Thursday, April 10, 2008

PM blames 'conspiracy' for Karachi violence

ISLAMABAD, April 10 (AFP): Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani Thursday blamed a conspiracy for political violence that left eight people dead in Karachi, saying that “dictatorship” threatened the new democratic government. Gilani said the government would not let the sacrifice by former premier Benazir Bhutto, for the cause of democracy, “to be compromised at the behest of dictatorship, conspiracy and violence.” ”We must take notice of these unjustified, mischievous and definitely conspiratorial acts,” Gilani told parliament. “These acts I am convinced are being fuelled by those who do not want democracy to flourish."

Pakistani lawyers protest against violence

LAHORE, Pakistan, April 10 (AFP): Thousands of lawyers rallied in Lahore Thursday to protest against the killings in Karachi in which eight people, including five attorneys died, witnesses said. Around 2,500 lawyers marched along the main city streets waving flags and chanting slogans against the pro-Musharraf Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Earlier the lawyers passed a resolution demanding that the government should publicly hang the perpetrators of Wednesday's clashes. Lawyers in some other cities, including the central Punjab city of Multan, held similar protest meetings, private television channels reported.

"Not You! You!": Tibet and Palestine

(Though unrelated to the Pakistani political paradigm, this article is a compelling articulation of the hypocrisies underlying the foundational principles of many contemporary social movements and causes. Gives one considerable food - albeit distasteful and gut-wrenching - for thought)

"Hey! Take your hands off me! Not you! You!!!"--the voice of a young woman in the darkened cinema, an old joke.
"Hey! Take your hands off Tibet!" the international chorus is crying out, "But not from Chechnya! Not from the Basque homeland! And certainly not from Palestine!" And that is not a joke.
* * *
LIKE EVERYBODY else, I support the right of the Tibetan people to independence, or at least autonomy. Like everybody else, I condemn the actions of the Chinese government there. But unlike everybody else, I am not ready to join in the demonstrations.
Why? Because I have an uneasy feeling that somebody is washing my brain, that what is going on is an exercise in hypocrisy.
I don't mind a bit of manipulation. After all, it is not by accident that the riots started in Tibet on the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing. That's alright. A people fighting for their freedom have the right to use any opportunity that presents itself to further their struggle.
I support the Tibetans in spite of it being obvious that the Americans are exploiting the struggle for their own purposes. Clearly, the CIA has planned and organized the riots, and the American media are leading the world-wide campaign. It is a part of the hidden struggle between the US, the reigning super-power, and China, the rising super-power - a new version of the "Great Game" that was played in central Asia in the 19th century by the British Empire and Russia. Tibet is a token in this game.

I am even ready to ignore the fact that the gentle Tibetans have carried out a murderous pogrom against innocent Chinese, killing women and men and burning homes and shops. Such detestable excesses do happen during a liberation struggle.
No, what is really bugging me is the hypocrisy of the world media. They storm and thunder about Tibet. In thousands of editorials and talk-shows they heap curses and invective on the evil China. It seems as if the Tibetans are the only people on earth whose right to independence is being denied by brutal force, that if only Beijing would take its dirty hands off the saffron-robed monks, everything would be alright in this, the best of all possible worlds.
* * *
THERE IS no doubt that the Tibetan people are entitled to rule their own country, to nurture their unique culture, to promote their religious institutions and to prevent foreign settlers from submerging them.
But are not the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria entitled to the same? The inhabitants of Western Sahara, whose territory is occupied by Morocco? The Basques in Spain? The Corsicans off the coast of France? And the list is long.
Why do the world's media adopt one independence struggle, but often cynically ignore another independence struggle? What makes the blood of one Tibetan redder than the blood of a thousand Africans in East Congo?
Again and again I try to find a satisfactory answer to this enigma. In vain.
Immanuel Kant demanded of us: "Act as if the principle by which you act were about to be turned into a universal law of nature." (Being a German philosopher, he expressed it in much more convoluted language.) Does the attitude towards the Tibetan problem conform to this rule? Does it reflect our attitude towards the struggle for independence of all other oppressed peoples?

Not at all.
* * *
WHAT, THEN, causes the international media to discriminate between the various liberation struggles that are going on throughout the world?
Here are some of the relevant considerations:
- Do the people seeking independence have an especially exotic culture?
- Are they an attractive people, i.e. "sexy" in the view of the media?
- Is the struggle headed by a charismatic personality who is liked by the media?
- It the oppressing government disliked by the media?
- Does the oppressing government belong to the pro-American camp? This is an important factor, since the United States dominates a large part of the international media, and its news agencies and TV networks largely define the agenda and the terminology of the news coverage.
- Are economic interests involved in the conflict?
- Does the oppressed people have gifted spokespersons, who are able to attract attention and manipulate the media?
* * *
FROM THESE points of view, there is nobody like the Tibetans. They enjoy ideal conditions.
Fringed by the Himalayas, they are located in one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. For centuries, just to get there was an adventure. Their unique religion arouses curiosity and sympathy. Its non-violence is very attractive and elastic enough to cover even the ugliest atrocities, like the recent pogrom. The exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, is a romantic figure, a media rock-star. The Chinese regime is hated by many - by capitalists because it is a Communist dictatorship, by Communists because it has become capitalist. It promotes a crass and ugly materialism, the very opposite of the spiritual Buddhist monks, who spend their time in prayer and meditation.

When China builds a railway to the Tibetan capital over a thousand inhospitable kilometers, the West does not admire the engineering feat, but sees (quite rightly) an iron monster that brings hundreds of thousands of Han-Chinese settlers to the occupied territory.
And of course, China is a rising power, whose economic success threatens America's hegemony in the world. A large part of the ailing American economy already belongs directly or indirectly to China. The huge American Empire is sinking hopelessly into debt, and China may soon be the biggest lender. American manufacturing industry is moving to China, taking millions of jobs with it.
Compared to these factors, what have the Basques, for example, to offer? Like the Tibetans, they inhabit a contiguous territory, most of it in Spain, some of it in France. They, too, are an ancient people with their own language and culture. But these are not exotic and do not attract special notice. No prayer wheels. No robed monks.
The Basques do not have a romantic leader, like Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama. The Spanish state, which arose from the ruins of Franco's detested dictatorship, enjoys great popularity around the world. Spain belongs to the European Union, which is more or less in the American camp, sometimes more, sometimes less.
The armed struggle of the Basque underground is abhorred by many and is considered "terrorism", especially after Spain has accorded the Basques a far-reaching autonomy. In these circumstances, the Basques have no chance at all of gaining world support for independence.
The Chechnyans should have been in a better position. They, too, are a separate people, who have for a long time been oppressed by the Czars of the Russian Empire, including Stalin and Putin. But alas, they are Muslims - and in the Western world, Islamophobia now occupies the place that had for centuries been reserved for anti-Semitism. Islam has turned into a synonym for terrorism, it is seen as a religion of blood and murder. Soon it will be revealed that Muslims slaughter Christian children and use their blood for baking Pitta. (In reality it is, of course, the religion of dozens of vastly different peoples, from Indonesia to Morocco and from Kosova to Zanzibar.
The US does not fear Moscow as it fears Beijing. Unlike China, Russia does not look like a country that could dominate the 21st century. The West has no interest in renewing the Cold War, as it has in renewing the Crusades against Islam. The poor Chechnyans, who have no charismatic leader or outstanding spokespersons, have been banished from the headlines. For all the world cares, Putin can hit them as much as he wants, kill thousands and obliterate whole towns.
That does not prevent Putin from supporting the demands of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for separation from Georgia, a country which infuriates Russia.
* * *
IF IMMANUEL KANT knew what's going on in Kosova, he would be scratching his head.
The province demanded its independence from Serbia, and I, for one, supported that with all my heart. This is a separate people, with a different culture (Albanian) and its own religion (Islam). After the popular Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, tried to drive them out of their country, the world rose and provided moral and material support for their struggle for independence.

The Albanian Kosovars make up 90% of the citizens of the new state, which has a population of two million. The other 10% are Serbs, who want no part of the new Kosova. They want the areas they live in to be annexed to Serbia. According to Kant's maxim, are they entitled to this?
I would propose a pragmatic moral principle: Every population that inhabits a defined territory and has a clear national character is entitled to independence. A state that wants to keep such a population must see to it that they feel comfortable, that they receive their full rights, enjoy equality and have an autonomy that satisfies their aspirations. In short: that they have no reason to desire separation.
That applies to the French in Canada, the Scots in Britain, the Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere, the various ethnic groups in Africa, the indigenous peoples in Latin America, the Tamils in Sri Lanka and many others. Each has a right to choose between full equality, autonomy and independence.
* * *
THIS LEADS us, of course, to the Palestinian issue.
In the competition for the sympathy of the world media, the Palestinians are unlucky. According to all the objective standards, they have a right to full independence, exactly like the Tibetans. They inhabit a defined territory, they are a specific nation, a clear border exists between them and Israel. One must really have a crooked mind to deny these facts.
But the Palestinians are suffering from several cruel strokes of fate: The people that oppress them claim for themselves the crown of ultimate victimhood. The whole world sympathizes with the Israelis because the Jews were the victims of the most horrific crime of the Western world. That creates a strange situation: the oppressor is more popular than the victim. Anyone who supports the Palestinians is automatically suspected of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Also, the great majority of the Palestinians are Muslims (nobody pays attention to the Palestinian Christians). Since Islam arouses fear and abhorrence in the West, the Palestinian struggle has automatically become a part of that shapeless, sinister threat, "international terrorism". And since the murders of Yasser Arafat and Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the Palestinians have no particularly impressive leader - neither in Fatah nor in Hamas.
The world media are shedding tears for the Tibetan people, whose land is taken from them by Chinese settlers. Who cares about the Palestinians, whose land is taken from them by our settlers?
In the world-wide tumult about Tibet, the Israeli spokespersons compare themselves - strange as it sounds - to the poor Tibetans, not to the evil Chinese. Many think this quite logical.
If Kant were dug up tomorrow and asked about the Palestinians, he would probably answer: "Give them what you think should be given to everybody, and don't wake me up again to ask silly questions."
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is o a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

People's Resistance statement on violence in Lahore and Karachi

People's Resistance (Karachi) has taken serious note of recent events of uncivilized and violent behaviour in the country's politics. All stakeholders must take concrete steps to identify and punish perpetrators of these crimes, regardless of their affiliation with a party or association. If this is not done, their own profiles will be tarnished and anti-democratic forces in the country will gain strength.

People's Resistance condemns the recent spate of violence in Karachi and Lahore at a critical time when new assemblies are being formed.
People's Resistance condemns the use of force against Arbab Ghulam Rahim in the Sindh Assembly, Karachi and against Sher Afgan Niazi in Lahore. Mr Afgan and Mr Rahim have consistently stood with a dictator and supported the suppression of rights of the citizens of Pakistan. They must be held accountable to the people politically and legally, and not through violent mobs.
People's Resistance condemns the uncivilized manner in which the PML House in Karachi
was taken over.
People's Resistance demands an independent inquiry through a parliamentary commission with representation from all parties and associations.
People's Resistance stands by the lawyers movement which has been a non-violent movement.
People's Resistance requests Aitzaz Ahsan to reconsider his decision to resign at this point in time.
In this emotionally charged atmosphere, People's Resistance reiterates its support for supremacy of Constitution and rule of Law, which is applicable to every citizen of the land without discrimination at all times.

People's Resistance also believes that in these critical times the office of the president has to play its constitutional as a symbol of the unity of the federation. People's Resistance believes that this may not possible until the representatives of people elected in the 18 February elections bring a legitimately elected president to the President House.

Breaking the Cycle

By Rukhe Zehra Zaidi
Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party
It seems that recycling storylines and repeatperformances are not solely the prerogative of cinemaand theatre. In Pakistan, the plot of politics is often repeated and rehashed until the performance has become a fine tuned and much rehearsed drama on theo ngoing tussle between democracy and the military.Dictators replace democrats, democrats negotiate and bargain with each other and the army, and the masses stand by much like the citizens of fair Verona caught in the crossfire of the fighting between the Montagues and the Capulets. And although the actors change on a seasonal basis, the transition is now almost seamless and perfect. Costume changes require minimal refitting as the Ayubs make way for the Zias and Musharrafs, and the MMA of today steps into the shoes of the Islamic Democratic Alliance of yesterday. And repeated though it might be, the performance is by no means dull as bloody assassinations, behind the scenes plotting and scheming, horse-trading, and even exploding helicopters all add to the political experience in Pakistan.
One feature of this repertoire of action is the role played by the much maligned MQM. Only treading onto the stage in 1984, the MQM under its Quaid-e-Tehreek Altaf Hussain has undergone qualitative transformations since its debut. Initially enjoying significant support from the Muhajirs that it represented, the party focused on targeting the local Pushtun and Sindhi population it saw as its opposition. Later, it came under direct attack from the army for its militancy and terrorism in the province, resulting in the formation of the equally notorious Haqiqi splinter group. Today, the fortunes of the MQM have changed and the party now plays the part of the establishment's mini mafia in Sindh, promising electoral and political support to Musharraf and his cronies.
But despite these functional transformations, the defining characteristic of the MQM has remained constant over the years: widespread political violence and terrorism. Forced public strikes, extortion, political intimidation, drug trafficking for raising party funds, vigilantism and public repression to promote party influence have all emerged as tactics of the MQM's political arsenal. In 1986, over 124 people were killed in just one night of street violence in response to the news of Altaf Hussain's arrest by the authorities, ironically, for instigating violence.
In a crackdown on militants in 1992, the Sindhi government found several torture sites that had allegedly been used by the MQM to torture and even kill dissident members and rival activists. Inter-factional and ethnically charged gun battles involving the MQM became commonplace on the streets of Karachi and in1995 alone, an estimated 1,800 people died as a result of the growing violence in the city.
Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, and even the UNHCR have internationally condemned the rights abuses perpetrated by the MQM. The party also openly attacked critical elements in the press, frequently targeting journalists and even vendors of newspapers carrying criticisms the party.
Most famously, in 1990 Altaf Hussain issued public threats to the editor of Newsline magazine for printing an article accusing the MQM of torture and political killings. There is blood on the hands of the MQM, and its there for all to see.The ongoing violence and mob like behaviour of the MQM has paralysed the life of Pakistan's largest city on innumerable occasions and their new role as the gangsters of the establishment in Sindh continues to overshadow and suppress free thought and action in Karachi. Whether it is May 12th 2007 or 9th April 2008, the goons of MQM are called in to stamp out any efforts to oppose the state; like loyal attack dogs providing a violent distraction and warning to the people of the city.
Today's events point to yet another occasion where the MQM has, with carte blanche impunity, attacked, burnt,looted and killed on the streets of Karachi. People have been shot and murdered, and lawyers burnt alive till their remains have been rendered unrecognizable. But the cycle cannot continue endlessly and the violence must end. The lawyer's movement, with all its imperfections, appears to have disturbed the oppressive power structures of the country and promises better things to come in our political future. Benazir's assassination and the subsequent strengthening of the PPP and democratic institutions in the country have also challenged the authority ofthe MQM on a local level.
The recent elections in Sindh have been a rude reminder to the MQM of its waning electoral support. It has had to rely on widespread rigging, political harassment, and armed coercion to maintain its hold on the province. Despite all its ammunition and weaponry, it is not immune to the popular discontent and condemnation of its constituents. We must not allow the manipulations of the establishment and the violence of the MQM to distract us from our demand for true democracy, or weaken our support for the lawyers struggle. We must condemn all efforts to discredit and break the lawyer's movement, and use every opportunity to expose the ugly face of the MQM and the dictator who hides behind it. We must demonstrate, lobby, protest and appeal to our democratic leaders to not let the MQM get away with its actions of today as it did on the 12th of May.
But most of all, we must continue our demand for a free press, a free judiciary, and the end of a dictator who has been responsible for the worst human rights record in all of Pakistan's history.The show must go on, but isn't it time we stopped being spectators and took charge of directing it?

Hidden hand involved, lawyers not behind thrashing of Sher Afgan: President LHCBA

RAWALPINDI, April 9 (APP): Rawalpindi-Islamabad Lawyers Association have jointly condemned the brutal and shameful act of thrashing the former federal minister for parliamentary affairs Dr. Sher Afgan Khan.
This was stated by the President Lahore High Court Bar Association (HCBA) Rawalpindi bench, Sardar Asmatullah Khan while addressing a press conference here on Wednesday.
Besides others, President District Bar Association Sardar Tariq Masood, Joint Secretary Sadiq Awan,Vice President Babar Ali, Additional Secretary Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Abdul Rashid were also present on occasion.
Sardar Asmatullah said that lawyers’ community strongly denounce and condemn this brutal act of assaulting a former Federal Minister and senior politician like Dr. Sher Afgan Niazi saying that the element involved in this crime and conspiracy would defiantly face consequences.
He opined a hidden hand could be involved in hatching conspiracies to destabilize the elected democratic government.
He informed that President Supreme Court bar Association (SCBA) Chaudhry Aitizaz Ahsan submitted his resignation from his office in the protest for humiliation of Dr. Sher Afgan Niazi.
He said the deposed chief justice Ifthikar Muhammad Chaudhry has asked Aeitaz Ahsan to take back his resignation.
Sardar AsmatUllah also informed the media about the holding of all Pakistan lawyers convention in Karachi on May 12.

Eleven killed in riots in Karachi

KARACHI: The number of deceased in the Karachi violence has risen to eleven on Wednesday night, following the armed clashes erupted outside Malir Bar, where two groups entered into gun battle.
At least seven injured including a child have been brought to Civil Hospital, according to media on Wednesday afternoon.
Over 50 vehicles have been torched in several areas of Karachi. There are reports of aerial firing from parts of Karachi and people are seen panicked.
Earlier, the armed clashes erupted outside Malir Bar, where two groups entered into gun battle in reaction to the manhandling of an MQM leader.
At least seven injured including a child have been brought to Civil Hospital, according to media on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the latest reports at least 60 vehicles have been torched around the city so far. A building Tahir Plaza at MA Jinnah Road with lawyers offices there was torched in the recent clashes. No fatalities were reported from the plaza.
At least five charred bodies including one of a woman were found from Tahir Plaza, M.A. Jinnah Road which was set ablaze following the incident at Malir Bar earlier today, Chhipa sources said. The building of Malir Bar Association also has been gutted with intense firing there. Heavy contingents of police arrived on the spot. The angry people have blocked MA Jinnah Road, after which the massive traffic jams are being observed around the area.
There are reports of heavy firing from various areas of Karachi including Shah Faisal Colony, Malir, Burns Road, Jamia Cloth Market.

(Courtesy GEO)