bhee tu baazi maat nahin!

Very few nations get a chance to reconstitute. We have one now. We are taking advantage of it, as the lawyers, students and other civil society activists in Pakistan have proved. Each one of us needs to play his/her role.

Open House to Discuss "Why Should we Participate? and What Should you Expect from this Participation": If you are still skeptical, please join to discuss the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages of participation in this group on Dec 26th at 3:00 pm. Venue is 2765 Centerboro Drive, #149, Vienna, VA 22181. A couple of Pakistani journalists in the Washington DC area will also speak.

Short-term Activities of the Group:

The group will essentially be involved in the following short term activities:

coordinating/organizing a protest on Jan 7 before the elections in Pakistan

holding press conferences and attending events in academic and non-academic institutions to make sure that we register our point of view

conducting campus-wide events to raise awareness amongst students about the situation in Pakistan and the need to build democratic institutions. (One suggestion is to hold talks by academics in the area along with documentary movies. Some documentaries are already available on youtube but we can always be more creative and do better using what we have).

Promoting advocacy on the Hill and other international organizations that protect civil rights

promoting media relations which would include maintaining a blog, coordinating with SAC (Lahore and Islamabad and hopefully later London) and communicating with the US media, among other tasks

drafting a sample letter with a fact sheet regarding current situation in Pakistan that can be sent to the Congress members; distributing the letter to the people so that they can send this letter to the Congress members in their respective districts to apprise them of the correct situation in Pakistan (A few meetings with Congress members have shown that they do not know what the real situation is)

Please distribute this call widely. We need to get the skeleton of the group together before the protest on Jan 7th. I know this is a short notice and it is during the holidays but that just means that we have to put in a little more effort at a little more cost. Please let me know if you are willing to participate, the extent and nature of your participation. In case we get better response that expected we can always form sub-committees regionally with a headquarter.

Additional Information: If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. My cell number is 703 663 0960. I would be more than happy to discuss and/or answer your concerns/questions. I would also encourage you to visit the following sites for current information on recent events in Pakistan:

Discussion by Pakistani Lawyers and Human Rights Activist at Yale Law School:

Audio conference of house arrested judges with San Francisco Bar Association:

Hope to hear from you soon and Happy Holidays!

Vigil at Karachi Press Club in solidarity with Aitzaz Ahsan

Urooj Zia

The CMKP Karachi DC organised a candlelight vigil at 06:00 p.m yesterday (December 21) outside the Karachi Press Club, to protest against the bullshit meted out to Aitzaz saheb while he was on his way to Islamabad yester-morning.

Even though the entire thingum was put together at a very short notice, quite a few people showed up -- around 20 loge thhey, I think. CMKP ki achhi khaasi representation thhee, with comrades Zafar Aslam, Khurram, Adil (who's still suffering from the aftereffects of December 17), Zoha, Jaffer, some of our KU cadre, and myself. Humarey ilawa there was Comrade Sherbaz from the Labour Party, while the rest of the people were from Peoples Resistance (PR).

As always, everyone loved the CMKP's naaras. :-P We're definitely going to miss Comrade Jaffer after January 5. :-D

Oh and then Comrade Khurram got all jazbati and delivered a brilliant speech, which left everyone else k expressions aisey ----> :-O

All in all, great work, team! Although the entire thingum was pretty tame, but given the short notice, we're glad people got together at all! The purpose was to support the vigils in Lahore and Islamabad, so that a unified, simultaneous message could be sent out all across the

We're grateful to everyone who rallied to the call at such a short notice, especially Sabeen, Husna, Azra, Naeem Sadiq, Sophia, Anis, Awab, and everyone else from PR, as well as our comrades from the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP). : )

Power to the People!!!

In Solidarity