Monday, January 14, 2008

Vigil and arrests at Karachi - eyewitness account

Today (Sunday, Jan 13th), at 6:30 p.m, around 20 people from the civil society coalition -- People's Resistance -- held a peaceful candlelight vigil outside the residence of Justice (retd) Bhagwandas in Clifton, Karachi. Justice Bhagwandas was placed under house arrest on Saturday. Two minutes after we arrived, a police moble came rushing into the street, with a loud siren, and some menacing plainclothes policemen got out. It is most likely that they were part of the intelligence agencies, particularly one Mr. Intelligence Fanatic (IF) - picture attached. Another mobile came about five minutes after that. It was very amusing for us to see how threatened the state's repressive apparatus felt by a group of 20 civil society activists holding candles outside the residence of a retired judge. We lit candles, sang the national anthem, sent a handwritten note inside to Justice Bhagwandas, and chanted slogans. The police watched, and media teams from Express, Geo and KTN videotaped.

We were getting ready to leave after 20 minutes or so, when Mr. IF tried to arrest a young, male member of the Communist Mazdoor Kisan Party -- a member who looked more vulnerable compared to other elite members that were around. When he was rescued by other protestors, we started to leave immediately, and then suddenly the lights of the entire street went out. IF and other policemen charged towards us, manhandled a female activist, and grabbed several protestors. All this seemed to be pre-planned, as no media could cover the abuse and arrests that happened in the dark. They arrested 9 men, who have been booked under section 144 and last we heard, were trying to negotiate their release. Many of us felt that the police/intelligence action was aimed at setting an example..even 20 protestors who gather for 20 minutes need to be terrorized and tamed. As intimidating and disempowering as such situations are, we know that we cannot give up. Through sustained efforts and multiple strategies, we need to keep working towards reinstating the rule of law and preventing the rising rule of terror.

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