Saturday, February 2, 2008

SAC Members brutally attacked at Punjab College

Today, the true nature of the establishment was unleashed in full colours. As a sequel to yesterday's assault against a PU teacher and an activist, both senior advisors for the Student Action Committee, by the Punjab College guards, today, the administration of the same university detained and brutally beat up four people, representative of the Student Action Committee (Lahore) including one female.

A Punjab University faculty member, a Fast faculty member, two students and a seasoned female activist returned outside Punjab College in the morning to distribute flyers amongst the students. While engaging with students, none were on college property but were maintaining a distance by remaining on the green belt next to the Canal Road.

More than a dozen private guards, acting on the Principals orders grabbed them and without any hesitation, dragged all four of them, including the lady, and a driver, through the school corridors, where students were witness to this disgraceful act. The female activist was dragged so forcefully that she lost her balance and fell, only to be violently dragged up. These four SAC representatives and the driver were locked in a room, without any justifications.

While in detention, the men were beaten up by the Punjab College faculty members, guards and those who seemed like hired thugs. The assault was so severe that the PU faculty member on the receiving end was bleeding profusely. The other young man who was also detained was mercilessly pounded upon by a dozen men, whereupon he lost consciousness and sustained respiratory loss and had to be rushed to the Sheikh Zahid Hospital emergency.

Their personal belongings: cellphones and a valuable camera were also forcefully snatched from them, only to be returned after external intervention.

While they were kept inside, a SAC member came to Punjab College to rescue them. More than ten guards threatened him, and surrounded him, only to step back when he dialed 15 for police help.

After almost one hour of illegal imprisonment and harsh thrashing, the four were released.

When these SAC (Lahore) representatives were disrespectfully let out, the battered and bruised entourage proceeded to the Muslim Town police station with hopes for legal retribution. At the station, they were interrogated repeatedly, yet no FIR was registered nor was it in the offing.

After much convincing by lawyers and students, the SP decided that everyone should convene at the 'crime scene' for further investigations. By this time, evening had fallen.

At Punjab College, the administration upon noticing the arrival of the four people they had earlier beaten up along with forty SAC (Lahore) members, hid the guards responsible for the brutality earlier as to keep the police from interrogating them.

At the venue, the SAC members raised slogans asking for justice and student freedom when the DSP Rana Azeem showed up, instead of the SP as was promised.

It would seem as Punjab College is owned by the District Nazim, the police was trying to play down the atrocities by the college and its administration. After SAC convinced the police to conduct an investigation as legal procedure would dictate, the DSP accompanied by the female activist who had been harassed at Punjab College earlier, her lawyers and a SAC member who was recording the activist's narrative went inside the college premises to see the room where the four people were detained.

The Punjab College administration ordered the guards to barricade the way to the room, and locked the gates leading up to it. When the lawyers and the female activist demanded to show the DSP the room, the Punjab College administration launched into baseless conspiracy theories against the four SAC representatives they had beaten up.

After the faculty and administration shouted expletives and used extremely foul language, the lawyers, activist and the SAC representative walked out, only to be apprehended at the gate. The SAC representative, a female, was accused of taking photographs inside the college without permission. When she denied this, and showed she had no camera on her, more than a dozen men surrounded her and threatened physically frisk her and confiscate her cell phone.

Finally both the females were let out, to a waiting SAC representation, which dispersed to the press club for further statements.

The Student Action Committee would also like to condemn the arrest of Aitzaz Ahsan who had been under house arrest for 90 days and had been released a day before being re-arrested.
The rally at Nasser Bagh where Aitzaz addressed hundreds of people, from across the social spectrun, was testiment to the fact that Aitzaz is viewed as one of the forerunners of the movement to restore the judiciary.
Hamid Zaman (CCP), Hina Jillani (lawyer), Amir Jalal (SAC) and many other notable figures addressed the crowd and asked them to stand united in this struggle to reinstate the pre Nov. 3rd judiciary which is viewed as the first step towards the restoration of democracy.
The SAC (lahore) urges all citizens of Pakistan to come forth and take the control of the direction this nation is taking and help avert further violations of our basic rights.
Tomorrow at 1 pm, at the press club, the Student Action Committee, along with other supporters will hold a protest against the brutality of the Punjab College establishment.

Pictures from Protest at Nasser Bagh

Nawaz to pursue Missing People's cases

LAHORE, Feb 2 (AP) Former premier Nawaz Sharif pledged Saturday to pursue the cases of hundreds of missing people and prosecute those responsible if his party wins the February 18 parliamentary elections. “No government agency or official has a mandate to keep people in illegal confinement,” Sharif told about 100 relatives of people missing and believed to be held illegally by intelligence agencies. “They are accountable for their misdeeds before the court of law.”

The relatives, including women, children and elderly men, held placards and portraits of their loved ones as they gathered in a tent in front of Sharif's residence in Lahore. Sharif told the relatives he was optimistic about his party’s chances in the February 18 balloting, after which all the judges removed by Musharraf would be returned to the bench. “The first thing would be restoration of the independent judiciary,” h
e said.

(Courtesy DAWN)

'Get America Out of the Way and We Will be Okay'

Former ISI [Pakistan Army's Inter-Services Intelligence] Chief [Lt. General] Hamid Gul tells HARINDER BAWEJA the troika of army chiefs, politicians and the U.S. has Pakistan on the
verge of civil war.

Tehelka: Is Benazir Bhutto's assassination a death knell for Pakistan?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: Accidents and wars don't destroy a country. It is the political process that can damage it. Fortunately, the emerging leadership of the Pakistan People's Party [PPP] has shown solidarity with the federation [of Pakistan].

Tehelka: But the assassination of a former Prime Minister [Benazir Bhutto] indicates the growing threat to Pakistan from the [Muslim] jehadis.

GENERAL HAMID GUL: It is not the [Muslim] jehadis who have killed her. She was rather protective of the [Muslim] jehadis in the past. Benazir was never soft on the Kashmir issue, let me tell you that. I served as the ISI Director-General under her. The 'Taliban' [Afghan students] emerged during her second tenure in office and captured Kabul when she was still the Prime Minister. Her Interior Minister used to patronise them openly. It was not the [Muslim] jehadis but that is what the Americans [Bush-Cheney Junta and the U.S. CIA] would have us believe. They have designs for Pakistan and I strongly believe that the Americans have got her eliminated because this is the way they deal with countries like Pakistan. They either use them or subdue them. In the case of Pakistan, it is both.

The Americans worked out a model during the days of [assassinated General Muhammad] Zia ul Haq. Junejo was brought in to give the label of democracy and to gradually ease Zia-ul-Haq out of office after he had been used but it didn't work out. Zia got wind of it and removed Junejo from office. The Americans got very upset and destroyed Zia-ul-Haq. I make no bones about saying this. I will quote from [U.S. President Dick] Nixon's book, In the Arena (page 109), in which he says when Zia-ul-Haq's plane went down, "instantly it came to my mind that why we Americans destroy our friends after we have used them".

America is a very important player in our domestic politics. They can't be naive to understand that Benazir cannot work with a man like Musharraf and if they were trying to cobble together a dream team comprising Benazir and Musharraf, then either they were very stupid or had other designs. Could the charismatic Benazir work with Musharraf when he could not tolerate even a mild and placid man like former PM Zafar Ullah Khan Jamali?

Tehelka: But she [Benazir Bhutto] apparently came back after a nod from the Americans?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: She came back because she had a sense of history and she wanted this blemish of corruption to be removed from her name. She was pushed into this situation. Benazir had said two things before she landed here - one was about AQ [Abdul Qadeer] Khan (the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb) and the other about 'Al-Qaeda' - that she would permit the Americans to strike 'Al-Qaeda' targets.

These are two things the Americans very badly want. One is a pre-emptive doctrine which has not yet been consummated. Even Musharraf has been resisting a direct ingress, howsoever 'pro-America' he might be. So, how could Benazir do this? How could she hand over AQ Khan to them? But she came and in the 70 days she spent, not once did she mention either AQ Khan or the 'Taliban'. She had drifted from the agenda and no wonder Musharraf said before and after her death that the lady had broken her promises. I have direct knowledge that my name was included in the list of people she felt she was threatened by but immediately after she landed here, she sent me a message and then another just three days before her assassination. She asked a source to tell General Sahib [Hamid Gul] to understand who got my name included. She said she would come to my house soon after the campaigning ended. She also told me through the source that haven't I noticed that she is not talking of AQ Khan. Everyone knows that the
Americans will never accept a populist leader, particularly in a Muslim country.

Tehelka: Isn't it one of Pakistan's essential problems - being willing to be led by the Americans?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: This is one of the fundamental contradictions in Pakistan's governance and political system. Unfortunately, you in India don't realise this. America wants to be the master not a friend.

Tehelka: Pakistan is often referred to as the most dangerous place on Earth. Does this bother you and the Pakistanis a great deal?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: The Americans call it a dangerous place because they have designs for Pakistan. The Israeli lobby will never rest in peace until they have snatched our nuclear weapons. In the 'war against terror', Pakistan is the target.

Tehelka: But the [Muslim] jehadi stranglehold is evident from the increasing number of 'suicide' attacks.

GENERAL HAMID GUL: That is pure and simple revenge. It is in Pashtun blood. It has nothing to do with Islam. These are revenge attacks. The girls who were burnt in Lal Masjid [Red Mosque] were from Swat [Pakistan]. I know that Lal Masjid inmates were ready to surrender.

Tehelka: The [Pakistan] Army and the ISI have not allowed democracy to take root, right?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: Partly the politicians have been responsible for this but it is true that the [Pakistan] Army has not allowed the politicians either. The Army is the strongest organ in the executive branch. Even now, when the judiciary rebelled, see how the Army fell upon it and strangulated it. And when the media started to side with the judiciary, they tried to kill the media too. This is the story of Pakistan.

Tehelka: Being a former [ISI] chief, you are absolving the ISI.

GENERAL HAMID GUL: It is the Army Chief who has had ambitions not the ISI. I have served the institution for 36 years and the ISI never wanted to have anything to do with politics. But the Army chiefs always wanted to enjoy power. He doles out ambassadorial posts after retirement and allocates housing plots, agricultural land.

Tehelka: You are willing to concede the Army's hold over the Pakistan polity. What about the ISI?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: The ISI is a branch related to security. The first line of defence has to be handled by the intelligence agency so it continues to grow in power. The ISI has played an important role and it has in its charter - through a prime ministerial decree signed by [assassinated Prime Minister] Zulfiqar [Ali] Bhutto - a political cell, so the politicians are at fault and the Army Chief and his coterie of generals are at fault.

Tehelka: The Indian Army has never had political ambitions.

GENERAL HAMID GUL: I will not reveal the names now but some Indian generals were seriously thinking of emulating the Pakistani model, especially after Operation Blue Star. I agree, the political leadership of India was far more mature and committed to the idea of democracy than the leadership of Pakistan, after Quaid-e-Azam [Mohammad Ali Jinnah] and [assassinated Prime Minister] Liaquat Ali Khan.

Tehelka: Please reveal the names [of all Indian Army generals who wanted to overthrow the Indian Government and rule India directly through the Indian Army].

GENERAL HAMID GUL: I will not. That's my choice.

Tehelka: The common Pakistani feels let down by its politicians who are willing to go into exile instead of fighting it out. So, the Establishment does dominate?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: This is true because they have been the products of the [Pakistan] Army. The political leadership here is brought up and nurtured by the Army, including Mr. Bhutto. He used to call [dead General Muhammad] Ayub Khan, daddy. They were brought up under the shadow of the military generals and they did not have the guts to stand up to them.

Tehelka: So unless America understands the need for real [civilian] democracy in Pakistan, you don't think that it will happen?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: Understand? They [Bush-Cheney regime] do understand but it does not serve their interest. They know it but they have helped destroy the very institutions on which a democracy is built. When you destroy the judiciary, when you limit the jurisdiction of the
legislation and gag the media then where are the pillars on which the edifice of democracy is going to be built?

Tehelka: How does the future of Pakistan improve?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: By saying no to America. And I believe that is not difficult. America is not being able to handle even a country like Afghanistan. What are they going to do? Attack us? Do they have the troops to attack? At the most they can bomb a few places. Let them, we
will come back to life.

Tehelka: How important is it for Musharraf to step down?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: It is essential for the success of Pakistan because we are otherwise drifting towards a chaotic civil war kind of situation, like the Iranian Revolution. One man is being supported by America against the will of an entire nation.

Tehelka: If he is so unpopular, why is the Pakistani street not more proactive?

GENERAL HAMID GUL: Because the two largest political parties [PPP and PML-N] decided, even after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, not to take on Musharraf. That's my point. Get the America factor out of the way and we will be okay. No one is wiser than the victim and I think we are getting wiser.

Source: Tehelka Magazine - Vol. 5, Issue 4 - Saturday, 2 February 2008 - New Delhi, India.

Mounting calls from Pakistan’s military and judicial establishments for Musharraf to quit

K. Ratnayake and Keith Jones

More than two hundred retired high-ranking Pakistani military officers have unanimously demanded that the country’s president, Pervez Musharraf, resign and hand over his powers to deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, so he can form a “neutral care-taker government” to supervise national elections.

Organized in the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association, the officers—who include army generals, admirals, air marshals, and at least one former head of Pakistan’s military—met in Islamabad, Thursday.

Former Air Force Chief Asghar Khan, who presided over the meeting, later told a press conference that Musharraf should “hand over powers to Justice Chaudhry who is still constitutional chief justice” so as “to save the country from worsening political turmoil.”

Chaudhry and some 60 other supreme and high court judges were arbitrarily purged by Musharraf when he imposed de facto martial law last November 3.

Khan dismissed the national and provincial assembly elections Musharraf has promised for February 18 as a sham. “We don’t recognize any electoral process under Musharraf and present Election Commission ... Any polls under Musharraf will not be free and fair.” He said that the anti-Musharraf generals are urging another purged supreme court justice, Rana Bhagwandas, be appointed election commissioner.

Khan said the retired officers had yet to decide what they would do to press their demand for Musharraf’s resignation, but said they would join the protest planned by the country’s lawyers for February 5. Despite oftentimes savage repression, the lawyers have for months been protesting against the military regime’s attempts to bully the courts into giving a judicial stamp of approval to Musharraf’s latest attempts to subvert the constitution and perpetuate his rule. On Thursday, thousands of lawyers again took to the streets in Islamabad and the four provincial capitals to demand the restoration of the sacked judges.

Khan was flanked at the press conference by former Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg. Beg, who headed the military from 1988 to 1991, presided over the transition to an elected civilian government following the 1988 assassination of Pakistan’s then military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq.

According to the Dawn, Beg claimed he had been contacted by the governments of seven countries since last week when the Ex-Servicemen’s Association published a letter signed by a hundred retired officers calling on Musharraf to step down.

Others who have lent support to the anti-Musharraf campaign include Gen. Hameed Gul—an ex-chief of Pakistan’s most important intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, notorious for his close connections to the Islamic right—and General Faiz Ali Chishti who, like Air Marshal Asghar Khan, was a close associate of the dictator General Zia.

Musharraf, who was on a European tour when the retired officers issued their open letter, dismissed it, saying its signatories were persons of no importance in contemporary Pakistan.

But the repeated calls from officers who held the highest positions in the Pakistani military points to the emergence of significant fissures within the institution that has constituted far and away Musharraf’s most important base of support since he seized power in a military coup in 1999.

Only with great reluctance, under heavy domestic and international pressure, and after having carried out a series of flagrant violations of the constitution, culminating in the Nov. 3 imposition of de facto martial law, did Musharraf step down as head of Pakistan’s armed services in mid-December.

The officer corps has benefited handsomely from the past eight years of military rule, gorging on the $10 billion in aid money the US has supplied since September 2001 and using their control of government to seize land and steer contracts to themselves and their political and business cronies.

But the retired officers recognize that the military faces a hostile populace and a deepening economic and political crisis that threatens the privileged position of the officer corps within the Pakistani state and potentially the unity and integrity of the Pakistani state, whose principal institutions, including the military, have long been dominated by a tiny Punjabi elite.

Polls have shown that a majority of Pakistanis blame the military, their political allies or their paymasters in Washington for the assassination of Pakistan People’s party leader Benazir Bhutto last December 27. Moreover, Bhutto’s murder was followed by a wave of demonstrations and riots that convulsed the country for three days.

While Musharraf has boasted that his regime has presided over unprecedented economic growth, poverty and economic insecurity have grown dramatically. Several years of galloping food prices, have in recent weeks turned into flour and wheat shortages raising the possibility of food riots.

Moreover, the Musharraf regime is reviled for its mercenary activities in support of the US invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. The military’s heavy-handed attempts to crush support for insurgents opposed to the puppet government in Afghanistan who have found refuge in the Pashtun-speaking border area has provoked much opposition within the military, including widespread desertions of rank-and-file soldiers.

The day before the retired generals’ meeting, the sacked chief justice, who has been under house arrest since November 3, issued an open letter to European leaders, World Economic Forum head Klaus Schwab, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Because of the continuing restrictions on his movements and activities the letter had to be smuggled out.

Chaudhry said he was compelled to respond to the lies and calumnies Musharraf had directed against him when trying to justify before European audiences last fall’s six-week suspension of the constitution and the purging of the judiciary.

In his letter Chaudhry recapitulated how Musharraf had resorted to emergency rule so as to preempt the court’s ruling on the constitutionality of his stage-managed re-election to a further 5-year presidential term.

He also rebutted the corruption charges that the regime brought against him when it first tried to remove him last March—charges that Musharraf continues to trumpet although they were dismissed by the supreme court last July. “The Supreme Court,” writes Chudhry, “found that the evidence submitted against me by the government was so obviously fabricated and incorrect that the bench took the unprecedented step of fining the government Rs100,000 ... for filing clearly false and malicious documents as well as revoking the licence to practice of the Advocate on Record for filing false documents.”

Chaudhry chastized western governments for backing a ruler who not only has refused to abide by the law, but has purged the courts so as to appoint judges loyal to him personally.

Declares Chaudhry, “Is there a precedent in history, all history, of 60 judges, including three Chief Justices (of the Supreme Court and two of Pakistan’s four High Courts), being dismissed, arrested and detained at the whim of one man? I have failed to discover any such even in medieval times under any emperor, king, or sultan, or even when a dictator has had full military sway over any country in more recent times. But this incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist General out on a ‘charm offensive’ of western capitals and one whom the west supports.”

Chaudhry was himself for years a loyal handraiser for the military regime. He did issue several judgments that cut across the military regime’s objectives, blocking the sweetheart deal under which Pakistan Steel Mills was to be privatized and ordering the military to produce alleged terrorist suspects whom it had disappeared, but as he himself has admitted, he only soured on Musharraf when the general sought to remove him last March because he deemed him insufficiently compliant.

Chuadhry clearly hopes to use the popularity he has gained by defying Musharraf to help re-stabilize bourgeois rule, in league with the bourgeois opposition, the PPP, but also Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Sharif). A party of businessmen and landlords that historically was patronized by the military, the PML (Nawaz) is trying to boost its popularity by making the judges issue the focus of its election campaign. The PPP, in deference to Washington’s wishes, by contrast, has downplayed the judges issue, for restoring the purged judges would preclude any power-sharing deal with Musharraf.

The Bush administration has strongly supported Musharraf through thick and thin, including turning a blind-eye to his sacking of the judges, excusing his imposition of martial law, and denying from the get-go any suggestion the military regime could have had a hand in Bhutto’s assassination. But Washington has been trying to prod Pakistan’s dictator into making a deal with the bourgeois opposition, particularly the PPP, so as to give the military-dominated government a democratic facade.

Pakistan is crucial to the US occupation of Afghanistan and also figures large in US plans for military action against it western neighbor Iran.

Within Washington there is a bi-partisan consensus in favor of sustaining and expanding the five decades-old partnership between the Pentagon and the Pakistani military that has seen the US support and finance of successive Pakistani dictatorships. But there is concern that the Bush administration has mismanaged US interests, as in Iraq, in this case by clinging too closely to the dictator Musharraf.

At a House of Representatives hearing January 30, several Congressmen, Republican and Democrat, expressed fears that a patently rigged election could lead to an eruption of anti-government protests.

Said Congressman Chris Shays, “What happened in Kenya strikes me as very likely to happen in Pakistan, and I don’t know how to we respond to it.” Betty McCollum, a Democrat, also expressed great concern about a rigged election triggering popular unrest. “I’m very concerned about a breakdown and the effect it would have on regional stability.”

John Tierney, the committee’s Democratic chairman, said the US had given “a mixed and muddled message” about the need for free and fair elections. He said the issue was not whether the election would be tainted. “The only question is how tainted will this election be,” he said. “This administration seems content just to boot the ball down the road and deal with the aftermath, and I think that is a disturbing thing.”

The previous day in an appearance on Capitol Hill, Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, had defended the administration’s policy of support for Musharraf and the regime’s bogus February 18 elections.

He dismissed calls for the restoration of the sacked judges, declaring, “Our view is that the issue of an independent judiciary can’t be solved that simply.”

He admitted the regime was likely to engage in electoral fraud, but only to try to lend legitimacy to a process that is an utter perversion of democracy, since it was “prepared” by a six-week emergency used to illegally install Musharraf as president till 2012, purge the judiciary, and impose new curbs on the press.

Said Boucher, “We don’t necessarily accept a certain level of fraud, but if history is any guide and current reports are any guide, we should expect some ... On a scale from terrible to great, it’ll be somewhere in the middle.”

Aitzaz and Justice Tariq detained yet again

Pakistani authorities Saturday detained Aitzaz Ahsan, a former member of parliament and cabinet minister under assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, a day after he was released from three months in detention. Ahsan was first detained under emergency powers that Musharraf invoked on November 3. He was freed late Thursday in Lahore, but was again placed under house arrest shortly after trying to fly to Benazir's home province of Sindh to express condolences over her assassination to her husband, Asif Ali Zardari.

“Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan has been detained for 30 days,” a senior home ministry official in Lahore told Reuters. He did not give a reason for the detention. Authorities renewed detention orders for senior opposition lawyer Tariq Mehmood and placed him under house arrest in Islamabad. “These orders have no legal and constitutional justification. In fact, there is no law and constitution prevailing in the country,” Mehmood said.

(Courtesy DAWN)

People's Resistance Info Session on Sunday

PLEASE JOIN US for a fascinating info session about our own
Karachi on Sunday!!


eminent environmentalist, architect and urban authority

on Sunday, 3rd February at 4 p.m.

at the SHIRKAT GAH Meeting Room, 1st Floor, 2 Bath Island
Road, Karachi (near Bridge Store)

Brought to you by People's Resistance and ShirkatGah's
Green Economics and Globalisation Initiative

Questions? Email or call 0300-2938550

Long Shadows

Dr. Murad Moosa Khan

‘When small men cast long shadows, the sun is going down’ - Venita Cravens

On the way to the Hawkes Bay and Sandspit beaches is the village of Grax. Many of us stop there to buy cold drinks and eatables from the small cabins present on either side of road. As part of the Community Mental Health program of my university we hold a mental health clinic there. Although by the standards of 'katchi abadis', Grax is better than many others, the village has many social, physical and civic deprivations. During one of our visits, the community health worker expressed concern about a girl who appeared 'mentally disturbed'. She lived about a mile from the centre. We went to visit her at her house.

A small cordoned off area with two small rooms, a tree in the courtyard- a buffalo tied to it, a small area for the kitchen, a toilet with open drains constituted the 'house'. Seventy five square yards, perhaps a little more. The father of the girl, was unemployed, the elder brother suffering from some sort of 'mental imbalance'. A number of semi-clad children were milling about- presumably brothers and sisters. Their only source of income was the buffalo.

The health worker was right. The girl did appear unwell. 'For the past three years', her mother told us, 'since the birth of her son'. He died a month after being born. The girl talked to imaginary voices, felt frightened of others, laughed to herself. She had run out the house many times. Unable to afford medicines or have her treated on a regular basis, the family had to keep her tied to the tree. The result- badly infected wounds with pus and blood oozing out from both ankles.

Long abandoned by her husband- older than her by many years, she now lay on a straw matting in the corner of one of the two small rooms, where she spent most of her time. She spat frequently, oblivious to her surroundings and appeared not to have had a wash in weeks. Her shaven head gave her a strange, almost alien-like look. I try to engage her in conversation but she looks past me and laughs to herself. I am unable to penetrate her secret world. I ask the mother the girl's age. 'Fifteen....', she says, and the words echo in my ears.

While we read about the fabulous growth rate of 7% and higher, the Karachi Stock Exchange breaking through the 14,000 points barrier, the Porsche showroom opening in Lahore and of the economic ‘miracle’ that is today’s Pakistan, the picture on the ground tells us a different story. The story of the girl I relate above is illustrative of the lives of millions of Pakistanis today. Officially, a third of us live below the poverty line. Another quarter probably live just above it. That makes more than half of 165 million living in poverty. That is a very large number of people. We have become a country of marginalized and disenfranchised people ruled by a small but a powerful coterie who have concentrated wealth and power around themselves.

We are a nation of huge contradictions. We are a nuclear power but cannot pick the garbage off our streets. We have one the largest standing military forces in world, yet we cannot provide security to our own people. A report in this newspaper few weeks ago informed us that Rs. 65 million was spent on the medical treatment of 18 government ‘bigwigs’. Yet there are villages in Punjab where every other man is carrying a scar on the side of his abdomen, because they had to sell their kidneys to pay off their debts. We have one of the highest rates of child mortality, hepatitis, rabies, depression and cardiovascular diseases. More than 30,000 women die in childbirth and more than 6000 people commit suicide every year. Millions of our countrymen, women and children are deprived of basic necessities like clean drinking water, housing, education and health care. They have no recourse to justice. They have no rights.

This, sadly, is state of the real Pakistan in 21st century. While many other nations of the world continue to progress in an upward direction, we- for every step forward, take two back. And underlying all our problems is a serious crisis of governance. Today, corruption in Pakistan is not only institutionalized but, more worryingly, it is internalized as well. We have no qualms in not paying taxes or breaking traffic lights or asking for bribes. Lying, cheating, cutting corners, trampling on rights of others, breaking the law and having no remorse afterwards is an accepted norm. Corruption has now become an integral part of our national and collective psyche.

This is not only obscene but unethical and immoral.

It is immoral to let young mothers die in childbirth as it is to not provide clean drinking water in every house. It is unethical to force people to sell their body parts to pay off debts, as it is to not address the social conditions that force people to commit suicide. And it is obscene to buy yet another Lear jet or another glass tinted Mercedes for the use of Ministers while hundreds and thousands live in abject poverty.

Is there a way out of this morass? Can the sinking ship of this country be saved? Can something be done to help the young girl in Grax and countless other silent sufferers like her? Yes it can be and must be. We need to declare an emergency in the education and health sector. We need to do away with the corrupt feudal system. The military must go back to the barracks. We need to have respect for the law and the constitution. Nepotism, favoritism and cronyism should attract the heaviest punishment as should corruption in any form, shape or size. And all our processes must be strongly anchored in integrity. We have no time to lose.

This country was bequeathed by the Quaid to honest, hard working, law abiding and decent Pakistanis and not to the crooked and corrupt, who trample on our rights, who have no respect for the law or the constitution and consider law unto themselves. Pakistanis deserve better than this. All we want is to live a decent and a peaceful life, where our life and property are safe, where our children can go to proper schools and if they fall sick, receive good medical care. Surely that is not asking for too much?

Let not the long shadows of small men be cast upon us. Let not the sun go down on this beautiful country that has immense natural and human resources. We have to reclaim it from the corrupt and the crooked. The time to stand on the sidelines for us has long past. We are paying the price of our own impassiveness. We have to raise our collective voice, whether we are doctors or engineers or teachers or lawyers or accountants or housewives or students or shopkeepers or businessmen. We have to respond to the immortal words of Pablo Neruda who said ‘Rise up with me----against the organisation of misery’.

The author is a Professor of Psychiatry at Aga Khan University. He can be reached at

Students Raise Fund for Jan10 Blast Victims

1st Feb, Friday - Students belonging to LUMS and the Students Action Committee raised over Rs. 190,000 for the vicitims of the Jan 10 bomb blast outside GPO. Today, the money was delivered to Aftab Sultan, AIG Punjab Police, responsible for Finance and Welfare. The money will now be equally disbursed between the families of the 16 servicemen and 3 civilians who lost their lives at the Jan 10 bomb blast. Students expressed grief over the loss of lives of both policemen and civilians and urged all people to stand together in trouble times. Officers of the Punjab police welcomed this gesture and said that they were deeply moved by it.

Background: In the immediate aftermath of the Jan 10 bomb blast, at the initiative of the student action committee, a Fund was set up to help out victims' families and to express solidarity will all victims.. Around Rs. 194,000 were raised, primarily from the LUMS community. This gesture is particularly meaningful when seen in the light of recent events. LUMS community, which remained at the forefront of civil society's resistance to martial law, has recently been subjected to harassment by the state, ranging from unlawful arrest of LUMS professors, siege of the campus on Nov 7, heavy police presence at the LUMS gate throughout November and lodging of a false FIR against LUMS professors and the President of its Student Council.

Despite all this, LUMS students and faculty member chose to express solidarity and sympathy with the deceased, mostly policemen, and to condemn illegal violence

The students reiterated that while they vehemently criticise acts of state oppression (like the
assault on the judiciary, besieging their campus and lodging false FIRs), they harbour no enmity against ordinary people compelled to follow orders by their need to earn a living. Also, they condemn all illegal acts of violence against citizens and ask that, in these troubled times,
people stand together.

Aitzaz to address SAC Protest tomorrow

Aitzaz Ahsan is free after 90 days in detention, and will be addressing our Protest rally starting from Nasir Bagh to Regal Chowk at 1:30 pm. This is a mega event involving all civil society organisations, lawyers, students, NGOs, and like minded political parties.
Nasir Bagh is opposite Town Hall on the Mall. Further down from NCA and next to Government College University.


In Complete Solidarity,

Student Action Committee

Student Action Committee (Lahore) protest tomorrow

The Students Action Committee, SAC (Lahore) in collaboration with the Concerned Citizens Pakistan, Pakistan Medical Association, Lahore District Bar Association, Punjab Bar Council, Women's Action Forum, Joint Action Committee, PML-N, PTI, National Worker's Party, Labour Party, Khaksaar Tehrik, and other APDM parties has called for a protest against the partisan judiciary. This joint rally will be held at Nasser Bagh, 2pm, tomorrow 3rd February 2008.

Collectively, all these groups are expressing their solidarity in order to achieve a return to the pre 3rd Nov judiciary, the ousting of President General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf and the much required removal of corrupt military officials from the army, government and all public sectors.

This joint call, in unity with various societal factions who are all working for the same objectives, considers an independent judiciary as the first step for all other democratic points.

SAC (Lahore) invites everyone to participate in this protest at Nasser Bagh tomorrow and in unison mobilize the nation for a return to an independent judiciary and to work towards a system of governance that ably provides the basic amenities for its people, such as uninterupted power supply, petrol, natural gas, basic food groups such as wheat and ensures the nations safety without revoking fundamental human rights.

At a time when the current regime is teetering towards the brink of self implosion, the SAC (Lahore) would like to urge the people to stand up and reclaim the country.

SAC Lahore members harassed and beaten up

In two separate incidents of brutality, typical of the oppressive nature of the regime and its partisan brute components, a member and an advisers of the Students Action Committee were harassed and beaten up.

Outside the Punjab University New Campus mosque, students Rafi ullah Awan, Yasir Abdul Haleem, M Azhar Imran were peacefully distributing flyers and posters about the 3rd February protest.

Members of the Jamiat, and Islami Jamiat Tulba, IJT, recognizable by their badges, descended upon the three students, by force snatched the flyers, posters and ripped them apart. When Rafi ullah Awan produced more flyers, the members of the Jamiat grabbed the three students, took them aside and started pushing them around, while threatening them if they didn't stop distributing the harmless flyers and posters.

Out of the Jamiat, only Mr. Wajid from Sheikh Zaid Islamic Centre, PU could be identified by the SAC (LAHORE) students.

In a separate incident outside Punjab College no 6, SAC's (Lahore) seasoned advisers; two activists were distributing 3rd February protest flyers and posters when a Punjab College guard stopped them.
The male activist objected: he stated they were on a public footpath not the college's property.

The guard adopted a brutal attitude and slapped him around. The female activist who tried intervening was pushed by the guard. Upon the crowd's intervention, the guard backed off.

The SAC representatives came on the scene and accompanied the activists to the Muslim Town police station where they were delayed for over an hour after being informed that the situation was not 'grave' enough for an FIR.

SAC (LAHORE) will pursue registering the case otherwise will take serious action.

These incidents are grave indicators that regardless of hollow promises by the current establishment, there are no civil liberties and our fundamental rights are still in strict abeyance.

If our government was of the people, from the people and for the people, innocent students and peaceful activists would not be harassed by the hired and protected thugs of the regime. It is time the state is purged of corrupt elements that deprive us of the freedom of expression and association.