Tuesday, December 18, 2007

SAC resists police, stages rally

By By Our Correspondent

Source: The News

STUDENTS Action Committee (SAC) staged a protest demonstration for restoration of the judiciary and freedom of media and held a march on The Mall in this regard on Monday.The police tried to stop the rally near the Lahore Museum, but the protesting students resisted the move and continued their march towards Anarkali Chowk despite routine traffic. More than one hundred students, especially girls, lawyers and civil society representatives participated in the rally. They expressed their resentment over the recent developments, including lifting of the emergency. They said, “Nothing has changed.” Some members of the Campaign for Democracy and Rule of Law in Pakistan (CDRLP) and the Teachers Action Committee (TAC) also participated in the rally. Some participants of the rally wore masks depicting photos of missing persons, highlighting the efforts of the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) for their recovery.The students carried placards inscribed with various slogans demanding restoration of judiciary, freedom of media, “Azadi”, and anti-government catchphrases. The protest demonstration was scheduled to be held inside Nasir Bagh. However, its participants took out a rally from Nasir Bagh to Anarkali Chowk. They distributed flyers among people during the rally and urged them to forward the message of protest against the present regime to others. A participant of the rally, Ali, told The News, “Our protest is against the farce of politics that started in Pakistan after the so-called pro-democracy act of lifting the emergency.”Another participant said, “Amendment to the Constitution the night before lifting of the emergency shows the weakening of the government.” “Nevertheless, nothing has changed,” he observed. A female student said, “Students will continue their struggle for the restoration of the judiciary, which is necessary for a free and enlightened nation.” After protesting at Anarkali for around 10 minutes, the students marched back towards Nasir Bagh. They gathered at the roundabout near National College of Arts (NCA) and chanted slogans for almost 20 minutes. They also formed a human chain at the roundabout and demanded restoration of the judiciary to its pre-November 3 position and an independent media. Some students also pasted stickers “Pehlay Adliya Azad, Elections Us Kay Baad” (First free judiciary and then hold elections) on PML-Q banners at a pole at the roundabout. A student presented a parody of a famous national song with other participants. They dispersed after singing the national anthem.

Protesters baton-charged

Source: The Nation

A number of students, lawyers, civil society activists and political parties’ workers were injured in clashes with security officials here on Monday. The clashes took place when peaceful protesters attempted to march towards the Judges Colony to meet the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. In a bid to stop the protesters, police baton-charged the protesters and used tear-gas shells to disperse them. Many people were injured and 30, including women, were arrested.PTI chief Imran Khan who was leading the protest rally was subjected to torture by the police. Police also baton-charged the protest rally.Playing hide-and-seek game with the security officials after violent clashes, hundreds of students, lawyers, political workers and journalists managed to reach in front of Judges Colony. The high-handedness of police could not stop them. The highly-charged students of Student Action Committee (SAC) gathered at Abpara Chowk and began chanting slogans “PCO Judges Na Manzoor (judges who took oath under PCO not accepted),” “Ye Election Nahi Selection Hay Boycott Karo (the upcoming elections are selections, boycott them).” Soon after lawyers, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) workers, including their chief Imran Khan, katchi abadi dwellers and representatives of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party joined them. The protesters shouted anti-Musharraf slogans and demanded of the political parties to boycott the January 8 elections. They carried placards reading “Stop Lying, Free Judges, Free Lawyers”. PTI Chief Imran Khan, along with the protesters, marched towards the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club Camp Office and he appreciated the students’ struggle for the restoration of pre-November 3 Judiciary and real democracy in the country. He vowed to stand by the journalists and lauded their struggle for free media. When the protesters began to march towards the Judges Colony, police made a bid to stop them from going there and eventually violent clashes took place between the police officials and the protesters. The protesters were badly baton-charged. Many people, including eight police personnel, one student, one journalist namely Usman from Aaj TV and ASP Nasir Aftab, were injured in the incident. They were shifted to Polyclinic Hospital for initial treatment.At least 30 of the protesters, including women, were arrested and shifted to Secretariat Police Station and Women Police Station. However, playing hide-and-seek with the security officials after violent clashes, hundreds of students, lawyers, political workers and journalists managed successfully to reach in front of the Judges Colony where the police arrested them. Alia Amirali, Convener of the SAC said that the naked use of force had exposed all the claims of the government that the emergency had been lifted and Constitution restored. She said, “The state repression proves how weak the state actually is and it has failed to face the morally upright struggle of the people. The government claims now stand exposed that the deposed judges are free. They are still imprisoned inside the Judges Colony and unable to move freely”.Ghaza Minallah, Hajrah Ahmed and Farzana Bari, Jamil Abbasi of the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad and a number of SAC activists and lawyers were arrested. Meanwhile, Deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Monday strongly condemned the brutal torture of Media, Students and Civil Society by the police outside the Judges Enclave. Atharminallah, eminent lawyer an e-mail of the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who vowed to continue his struggle for the supremacy of law and the Constitution. In the email, the deposed Chief Justice, expressing his solidarity with all the segments of the society, promised, “ We will fight till last breath for the supremacy of ‘un-tampered’ Constitution of 1973 and rule of law”. In his message to the Lawyers community, civil society, media and 160 million people in every corner of the country said that these atrocities by police agencies and Govt can never demoralize the judges who refused to take oath under provisional constitutional order on November 3.Terming the Monday’s police brutality “Barbaric act” on innocent people outside the Judges Enclave the deposed Chief Justice in his mail said that it was a vicious act committed by the police and other agencies by torturing peaceful demonstrators. “Peaceful protest is right of every citizen of Pakistan as freedom of expression is enshrined under 1973 constitution” the deposed Chief Justice wrote in his mail.“Look at the state of condition within a week, blasts in Quetta, Nowshera and Kohat, but the police and agencies are deputed to arrest women, torture students, lawyers and media men protesting for the rule of law,” he wrote. Strongly condemning act of torture on civil society, the deposed Chief Justice wrote that the Police and other Agencies are only focussing on arresting Chief Justice of Pakistan, judges and lawyers, where as wanted men can escape from their custody as only two or three policemen are there to guard them.“It is highly deplorable and barbaric act of Government, which exposes its weakness and nervousness” he maintained, adding “Is Martial law or so called emergency lifted or it appears mere rhetoric”

Friday, December 14, 2007

Urdu University students continue protest

Source: Daily Times
ISLAMABAD: Unavailability of teachers in the department of engineering in The Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology has provoked students to continue boycott of classes for the eighth consecutive day on Thursday.

Dozens of students staged a protest on campus. They carried placards reading ‘save our future’, ‘appoint permanent VC’, ‘ensure permanent faculty’ and ‘get accreditation from the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC)’.

They vowed to protest until their demands were met. They said the PEC board had asked the university to induct new teachers to take classes. They said the PEC wanted to cancel the one-year on-probation accreditation of the university because it had failed to appoint the required faculty. The university officials told Daily Times that private sector universities offered more salaries to qualified faculty than public sector universities so the teachers were attracted towards the private sector universities.

They said they had to go through a long process to induct teachers. They said 15 teachers were required for the Engineering Department and the university would induct 10 teachers initially. They said the university’s labs were well equipped and new books worth Rs 200,000 had been added to the library. Students, on the other hand, said the administration was deceiving them by presenting excuses about the accreditation of the university by the PEC. They said their future was at stake since their course ends next June but the administration could not get the university accredited with the PEC.

They said no one will accept their degrees without the university’s accreditation by the PEC. They said the absence of a permanent VC was another cause of concern for them. They said Higher Education Commission (HEC) Executive Director Dr Sohail H Naqvi had informed a student delegation that he could not help release funds for the university, as it had no permanent VC. University’s Finance Director Abdul Aleem claimed that the administration will soon advertise posts for teachers. The engineering department head confirmed that the PEC was reluctant to accredit the university due to lack of faculty. staff report

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pakistan’s Democratic Insurgents: Inside the Awakening Youth Movement

by Amber Vora / December 5th, 2007

Talk of armed insurgents and Taliban hideouts near the Afghanistan border used to dominate the scant US media coverage of Pakistan affairs. These days, it’s Pakistan’s de-facto martial law, media blackouts, and court-martials for civilians that fill the newspapers, accompanied by images of police battling lawyers and journalists, and nationwide students protests.
Last week, President George W. Bush reiterated support for President Pervez Musharraf, stating that he “truly is somebody who believes in democracy,” and insisting that he hadn’t yet “crossed the line.” Following on the heels of Musharraf’s suspension of the constitution and zealous detention not of terrorists, but of Pakistan’s most fervent proponents of democracy and justice, Bush’s statement could only be understood as Orwellian doublespeak. After being spoon-fed shallow analysis of Pakistan’s political situation for several years vis-à-vis the War on Terror (it’s either Musharraf or the terrorists), Americans are finally waking up to a more complex reality.
The current constitutional crisis is alerting the world to other segments of Pakistani society worth paying attention to. They are lawyers, judges, journalists, students and human rights activists. Day after day they risk violence and arrest to protest the mockery that has been made of their constitution and judiciary. These are Pakistan’s new democratic insurgents.
A New Generation
While the valiant resistance staged by Pakistan’s lawyers was expected, given their mobilization earlier this year, the development of a student and youth movement has taken many by surprise.
On Monday November 5, two days after the de facto martial law was declared, hundreds of students at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) held a protest, breaking a nearly three decade drought on political activism by students in Pakistan. In the days and weeks following, many public and private universities throughout the country followed suit and pictures of the protesting students spilled across newspapers and blogs worldwide.
Three weeks later, I sat surrounded by twenty or so students in a room littered with paper cups of sugary chai and placards scribbled with slogans in Urdu and English. The group consists mostly of young men in jeans and T-shirts, along with a handful of outspoken women. They energetically debated the phrasing of the bilingual press release while a quieter student diligently lettered a placard reading: “Students of Pakistan, Unite!” These are the faces of Pakistan’s youngest agitators for democracy.
The meeting is the fifth of its kind in two weeks, including student representatives from over a dozen universities in Lahore which usually draw around 50 students. Together, they are working to consolidate the momentum of protests from their respective campuses into a more unified student resistance.
Most all of the students are new at political organizing and come from diverse backgrounds in Pakistan’s class-stratified society. Before martial law was declared, these students may have had little reason to meet up. Now, they’re getting a crash-course in coalition building. What they do agree on is their opposition to martial law and demands for the restoration of an independent judiciary and free press.
Most students consider ‘politics’ a dirty word.– Rahim, youth organizer
Pakistanis have come to expect an aversion to politics from this generation, a sentiment which helps explain why the youth protests have surprised not only Musharraf’s regime but Pakistani society as well. Newspapers editorials proclaimed a long-overdue revival of student power, recalling a history when students were involved in every major political movement, most notably leading to the toppling of General Ayub Khan’s authoritarian regime in 1969.
In the early 80s, things began to change. Under the dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq, student unions were banned and only the Islamist IJT (a student wing of the conservative Jamaat-i-Islami political party) was permitted on campus. The United States turned a blind eye to his repressive tactics and cozied up to the dictator in exchange for his participation battling the Soviets in neighboring Afghanistan. Over the years, the IJT earned a reputation for brutally suppressing other student political groups. At first, some attempted to defy Zia’s repressive regime and IJT dominance, but gradually, activism was was beaten down and a new generation of Pakistanis grew up associating student politics with IJT thuggery, something best avoided.
This time, however, the first protesters were not the institutionally-backed IJT cadres, but the sons and daughters of the country’s elite. If there was anywhere Musharraf might have expected tacit support, many thought, it was among these children, many of whose families are closely connected to his regime. What, then, has driven them to speak out?
The First To Act
They [students] are patriotic and they want to see their country have an identity which is very modern, civilized and governed under universal norms of law and justice. Pakistan’s image and international prestige has suffered and that really creates a problem of identity for young people… And the best way to change that is that Pakistan must be brought back to the rails of constitutionalism and democracy.– LUMS Political Science Professor, Rasool Bakhsh Rais
During the first week of martial law, I met with three student activists at LUMS, a private university in Lahore. It was the night before final exam week and it had taken a bit of wrangling to get in touch with them due to the fear many students had that ISI agents (Pakistan’s equivalent of a FBI and CIA merged into one agency) might be posing as journalists. To protect their identities, the students decided to adopt pseudonyms when talking to the media: All the men would go by Imran and the women by Amina.
We huddled into a study-room on the newly constructed campus, and I asked them if there was any history of student organizing on their campus. They quickly replied no. Why, then, had chosen to get involved? One young man, who I’ll call “Ardent Imran” responded decisively and passionately. “I remember something my parents used to tell me when I was young… if one generation doesn’t resist martial law, the next generation will curse them.” Some students are from families with a history of organizing against government repression. For these students, participating in the protests was the reawakening of a family legacy.
However, Amina noted, in general the upper classes do not want their children involved in the corrupt and messy realm of politics. Her family was among this group, worried more about her safety and the completion of her studies than the current political situation. But Amina is determined to participate and since she lives on campus, instead of with her family, she’s been able to join protests without their knowledge.
Recent political events have played a significant role in awakening Pakistan’s youth. Both Ardent Imran and Amina agreed that many students started paying attention to politics “since March 9th,” a phrase which they repeated several times. It was then that Musharraf dismissed the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mohammad Iftikhar Chaudhry, on what most believe to be politically-motivated corruption charges. Shortly thereafter, Pakistani lawyers mobilized en masse against the perceived attack on the independence of the judiciary and students began to take notice. These days heroes are few and far between in Pakistani politics and most, including young people, are jaded by the corruption of political parties. However, the students noticed something different in the lawyers struggle. They weren’t fighting for petty power, they were fighting for a democratic ideal.
In his declaration of emergency rule, Musharraf did not attempt to conceal that the increasingly independent judiciary was a primary reason for his crackdown, imprisoning all those who refused to bow to his will. While international players such as the U.S. simply call for emergency to be rolled back and elections to proceed, they remain quieter on the restoration of the judiciary and free media. The youth resistance in Pakistan, however, is keenly aware that without the restoration of the pre-emergency judiciary and a free press, elections will be a joke and future of Pakistan’s judiciary as an independent institution will be crippled.
While Amina and Ardent Imran burst with excitement and analysis, the third LUMS student, who I’ll call “Reluctant Imran” looked exhausted. After dutifully answering questions about student organizing with poise, he confessed that personally, he was rather indifferent to the political situation. Reluctant Imran, it turns out, had been inadvertently sucked into the center of organizing when the LUMS administration had identified him to be a liaison with students. Ironically, as the least enthusiastic among them, he has found his name on an arrest list drawn up by police.
As thousands of students have taken to the streets, Reluctant Imran’s sentiments may be representative of the of thousands more who have remained inside, many stricken with the cynicism born of living in a country that has spent 31 of its 60 year history under military rule. However, others believe that for every Ardent Imran and Amina waving placards, there are dozens more Pakistanis sitting quietly at home, fearful of taking to the streets, but supportive of the youth from their living rooms. Indeed, my neighbor, a successful, upper middle-class business owner and father of three remarked hopefully, “If the students come out on the streets, only then might the government fall.”
Unexpected Insurgents
This was a blind spot for them, they didn’t see it coming, but neither did we. People like us who have encouraged students to organize before — we had hoped something like this would happen. But we didn’t necessarily see this much of a response.– LUMS Professor Aasiam Sajjad Akhtar
Privileged students at private universities like LUMS have a reputation for caring more about careers, clothes and cars than politics. However, Salima Hashmi, a Dean at another private school, Beaconhouse National University, where students also held protests, believes that one reason LUMS mobilized first was due to the rigorous academic environment at the elite institution. It is, she remarks, unusual in Pakistan in that it challenges students to think critically, after most have undergone years of nationalist indoctrination at the primary and secondary school level. But part of LUMS rapid response may also have been due to the serendipity of timing.
On Saturday evening, Nov. 3rd, at 5 p.m., celebrity cricket star turned one-man-political-party, Imran Khan was scheduled to speak on campus about youth’s role in Pakistani politics (and in his political party). The students joked that out of the huge turnout, most people were more interested in merely catching a glimpse of the famous cricket star and teenage heartthrob than in listening to his politics. In an unexpected turn, half an hour into the speech a professor came on stage to announce that martial law had been declared. It was as if Imran Khan had held a perfectly-timed a pep rally just before the declaration of martial law, and a large number of students stayed afterwards to discuss how they would address the situation.
The government also helped fuel student rage by arresting several professors who attended a meeting at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan the next day (Nov. 4th), quickly transforming the impacts of martial law from an abstract concept to a personal one for previously apolitical students. The released professors gave speeches at rallies, helping students cultivate a political analysis and sense of personal engagement.
Professor Sajjad notes that the elite LUMS students have grown up wired, unlike their public-university counterparts, many of whom have never used a computer before university. Their tech-savvyness also enabled the mass dissemination of information to organize protests. Amina described how a professor quickly composed an e-mail via Blackberry as he was arrested. Following the arrest, sms messages spread across the campus faster than wildfire, coordinating meetings and rallies, while e-mail manifestos from LUMS inspired students at other campuses to join the fray. Facebook helped wired Pakistani students get the word out to friends and relatives abroad who organized solidarity protests, keeping the spirit of resisting Pakistanis high.
I was not surprised. Because I [knew that] the last three or four years, we have been penetrating and trying to knock on doors, but for the masses it was a great surprise.– Diep Saeeda, Institute for Peace and Secularism
Herself the mother of three students, Diep Saeeda has spent many years mobilizing youth with her organization, the Institute for Peace and Secularism. Over the years, she says, the youth have become increasingly engaged in dialogue about social and political problems. After Diep’s organization had tried for years to unify Pakistan’s liberal left unsuccessfully, they realized what others are now awakening to, that the hope for a just and democratic Pakistan lies in the hands of its youth. These days, she’s one of the few faces over the age of 25 at the all-student meetings, providing support to the youth as they teethe on their first real political struggle.
It’s not only students, but recent graduates working in fields such as law and the media who have been instrumental in organizing protests of journalists and lawyers. Unlike their parents who grew up on state-sponsored news and programming, this generation has come to age in the last eight years of Musharraf’s tenure during which the media has enjoyed unprecedented freedom. With a taste of such freedom, these young people aren’t willing to give it up easily. Ali Asad, a 26 year old investment banker in Karachi, graduated from LUMS 3 years ago and comments that the media has been key in demystifying politics and giving him diverse perspectives needed to make informed decisions. Away from the heady action of the campuses, he, like many young graduates, was hungry to get involved. After November third, he joined a large coalition opposing martial law and is currently developing workshops on democracy and political involvement for local schools and colleges.
But it’s not only the elite who are organizing. Students at a public institution, Punjab University, have mobilized as well. Many, including Diep and LUMS Professor Sajjad believe that in the long-term, institutions like Punjab University (PU) are likely to be more influential than the smaller private schools, with its 30,000 strong student body more representative of Pakistan’s population which largely consists of working and lower class families.
At the all-student meeting, I interviewed a second-year law student from PU, Unlike his compatriots at LUMS, Tariq wore a handsome traditional kurta and spoke English with a bit more effort, but with no less eloquence than the others. When asked why he decided to get involved, unlike other students who waxed on about the illegality of Musharraf’s regime and actions, he started with a different story.
“I have been a student of Punjab University for the last 1 1/2 years. Several times we have faced threats and physical violence by a so-called students’ organization which is led by a pro-Islamic militant organization named IJT.” He proceeded to recount the history of the harsh repression meted out by the IJT to students who would not join their ranks or follow their strict interpretation of Islamic morality.
Under Zia’s rule, and before the era of private universities, government-funded schools, like PU, expelled many liberal and progressive teachers and students who attempted to organize, leading to an IJT stranglehold on campus, although they were a numerical minority (no more than 10% of the campus). For Tariq, the struggle is as much about reclaiming public and political spaces for all students from the monopoly of the IJT, as it is about opposing martial law.
As fate would have it, the tide at Punjab U. turned against the IJT on Nov 14th. Thousands of students gathered for a rally at which Imran Khan was scheduled to speak and then publicly give himself up for arrest. But before he could make it to address the crowds, a group of IJT students roughly manhandled him into a police van. The outcry was tremendous and even the IJT’s parent political party denounced the actions. But the damage was done. Professor Sajjad remarked, “In a matter of days , their basis to exist on campus has been wiped out, popular opinion has been swept away from them. It seems that before people were begrudgingly accepting their presence on campus, but clearly now there’s a space for new forms to emerge.” Since then, students at Punjab University have continued to come out in large numbers and without fear of IJT backlash.
Cautious Optimism
Certainly, the young men and women behind the rallies have shown a way, given a direction, to their elders to follow. They have ignited a spark of light amidst oppressive darkness, and it can now only be hoped this light is not allowed to fade out and die in the difficult days that lie ahead.– Nov 9th Editorial, The International News (Pakistan newspaper)
Thus far the state has been more lenient on students than other groups, not arresting them by the thousands as with lawyers and political party workers. In part, this leniency on students may be because the government fears the increased publicity and international outrage that coercive measures against students would likely bring to what has already been a public relations nightmare for the regime. As the emergency enters its second month and student organizing shows no sign of fizzling out, the state has slowly begun to ratchet up pressure. Recently, fourteen professors from Punjab University were charged with sedition and four professors at LUMS charged under the Maintenance of Public Order Act while this week, police surrounded the LUMS campus attempting to block students from attending an all-student protest.
The professors and student organizers I spoke to were uncertain about whether the mobilizations would become a mass movement and warned against direct comparisons to the movement of 1968-69. At that time, the popular politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto backed the student movement, leading it to explode in strength and popularity across the nation. This time around, though, students been quick to dissociate themselves from association with any political party. Almost all are disillusioned with the major political parties although many expressed growing admiration for Imran Khan’s tiny Tehrik-i-Insaaf party (it won only 1 seat 2002 National Assembly elections).
They have good historical reason to be wary of co-optation. Decades earlier, after the groundswell of student power led to the toppling of Ayub Khan’s regime, the political parties recognized and coopted the movement. LUMS Professor Rasool Bakhsh Rais explains, “They carved out their own constituencies of influence, supplied them money, sometimes weapons and the battles of the political parties were fought on the campuses. There was a lot bloodshed and violence among student groups.” Bakhsh Rais hopes that today’s students will remain autonomous, noting that “If they come under the control of any political party… that will be the end of that social movement. [T]heir power, their strength, would become fragmented.”
Aasim Sajjad says that he is “cautiously optimistic,” noting that the students’ impact will likely be greater in the long-term, observing that, “It takes time for the infrastructure of a movement to develop. But an organization that comes from a movement will be more vibrant and long-lasting than one that comes from a few people getting together.” The question remains as to whether Pakistani youth, awakened to the potentials of their own power, will be able to harness their energy and idealism past the immediate crisis.
A November 19th report in the New York Times indicated that America is considering funding and training tribal leaders as well as the Frontier Corps, a group that has been blamed for for aiding and abetting Taliban insurgents, in order to combat militant insurgency. One can’t help but have a sense of déjà-vu to the tried and failed funding of the 80s which created today’s Taliban. As America continues to focus its financial aid and military training on dictators and frontier tribes, another insurgency lies neglected.
America’s short-sighted endorsement of repressive and unconstitutional tactics may have a less visible but no less devastating result — the stillborn hopes of Pakistan’s growing movement for the supremacy of democracy and the rule of law. Armed with civil disobedience, patriotism and the ideals of justice and democracy, this insurgency of lawyers, students, human rights activists and journalists is the one America and the world must support if we truly value the development of a stable, moderate and democratic Pakistan.

Struggle for rights goes on

By Khalid Khattak12/5/07

A large number of students, lawyers and civil society representatives took out a protest rally by making human chain against the suspension of the constitution and human rights as well as curbs on media, demanded restoration of all deposed judges.They urged all political parties to boycott the coming elections maintaining that elections without free judiciary and free media would have no transparency and fairness. Students Action Committee (SAC), a group of students representing 21 universities and colleges of the City, had given the protest call in which around 1,000 students, lawyers and civil society participated and expressed their resentment against the present regime, suspension of judges, suspension of human rights and media curbs. Apart from different universities and colleges from the City a large number of students from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) had especially joined the rally, by quietly leaving their campus, while a heavy contingent of police was deployed outside LUMS on Tuesday to stop students from leaving the campus.Carrying colourful placards, wearing black armbands and stickers pasted on their shirts inscribed with anti-emergency, pro-judiciary and pro-media slogans, the rally participants gathered at Lahore Press Club around 3 pm and chanted slogans against President Musharraf for suspending the Constitution.The emotionally charged students chanted slogans like “Hum lay kay rahain gay azadi; hai haq hamara azadi”, “No elections without free judiciary and free media”, “Lathi goli ki sarkar nahi chalay gee; nahi chalay gee” and “Gerti hoi dewar ko aik dhka aur do”, etc. One of the stickers read “Pehlay adliya azad; elections us kay baad” (First restore judiciary then hold elections).Later they made a human chain and took out a rally taking a complete round of the Lahore Press Club. A number of young students from Aitchison and Covent of Jesus and Mary, accompanied by their mothers, also participated in the rally. The protestors also distributed different flyers and pamphlets among people during the rally urging them to stand united against suspension of the constitution.The participants of the rally also held a protest sit-in in front of mosque situated at Shimla Pahari and then moved towards Geo Solidarity Camp. However they were barred by the police doing so upon which they returned to the Lahore Press Club and held a protest sit-in. Some participants of the rally also made speeches on the occasion. A student speaker said, “Students would continue their movement till the restoration of deposed judges,” adding “Transparent, fair and free elections could not be held without a free judiciary. He said, “Students appeal to all the political parties to boycott the election till complete restoration of judiciary and media in the country.Addressing the protestors, a speaker, Hina said peaceful protest by students, lawyers and civil society representatives was for the restoration and freedom of judiciary in the country. “We demand restoration of judiciary including restoration of the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan”, she added. On this occasion a large number of students chanted slogans in favour of deposed CJP saying “Chief teray jaan nisaar baishumaar; baishumaar.îShe also demanded that all arrested lawyers should be released immediately. She further said students’ response to the present situation and their struggle had proved that they were the real future of the country. Bushra Aitzaz, wife of Aitzaz Ahsan, President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), addressing the participants of the protest, said the present movement would have to be continued till complete restoration of the constitution. She, while paying tributes to the students for their struggle, said no movement could be successful without participation of students.A member of the SAC while speaking on the occasion said, “We would carry our movement to all the colleges and universities of the country as it was a national cause.î The protest ended with collective recitation of national anthem.Ms Medea Benjmin and Mr Tighe Barry, members of the US human rights group Global Exchange and women’s peace group CODEPINK, also participated in the rally and expressed their solidarity with the protestors.The protesters then dispersed and many of them left for GOR-I. At the judgeís residence, students joined lawyers, journalists and other activists outside Justice (deposed) Shahid Siddiquiís house and chanted slogans. He also came out to speak to the protesters and lauded the efforts of the lawyers, students and civil society activists. The protest went ahead despite threats from the police to arrest students from the universities involved.

Pakistan sees red over Code Pink activists' antics

By S.A. Miller
December 5, 2007

Pakistani authorities yesterday ordered the deportation of the leader of the feminist U.S. antiwar group Code Pink, who was in Lahore to join protests against the emergency rule imposed by President Pervez Musharraf, according to a spokeswoman for the group.
Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the group, said she was arrested at a student demonstration by agents of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence and detained for about four hours before being released with orders to leave the country this morning.
"I'm OK. A little shaken up," Ms. Benjamin told The Washington Times by telephone from her hotel in Lahore. "They mistreated us."
Ms. Benjamin said she feared for her life as the agents held her at gunpoint in a car speeding through the city to the police station.
"I thought I was going to die in the car," she said. "They totally terrorized us."
Pakistani authorities also detained and then ordered the deportation of Tighe Barry, a longtime Code Pink activist who was participating in the students' rally outside the Lahore Press Club.
"It's a sad state of affairs when the Pakistani government, a government that is trying to portray itself to the West as democratic, tries to harass and deport U.S. human rights activists," Ms. Benjamin said at the press club before her arrest. "If they do this to us, who have the protection of being U.S. citizens, imagine what they do to their own citizens."
Code Pink activists are arrested regularly in the U.S. for disrupting congressional hearings on the war, targeting Democrats and Republicans alike with protests. A Code Pink activist was arrested in October after rushing up to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, wrapping her arms around Miss Rice and screaming "war criminal" as she displayed her red-painted hands.

Protesting for Pakistan

History senior Ammar Ali Jan gathered with about 30 other students Tuesday to show his sympathy for victims of violence and oppression as a result of military rule in Pakistan."This emergency has affected me personally as it has affected the Pakistani student body on campus," Jan said. He added that authorities in Pakistan were on a university campus in the country Tuesday, waiting to arrest Jan's brother, a student leader in Pakistan. "Hundreds of thousands of people in Pakistan are sacrificing so much for their country, for democracy and for freedom," Jan said. "And these things aren't Pakistani things; these are universal things. People all around the world need to show solidarity with those people." The students assembled on the West Mall in protest of the ongoing events in Pakistan under the rule of President Pervez Musharraf."It is a protest condemning dictatorship in Pakistan, condemning the fact that the army has become institutionalized," said Ahmed Yusuf, anthropology graduate student.Protesters urged students and passersby to become more informed and pay more attention to what is happening in Pakistan. They said they believe that democracy can flourish in Pakistan if the U.S. government decreases support and funding for Musharraf. "Democracy has never really been given a chance to survive in Pakistan," Yusuf said. "Whenever there has been a hint of civil liberties or spaces for civil society to act the military has always come and curtailed those particular spaces."- Courtney Dudley

Police baton-charge students protesting against emergency

By Sohail Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Police baton-charged participants of a students protest rally at the Aabpara intersection on Tuesday. They were demanding lifting of emergency and restoration of the constitution and deposed judges.The rally was held by the Progressive Student Action Committee and Joint Student Movement and was attended by students of different academic institutions and members of the civil society.The protestors, who were raising slogans against the government and curbs on media, started proceeding towards the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club camp office to express solidarity with protesting journalists. However, a heavy contingent of police stopped and baton-charged them. The students vowed to continue their struggle, threatening the government with severe consequences if their demands were not met. They also called for holding student organisations’ elections.The protestors urged all the political parties to boycott the upcoming elections. They were of the view that under the present setup free and fair elections could not be held. They also condemned the detention of political leaders and lawyers. Meanwhile, the journalists also staged a sit-in in front of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club camp office on Tuesday to protest against the imposition of emergency and curbs on media. The protest call was made by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).Criticising the code of conduct and the ordinances being promulgated to suppress freedom of media in the name of national security, they said freedom of expression was the fundamental right of the public and no authority could suspend it without providing justifiable grounds.They also demanded restoration of the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other superior courts’ judges who refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). “The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) should also avoid using unfair measures against the media,” they added.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Students rally against emergency, media curbs

* SP warns of arrests
* Says protests under emergency rule illegal
* Students want right to form peaceful student groups on campuses

By Adnan Lodhi

About 300 students from various educational institutions protested the suspension of the constitution and curbs on the media at Liberty roundabout after Friday prayers.The students also taped their mouths shut and observed a 10-minute silence in protest. Superintendent of Police (Model Town division) Imran Ahmad said the police would take action against the students because the country was under emergency and nobody was allowed to protest on the streets.Students of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Beaconhouse National University (BNU), FAST National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Punjab University (PU), University of Engineering and Technology (UET) and Lahore School of Economics gathered at Liberty roundabout after Friday prayers. Lawyers, teachers and NGO workers also joined them.The students shouted anti-Musharraf slogans, as they marched within the roundabout. They held posters and placards inscribed with slogans such as ‘We are against PCO’, ‘Judiciary under PCO is not acceptable’, ‘Elections not acceptable’, ‘Adlia ki azadi tak jung rahai gi’, ‘Go Musharraf Go’ and ‘Adlia ko azad karo’. Several students also shouted slogans against the Islami Jamiat Talaba.Students also staged a sit-in at the roundabout and made speeches on the occasion. They distributed pamphlets amongst citizens to make them aware about the situation and to urge them to protest the emergency.A student from LUMS said the problems in Pakistan could not be resolved by removing a dictator. He said the country lacked institutions required to make it go ahead. He said that under such circumstances students had taken the first step to organise themselves under the banner of the Students Action Committee (SAC). “We will continue our movement even after the achievement of our short term goals. We want to win for the people of Pakistan,” he added.A student from PU said the students of universities were united against the emergency. He said the students had organised themselves on a common agenda to protest the injustices against the people. He said, “We demand empowering the people of Pakistan to decide the country’s future.”A teacher said, “We urge the youth of Pakistan to unite against the emergency and PCO, which has destroyed the judiciary.”A student from LUMS told Daily Times that they wanted the right to form peaceful democratic student organisations on campus where discussions and debates on politics and social issues could be openly held. He said students would continue protesting and would soon announce their next strategy after an SAC meeting.A large police contingent was present. The SP told Daily Times that the police allowed the students to protest within the boundaries of Liberty roundabout. However, he said legal action would be taken against them, as it was illegal to protest during an emergency.Another police officer said the police would contact the administrations of the colleges where the students studied to identify the protest leaders.IJT protest: Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) workers protested against criminal cases against PU teachers. According to a press release issued by the IJT on Friday, protestors also shouted slogans against the PCO and the emergency.PU IJT nazim Attiqur Rehman said the cases against teachers were illegal and that the government was victimising them for starting a movement against the emergency. He said the IJT would continue its movement against the emergency and that the government should end FIRs against the IJT.

Students should unite for Pakistan’s sake: Imran Khan

* Hundreds at students’ convention demand a free judiciary

Staff ReportLAHORE:

Students of the country should gather on one platform for the country’s sake, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan said at a students’ convention at the PTI office in Ichhra on Friday.A couple of hundred students of various educational institutions of the city including the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Beaconhouse National University (BNU), FAST-National University and the Punjab University (PU), had gathered at the PTI office for the convention. The convention aimed at gathering student support for the judiciary’s independence and the lifting of the emergency.Khan said he had not called the students to launch a students’ wing of his party, but to mobilise them in the ongoing struggle for the judiciary’s freedom. He said the student’s participation in the movement was pivotal for success.The PTI chief said that incidents like the one when members of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) manhandled him in the PU and handed him over to the police would neither deter his resolve nor his confidence in the students’ power.He said the All Parties Democratic Movement’s (APDM) call to boycott the coming elections had a one-point agenda of restoring the judiciary to its pre-emergency status. He urged the opposition leaders who had expressed willingness to contest the elections to unite with the APDM for this purpose.Khan praised the deposed judges for not taking oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). He also stressed the role of an independent judiciary for the rule of law in the country. “Without an independent judiciary, the country has no future.” He said the judges, who had taken oath under the PCO, were holding offices they did not deserve.Many students also made speeches at the convention and expressed support for Khan.IJT stops PU students: Some students of the PU told Daily Times on Friday that IJT activists had stopped many students of the varsity from participating in the convention.Ali Shah, a PU student, said IJT workers had stopped hundreds of PU students standing at bus stops from boarding buses heading towards Ichhra. He said the IJT workers also beat several bus drivers for stopping buses at the stops despite their signals not to.PU IJT media secretary Imran Kiyani said the IJT had not stopped anyone and termed the allegation baseless. He said that after the Friday prayers, all IJT workers had been at an IJT protest against the emergency.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Students for a Free Pakistan

Jayati Vora

On Thursday, November 29, Pervez Musharraf was sworn in for a new five-year term as the President of Pakistan. The day before, the general tearfully handed over command of the army to his handpicked successor, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Musharraf now claims he will also end the state of emergency on December 16. These gestures may hold out some hope for the restoration of true democracy in Pakistan, but on the ground not much has changed. For the moment, the state is under martial law. The curbs imposed on the media since November 3 have not been lifted, and the judiciary and the constitution have not been restored. Even if Musharraf fulfills his promise to lift the state of emergency, he is not stepping down from his position as dealmaker in Pakistan any time soon.
Little wonder, then, that the growing student movement in Pakistan held its biggest protest to date the day after Musharraf's swearing-in ceremony. In cities around the world--from Oslo to London to New York to Lahore--students rallied at roughly 2 pm and called for all political parties to boycott the January elections in order to expose them for the sham they will likely be.
In the weeks since Musharraf imposed a state of emergency, students in cities across the country have awakened from their political slumber. They have come a long way since 1999, when the general seized power in a bloodless coup. Then, the only people out on the streets were supporters of Nawaz Sharif, the ousted, democratically elected Prime Minister. This time, they are out in throngs--the lawyers, the journalists, the civil society activists and importantly, the students.
"If not now, WHEN? If not us, WHO?
"There is no neutrality anymore; SILENCE IS CONSENT. SPEAK!"
These words are part of a call to action issued by the newly formed Student Action Committee of Lahore, a coalition of students from fifteen universities and colleges in that city. It was created to organize the student body in their protests against Musharraf's state of emergency and consolidation of power.
The last time that students rose so powerfully in protest was in 1968, and they were instrumental in toppling General Ayub Khan (one of Musharraf's dictatorial predecessors). But when Musharraf claimed power in 1999, many breathed a sigh of relief. From 1988-99, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif both came to power twice. During this period--what Musharraf in his autobiography calls the "dreadful decade of democracy"-- Pakistan became one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Unemployment soared and cynicism held sway in the minds of ordinary Pakistanis. Musharraf promised change. He promised to get rid of corruption, to tackle economic reforms, and he was a moderate. It seemed like a promising recipe at the time. But in the eight years that he has been in power, he has broken his word countless times. The elections he held were nowhere near free and fair, and according to Transparency International, Pakistan's corruption rating has actually gotten worse by three percentage points since 1998, the year before Musharraf took power.
Living under a state of emergency, it's not surprising that many who once welcomed the general now agitate for his removal. And standing in the frontlines--but not the spotlight--of those protests are the students of Pakistan.
Ammar, 21, is a student at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), one of the most prestigious institutions in Pakistan. An economics and political science major, he was one of a handful of LUMS students who started a blog, The Emergency Times, two days after the imposition of martial law. At first, it began as a forum for discussion and a means to educate people, especially students, about the legal ramifications of the emergency. In the face of the media blackouts imposed after November 3, students starved of news reportage turned to blogs such as this one for their daily dose. The Emergency Times alone gets roughly 25,000 hits a day. (Not bad for a country where only 7.2 percent of 160 million people have access to the Internet.) Its printed version, a pamphlet that's photocopied and distributed by student volunteers in dozens of campuses across the major cities every other day, reaches as many as 200,000 pairs of eyes.
"Right now we're running on adrenalin," says Ammar over the phone. He only gives his first name. The police have been watching the more politically active students. They even seem to be tapping telephone lines. So the students try to take some precautions. Some have changed their cell phone numbers. When organizing protests and rallies, they use a separate number that cannot be traced. Only three to four people have a list of all the students who are involved in the Student Action Committee.
These twenty-somethings have to dodge not just the police gaze but also parental concern. Ammar's parents, for instance, are only partly aware of their son's activities. They know about the blogging, but not that he has attended protests, the kind where people get arrested and taken to undisclosed jails.
Ammar was at one such rally three weeks ago. He was among the mass of lawyers who protested outside the Lahore High Court on November 5, and says that the brutality he saw shook him to his core. "It was unbearable to watch," he says. "It's very difficult to stay quiet. If you don't speak out now, it might be too late."
Matters came to a head when three LUMS faculty members were arrested. They had attended a meeting of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a highly respected body. They were released a week later, but the LUMS students decided they had to do something. The Emergency Times was the result.
They were not the only ones. The students at FAST-NU, the Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Technology, a technical university with a campus in Lahore, followed suit with their "Fast Rising" blog and newsletter. A wave of similar websites and blogs followed, from the commentary of academics to coverage of the media blackout to legal analysis. Alumni of Pakistani universities scattered in places from Berlin to Boston contributed their stories, poems and their support to a movement that has galvanized a previously complacent student body.
Pakistani student societies in American universities such as Columbia and Harvard have organized seminars, written letters to newspapers editors and congressmen and even published articles about it. And everywhere, on the street corners in Pakistan, in classrooms all over the world, people are talking, debating, engaging with the political process.
Zeeshan Suhail, 26, a recent graduate of the City University of New York, and the author of one of those articles, was one of many who initially welcomed the dictator. After two decades of democracy, he says, people were fed up with crooked politicians.
"No one was concerned about the fact that the country had changed from a democracy to a dictatorship," he says. "Musharraf came to power talking of moderation, foreign policy imperatives and bringing the good side of Pakistan to the world. It took years for me to realize that the place of an army officer is in the barracks, not in the president's house."
Samar Abbas, 23, who graduated from Yale University earlier this year and has been in Pakistan for the last month, is another of the converted. For him, as for most of his generation, it's the first time he's ever been politically active. "There is definitely the feeling that we are living at a very critical juncture," he writes. "For this generation, this is our first shot at impacting Pakistan, and we have a very good chance."
Ali Almani, 26, a Harvard law student who will graduate this December and plans to return to Pakistan to practice law, is an exception. He opposed Musharraf from the very beginning. "Each time you have a military regime," he explains, "it exacerbates the conditions that requires the military to intervene, it weakens political institutions. And when politicians get a chance to rule, it's a big question whether they'll be able to make something of it." Almani doesn't approve of the way Musharraf is pitted against the opposition candidates in much of the mainstream media. It's reductive, he says. "Instead," he argues, "what the debate should be is whether you want to make the politicians accountable to the military or to the people."
The student movement in Pakistan is divided on many points, chief among them the question of who should succeed Musharraf. But the one thing they all realize is that Pakistani society has become intolerably repressed under Musharraf's reign. The army has penetrated every nook and cranny of society, to the point that virtually every NGO, business or civil society organization has a retired general sitting on its board. It controls 11.5 million acres, or 12 percent, of state land. Although there is much cooperation with the protesting lawyers, journalists and civil society activists, the student movement is a youth initiative. It uses technology in a way that would not have been possible in earlier decades. Virtually all students who have access to it use the Internet. Some use it to voice their protests in the form of websites and blog posts; others use it to watch reportage from the private television channel, the Urdu-language GEO TV, which is now being broadcast from Dubai. There are multiple Facebook groups that connect students in different parts of the world and list upcoming protests. And cell phones are used to organize "flash protests." A text message is sent out to a relatively small group of people, who gather at a crowded area, shout slogans and hand out pamphlets, then disperse as quickly as they arrived, before they can be arrested. The movement has spread like an Internet virus. Although it began in campuses of elite institutions such as FAST-NU and LUMS, the baton has been passed to the lesser-known, public colleges with larger student bodies. LUMS students, for instance, number only 2,500. Punjab University--which attained notoriety in the international press when opposition leader Imran Khan was apprehended there--is one of the new leaders of the movement, with roughly 25,000 students.
In the history of student politics, Ammar explains, this is quite common. "The 1968 student movement began in Government College and Gordon College, which were then as prestigious as LUMS is now. That didn't reflect class interests, but the quality of the education and the academic environment." Now other universities--among them the Quaid-i-Azam University, Punjab University, Hamdard University and Government College, Lahore--are taking the lead. But there are some who still believe in Musharraf. Of these, some hail from the business community that has always supported Musharraf and has benefited from his economic reforms. Many others have lived abroad for several years. Abbas disagrees with their stance but understands it. "Many of my good friends and family," he writes via e-mail, "especially those living abroad and working for the government, still think he is doing a good job and seems to be the only option." Indeed, Musharraf has been good for them. The GDP has been growing at a robust 7-8 percent per year in the past two years, and a former banker and non-resident citizen, Shaukat Aziz, was, until recently, the Prime Minister. "However, for people who live here in Pakistan," continues Abbas, "issues that are likely to matter more are security, inflation, social equality, community empowerment and access to justice--areas that this government has completely failed to tackle."
Now the students of Pakistan are calling their government to task about it. They are scared of possible retaliation by the police, but, as Ammar says ruefully, "We're too far into it to be scared."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pakistan students fight emergency

By Amber Rahim Shamsi

"We want to be active participants in the political process," says 22-year-old Ali Jan.

Students in Lahore protest against emergency rule
Ali is an undergraduate at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), an elite university best known for churning out business management graduates.
Part of Pakistan's new 'consumer generation', its students have in recent years been more interested in mobile phones, bipods, the latest DVDs of Bollywood films and American TV shows rather than politics.
But are they becoming more politically conscious during Pakistan's long-drawn out crisis of government?
The pundits answer has generally been negative.
They say the new student generation is too anesthetized by decades of political cynicism.
But the students at LUMS would beg to differ.
Surprise protests
Since Gen Musharraf imposed emergency rule, the LUMS students and campus have been at the forefront of anti-emergency protests.

Students had been assumed to be disillusioned with democracy
The fervour with which they have launched their protests has surprised many.
Several universities in Islamabad and Lahore have been holding daily rallies since 3 November, the day emergency rule was announced.
The protests have largely been tidy affairs and there have been a minimum of police baton-charges or detentions on campus.
These student protests have taken most people by surprise.
They were largely unexpected from what is seen as a young apolitical milieu.
Active politics
It was not always so in Pakistan. The student demonstrations during Pakistan's first military dictatorship played a major role in its eventual demise.
I think for young people there is a feeling of finally doing something
Aasim Sajjad Akhtaracademic
But by the end of the 1980s, however, student politics had degenerated into little more than gangs and turf wars.
The process of political desensitisation was begun by Pakistan's longest ruling dictator, General Ziaul Haq.
Gen Zia dismantled student union structures in the 1980s.
The present generation of students were born during that time and grew up under the wobbly democracy of the 1990s.
That was a merry-go-round of prime minsters and presidents overseen by an omnipotent military.
It led to an aggravated sense of political disempowerment.
Ali Jan says that this is the first time that private colleges are taking the initiative in student action.
But government universities, where the ghosts of student unions past still haunt the campuses, are not far behind.

The clampdown on lawyers galvanised many students
"I think for young people, there is a feeling of finally doing something," says Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, an academic and activist.
"After eight years of military rule, things had finally reached their peak."
There are two threads that seem to have galvanized the students.
The first was the lawyer's movement launched in March 2007 to have Pakistan's top judge - Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry - re-instated.
The movement was seen to be based on principles rather than the power-grabbing agenda of the political parties.
"We see in the lawyers the anti-thesis to the political leaders like Maulana Fazlur Rahman or Benazir Bhutto," says Phd student Salman Haider.
"The students are taking up the example of the lawyers."
In this regard, the role of the media coverage of the protests has been important.
Then there is what Salman Haider calls "the effects of Zia's repression" which seem to be wearing off this generation.
Emergency newsletters
Protest in Pakistan has taken many forms.

The appeal of leaders such as Benazir Bhutto is questionable
The web is increasingly a podium for such activities. Online petitions, an 'emergency newsletter' and blogs are the norm.
There are also several 'anti-emergency' groups on networking sites such as Facebook and Orkut.
So far, students have avoided bloodshed and arrest by two methods.
One is the 'guerrilla' or spot demos. Participants are informed of place and time via cell phone SMS.
After a round of sloganeering, they quickly disperse to avoid getting caught by the police.
The other are on-campus rallies held with the acceptance of administrations.
But some administrations have threatened students with expulsion if they participate in protests.
With careers to think of and exams to study for, will the demos last?
Fading out
There are a small but core group of activist-students who are prepared for this eventuality.
"We don't know how long university administrations will tolerate this," says Salman Haider.
"We might have to take to the streets."
The plan is to politicize students and then brave the police when it has taken firm root.
Accounting student Usman Kiyani and his group are knocking on doors to raise political awareness among students.
Ali Jan, meanwhile, wants to organize internally as a union before going public, as it were.
This likely to result in the student protests losing some steam.
But not, the students say, before pushing this generation out of the fog of political disengagement.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pakistani students divided over crisis

Opposition politician cheered by protesters before being carted away by hard-liners

Nov 15, 2007 04:30 AM Sonya Fatah SPECIAL TO THE STAR

LAHORE, Pakistan–Opposition politician Imran Khan learned a hard lesson yesterday about how bitterly divided Pakistani students are toward President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Over the last week, 500 to 1,000 students have protested daily on the campus of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), a leading university in Pakistan.
Police barricades and warnings have not intimidated the several hundred students who continue to demand an end to martial law, arbitrary arrests of activists and curbs on press freedom.
But at Punjab University, a student demonstration against emergency rule turned sour yesterday when Khan was arrested as he made an appearance. He had been evading house arrest for several days.
Khan, one of the most vocal critics of Musharraf's unconstitutional methods of staying in power, was at first hoisted upon students' shoulders as they chanted "Go Musharraf Go" and "Down with Musharraf." His coming-out then degenerated into a farce.
Members of the hard-line Jamiat-e-Tuleba, the student arm of the country's largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, bundled Khan into the Centre for High Energy Physics shortly after and handed him over to police.
Khan is the last of Musharraf's opposition leaders to be rounded up following the Pakistani president's Nov. 3 declaration of emergency. Police took him to an undisclosed location, sources said.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of political workers, lawyers and human rights activists have been held under house arrest or indefinitely detained.
Khan is revered as one of cricket's all-time greats and admired for his charitable work, especially a hospital he set up for poor cancer patients.
He drummed up the money for that by motivating young people to go out and fundraise for him, as "mini-Imrans," he said.
Khan hoped to rally the students for protests against Musharraf as well.
Pakistani students have been criticized in the past as a group that largely spends its time comparing designer clothes and electronic gadgets when not in the library studying.
"I want to get the students out," Khan said last week.
"If you have to (make) sacrifices, this is the time. What you cannot do is sit on the fence anymore."
The small, but increasing vocal and demonstrative student movement follows in the footsteps of the defiant lawyers' movement.
What haunts the government is the memory of the starring role students have played in toppling previous leaders at key moments over the last 40 years.
In 1968, students were at the forefront of resistance against the despotic, corrupt regime of president Ayub Khan, one in the long line of generals to rule this country. Despite a repressive security apparatus at his disposal, Ayub Khan was forced to step down a year later.
Young people also turned out en masse against prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the father of Benazir Bhutto, Musharraf's biggest rival and herself a former premier. The elder Bhutto was ousted from power in 1977, then hanged in 1979.
With those examples in mind, later Pakistani governments launched a campaign to depoliticize college campuses, banning political activity and clamping down on student unions.
Many observers were therefore surprised, and in some cases exhilarated, by the political rumblings beginning to take form on various campuses, particularly LUMS.
At a recent demonstration, about 150 students met at Beacon House National University, a liberal arts institution, to support the university's dean and human rights activist Salima Hashmi, who had been jailed for two days and recently released.
Encouragement from some university administrators has fuelled some of the student protests.
At LUMS University, the vice-chancellor and faculty members gave the students their blessings to stage demonstrations on campus.
Still, the relatively small student protests held at public universities were hardly examples of complete unity.
Of the 27,000 students at Punjab University, only a couple of hundred showed up for the demonstration yesterday.
"The Jamiat don't allow us to protest," said Afsa Mehmood, 19, who sported a black armband decrying the emergency.
"They are in favour of the government and they have the power to silence us."
Students at both the old and new campuses of the university lamented the influence of the Jamiat group in organizing their own student protests and other activities.
At Punjab University yesterday, Jamiat students pulled Khan off the shoulders of their secular classmates, and prevented him from leading the rally.
Tempers flared and frustration soared as the smaller, less vocal secular contingent tried to battle the more impassioned Jamiat leaders.
"He wanted to be a hero on our shoulders," said Salman Zaman, 22, and a Jamiat follower.
"We didn't want that," Zaman said.
"We didn't want our protest to be hijacked by any one political agenda."
Many conscientious objectors, including some who said they feared Islamist groups, turned to art to express their frustrations.
Like Bilal Ashraf, 22, sculpted a project called "This is Enough." In it, Pakistan is depicted as a woman with no arms, her eyes blindfolded, and her head thrown back.
Her dress, a long papery gown, is a collage of newspaper headlines on the judiciary's crisis.
The edges of the gown are frayed, and are beginning to burn at the bottom. But limbless and without sight, she (Pakistan) is helpless.
"Educated Pakistani youngsters have been kept at a distance from politics for decades," said retired Brig. Rao Abid Hamid of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
"This movement is just in its infancy. Give it time."With files from Los Angeles Times

Student protests build in Pakistan

Campus protests gather steam throughout the country, worrying the fragile regime.

By Shahan Mufti Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the November 15, 2007 edition

Lahore, Pakistan - The steady rumbling of dissent on university campuses across Pakistan is an ominous development for the country's military regime. Student activists in Pakistan have a history of effecting dramatic political change.
What began last week as a protest against the arrests of academics at a university in Lahore has quickly spread across larger campuses, energizing new movements and inciting old student political groups from a near two-decade slumber. But when opposition leader Imran Khan, a perceived hero of the student movement, arrived Wednesday to address students in Lahore, members of a powerful and established Islamist student group quickly handed him over to police.
For Mr. Khan and others, targeting university campuses is a shrewd move. But his arrest reveals the scattered nature of the students' potent political power. Unless the opposition can arrive at a consensus, observers say, the movement will remain incoherent. At the core of this confused effort lies the clashing visions of the old student political groups with a new wave of activists who hope to effect a more profound shift in Pakistani politics.
"This 'new student movement' is very significant," says Rasul Baksh Rais, a professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) who is a liaison between the administration and student leaders on his campus. Mr. Rais added that students even snubbed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto when she invited them for a meeting. The students' lack of interest in Pakistan's premier opposition figure, Rais says, indicates that "until all parties are able to come on one platform it is unlikely these students will want to support one party over another."
Whether Ms. Bhutto will eventually be able to seize the reins of such a unified movement remains a question, observers say. Security officials said she will likely remain under house arrest until Thursday at the earliest. On Tuesday, Bhutto called on the president to resign. Her spokeswoman told reporters Wednesday that she is attempting to rally the political opposition, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to present a more unified opposition to President Pervez Musharraf's authority.
Musharraf said Wednesday that he expects to step down as Army chief by the end of November and begin a new presidential term as a civilian, warning that Pakistan risked chaos if he gave into opposition demands to resign. In an interview with the Associated Press, he accused Bhutto, currently under house arrest, of fueling political turmoil and rejected Western pressure to quickly lift emergency rule, which he indicated was likely to continue through the January elections. "I take decisions in Pakistan's interest and I don't take ultimatums from anyone," he said at his Army office.
Khan was one of the only prominent political leaders to have avoided arrest by going into hiding, and had sparked student activism by speaking at a university campus on the eve of the emergency. Through underground messages from hiding, Khan had called for a "youth army" to take to the streets. "My goal was to set in motion a student movement," he said after his arrest.

'No greater ideology at work'

Students became the latest ingredient in the urban street caldron – along with political party workers, lawyers, and civil society groups – after President Musharraf extended his sweeping security crackdown to academics. The arrests of two professors from LUMS, after the declaration of emergency last week, sparked immediate protests and the arrival of riot police at the campus gatesThe agitation spread like wildfire to other smaller, private universities. Within a week, Khan visited Punjab University, the historic core of student activism, to try to harness the unwieldy power of the students. Shortly after his arrest, Khan told reporters that student "collaborators" had betrayed him to security officials. His surprising detention indicates that the youth movement is united only by its opposition to the current regime – and little else.
"There is no greater ideology at work here that I can describe," says Hashim bin Rashid, a LUMS student leader, dressed in all black and topped off by a black headband. The students at his campus, he says, are more inspired by larger concepts of social justice.
"It's easy to turn a blind eye to everything going around you when you have a silver spoon stuck in your mouth," he says. "But we are here because we have a stake in saving this country."

Pakistan's history of student struggle

This sentiment, admits Mr. Rashid, might not be what is driving students in older, more established student groups, which have been the breeding grounds for many of Pakistan's old guard politicians. But in a country that places student activism at the center of its historical narrative of independence, student politics in any form has often been essential to carving the country's political power dynamic.
In the 1960s, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto toppled military ruler Gen. Ayub Khan on the back of a seething student street movement. The early 1980s saw student groups target Gen. Zia ul-Haq's regime, prompting him to ban student unions as part of an effort to depoliticize the schools.
But some of the newer institutions have no experience with political activism. Their opposition to the military regime is defined by "a liberal ethos, a modernist structure of values," that focuses on "constitutionalism, rule of law, and the independence of judiciary, rather than identifying with any prevailing political party," says Rais.
This new movement has awaked student activism after two-decades

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Imran Khan faces terror charges after arrest in Pakistan

Jeremy Page in Lahore, and Times Online

The cricketing legend Imran Khan faces charges under Pakistani anti-terrorist laws after emerging from hiding today to join a student protest at which he was arrested.
Mr Khan's detention came as Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister under house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore, tried to forge a united opposition against the state of emergency imposed by President Musharraf.
Appearing in public for the first time since he slipped out of detention last week, Mr Khan was grabbed by Islamist students when he tried to take part in a rally at a Lahore university.
He was lifted onto the shoulders of demonstrators but punches flew when he was seized then pushed into a nearby building. He was later bundled into a white van and handed over to police. "He will be charged under the anti-terrorism act," said Malik Mohammad Iqbal, the Lahore police chief. "Through his speeches he has been inciting people to pick up arms, he has been calling for civil disobedience, he was spreading hatred."
Mr Khan, who has founded a small but vocal opposition party, called for General Musharraf to be hanged for treason after the military ruler imposed emergency rule on November 3. He was being held in custody under a 90-day detention order, and police sources said he was being moved to prison shortly ahead of being formally charged.
In an interview with The Times yesterday, Mr Khan said that General Musharraf could only be dislodged by popular protest. "Without a street movement, this guy is not going to go," the 55-year-old cricketer-turned-politician said. "That's the only thing dictators in the past have been affected by and that's what the Army looks to. When the Army realises someone has become a liability, they get rid of him."
Mr Khan was cheered and hoisted in the air by several hundred students when he arrived, alone, on the campus of the University of the Punjab to urge students to rise up against General Musharraf.
But his supporters were soon outnumbered by Islamist protesters from the student wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami party, who bundled him into the nearby Centre for High Energy Physics, held him incommunicado for an hour, then drove him off campus in a van and handed him over to police at the university gates. A spokesman for Mr Khan said that he was concerned at his plight. "They pulled him out like a piece of cargo and threw him into the police van," the spokesman told The Times. "We are very worried about his safety and very afraid of Musharraf."
The chaotic scenes on the campus today highlighted the fault lines in Pakistani society that make it hard for the opposition to unite against General Musharraf.
A 20-year-old student who gave his name as Mohammad, and who is a member Jamaat-i-Islami’s student wing, said Islamist students had intervened in Mr Khan's rally because politicans were banned from the campus. "We want Islam here. Allah rules here," he said. "Imran Khan cannot protest on this campus."
Others said Mr Khan had been detained to protect him from arrest by plainclothes policemen in the crowd.
But Aziz Nouman, 24, a third year law student, accused the Jamaat student wing of pursuing its own political agenda in detaining Mr Khan.
"We see Imran as a very strong character," he said."We have tried Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, we have tried everything. But we see a spark in him."
Student activists played a key role in previous political uprisings in Pakistan, but they have become politically dormant over the last 20 to 30 years - with the exception of Islamist organisations.
The University of the Punjab has been dominated for several years by Jamaat-i-Islami members, who ban music and dancing and have beaten up and harassed students for openly fraternising with women.
Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, founded in 1997, has only one seat (his own) in the national parliament, and critics dismiss him as a political lightweight.
Others have exploited his reputation as a playboy and his marriage to Jemima Khan, the British daughter of the late Sir James Goldsmith, which ended in divorce in 2004.
However, he is still regarded as a national hero for leading Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup, and his political standing has risen since he took a stand against General Musharraf and President Bush.
Yesterday he accused Mr Bush of stoking anti-Americanism among Pakistanis by continuing to support General Musharraf. "For this one man, Bush is willing to sacrifice 160 million sheep – we are like sheep," he said.
"This is worse than the Shah of Iran. Have they learnt no lessons? Within the country people who don’t understand the West think this is a conspiracy against Islam."
He said that Pakistan should withdraw its troops from northwestern areas and negotiate with tribesmen sheltering the Taleban and al-Qaeda militants, while Nato should set a timetable for leaving Afghanistan.
He urged Benazir Bhutto to join him in starting street protests and boycotting the parliamentary elections that General Musharraf has promised by January 9.
But he said that she had lost credibility by negotiating a power-sharing deal with General Musharraf.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Viewpoints: Pakistan's political crisis

Readers in Pakistan describe what life is like under emergency rule and what they think should be done to end the current crisis.

Waqas thinks that Bhutto should be prevented from attending the rally The current situation hasn't created problems for ordinary people in Islamabad. The emergency rule hasn't made any difference.
I personally think that it was a good move by President Musharraf. I was quite depressed for months about what's been going on in the country - the political instability and the bad security situation. I couldn't see a quick solution.
I think the state of emergency is one such solution. I haven't heard of any bomb explosions for a week now, whereas they used to happen almost every day. So it is working.
But it should end soon. That's why it is an emergency - it's a temporary measure and everything should be restored to how it used to be.

The leading economist Ali Cheema was arrested earlier in the week Since the emergency rule was announced, we don't have access to news and information about what is happening in the country. I've started gathering information from a few different sources, which I then send to a mailing list of about 500 people.
I recently graduated from Lahore University of Management Sciences, where students have been very active in protesting against the emergency rule. Two academics from that university have been arrested, including the prominent economist Ali Cheema.
I get eyewitness accounts from students' protests, photos and video that I spread around and post on forums.
I am also active in organising protests in Karachi. There's a group of us - lawyers, students, professionals and housewife's. We meet in secret places and decide where to gather to protest. When we turn up, lots of other people join us.

Students in Lahore have been protesting against emergency ruleWe make sure we don't stay in one place for too long, so that when the police turns up, we are gone.
I don't know if we are making a difference. I think the whole society needs to rise. Everyone can make a difference.
Our group doesn't belong to any political party. We want restoration of democracy, the independence of the judiciary and the media.

Asma Jahangir: Elections without democracy are meaningless I was put under house arrest for 90 days. I cannot leave the house and nobody can visit me. They've taken my mobile phone and cut off my internet connection.
I am lucky. My other colleagues were put into prison and haven't been able to meet their families. They are in a much worse situation.
But I feel anguish for the people who are protesting, as I can't do anything for them.
By now about 4,000 lawyers and human rights activists have been arrested. They arrest lawyers every single day. Yesterday they arrested 150 of them. Everyone I know is either arrested or in hiding.
They are wrong if they think that they can silence the lawyers in this country. The more they arrest, the more will come out.
How long can this go on for? They can't fight the entire civil society. They will have to seriously reconsider what they are doing.
There's deep anguish in Pakistan at the moment. Pakistani people aspire for democracy. Life is meaningless without freedom of expression and rule of law.
Musharraf needs to release the lawyers and open up the media. Holding elections without democracy is a meaningless exercise.

Wazim Afzal has started publishing news on his business site We have been deprived of sources of information. We can only watch the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera online, but they are slowing down the internet now and it takes very long time to load a page.
Everyone is quite depressed because of the news blackout. Pakistani people are used to having access to reliable news. With no good source of information, people have started to send text messages, informing each other of what they've heard. Lots of rumours are being circulated.
Because of that I've decided to turn our website, which is originally a commercial site, into a news site. I've put links to different news sites in it and I select audio and video as well as written stories from a variety of sources.
I update the website once or twice an hour. This is all I do now - I've temporarily abandoned my job. Since protests are not allowed, this is my way to contribute towards easing the news blackout. Everybody who believes in freedom should raise their voice.

I work for Aaj TV as an economics reporter. After declaration of emergency rule, our channel has been taken off air. I continue to do my work every day as before. I do my reports, but nobody in Pakistan can see them. We are very frustrated as we are deprived of our civil rights.
The government has disabled cable operators and none of the national news channels, apart from the state-run PTV, can be accessed.
But the people of Pakistan are very eager for news and information. Many have started to buy satellite dishes, so that they can access international news channels, as well as Geo TV and Aaj TV.
If this doesn't end soon, there'll be huge protests The emergency rule is directed towards the judiciary and the media. President Musharraf said that the media are creating a big hurdle for the government as it increases the rivalry between the judiciary and the government.
Now that there is no news, big rumours are circulating. The lack of information is going to affect the economy. The market crashed on Monday because of the news blackout.
But this cannot continue for too long. The government can't run the country like this. I think that it will end soon. I also think that if it doesn't, there'll be huge protests from students.

For Pakistani Students, a Reawakening: 'We Can't Just Sit Idle'

For Pakistani Students, a Reawakening: 'We Can't Just Sit Idle'

Long-Depoliticized Campuses Stirred Into Action by Military Government's Declaration of Emergency

Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 12, 2007; Page A14

LAHORE, Pakistan, Nov. 11 -- The accounting majors at the elite Lahore University of Management Sciences have rarely demonstrated against anything, preferring Punjabi pop music to protest songs. Cynicism about Pakistan's parade of autocratic and corrupt leaders had replaced civil disobedience, they said.

But in computer labs and cafeterias on this campus and others across the country over the weekend, students were busy making placards reading "Democracy Now" and "Students Against Martial Law" as they prepared to demonstrate against emergency rule. Some said they would join former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's so-called long march, scheduled to begin Tuesday in Lahore and progress to Islamabad, the capital, 250 miles to the west, in defiance of President Pervez Musharraf's ban on protests.

With police lining the streets of Lahore on Sunday, and a Bhutto rally blocked by authorities in Rawalpindi on Friday, many here say they doubt the protest will take place. But even if the long march turns into only a short protest, one thing is clear: Students are beginning to step forward in Pakistan's protest movement, a sign of the country's widening crisis.

"We're getting ready, no matter what. It's time for students to show that the future generation has a voice," said Ashar Hussain, 20, an engineering student at the management sciences school, known as LUMS. "We can't just sit idle and do nothing when Pakistan is suffering. This country is our future."

Student protests and campus unions were once a vibrant part of political activism in Pakistan, even during the nation's birth. But several dictatorial governments have depoliticized campuses by banning protests and requiring students to sign agreements not to participate in such activities.

Students also blame themselves. Disillusioned by a string of corrupt and repressive governments, many said, they stopped caring.


"It's like all this bad stuff happens and you just go numb. Nothing will help anyway, and even our favorite films and songs became about fluffy stuff and love," said Fatima Barbar, 20, an architecture student in Lahore. "This time, though, student consciousness is starting to awaken, and it feels really good."

One of the driving forces behind some of the student protests has been Imran Khan, a shaggy-haired cricket star turned opposition leader and an icon of cool among young people.

Although respected more for his prowess on the cricket pitch and for his charity projects than for his political leadership, Khan, 54, has street credibility among urban dwellers and well-to-do students and has used his popular Web site to encourage them to protest.

After Musharraf imposed emergency rule on Nov. 3, police targeted Khan in a roundup of opposition figures. Officers attempted to arrest him at 1:45 the morning after the emergency was ordered, Khan said, but he fled and has managed to evade them since by sleeping in a different location each night.

"I knew I had to run because I wanted to use this time to get the students out on the roads," Khan said in an interview, adding that he jumped two walls in his garden to escape police. "If I was a little older, I wouldn't have made it."

With juice boxes and teacups scattered over a table, Khan said he had never felt so politically energized and restless.

The students are the most passionate force in society," he said. "It's the idealism of the young. They are the force for change. They have to come out. If you have to give sacrifices, this is the time."

After the protests at LUMS and other schools this past week, an editorial in the English-language daily Dawn declared a "new era of political excitement on campus."

"The students of these elite institutions were least expected to speak up," the editorial said.

Some students, including Samad Khurram, 21, a Harvard junior who by coincidence had returned to his home town of Islamabad this semester to engage in student activism, have started blogs offering students advice on what to do if they are tear-gassed and media contacts in case of arrest, and stressing the importance of wearing closed-toe shoes to protests.

"For so long, students were absent from Pakistan's political life. It's really significant that the students are rising up now," said Khurram, whose blog is called Emergency Telegraph. "These students are going to be leaders of Pakistan."

So far, there has been no violence during the student rallies. Some opposition leaders, including Khan, predicted that the government would lose sympathy among the general population if it cracked down on the students too harshly.

Khan said he had rallied students before, raising money for a state-of-the art cancer hospital he built and named after his mother, who died of the disease after being unable to find the right treatment in Pakistan.

During construction, Khan said, he ran out of funds and called on university students to help raise more than $25 million. The hospital, in Lahore, offers free treatment to patients who cannot afford it, particularly children. Authorities sealed it off last week as part of their bid to capture Khan.

"They created a revolution," Khan said of the students. "Stopped people on streets, asked for money. Within months, not just the money that poured in, but the exposure. They were walking, talking advertisements for the hospital.

"They were all turned into mini-me, mini-Imrans," he said, laughing and adjusting his long flowing shirt. "So it is a force in this country which I have already tapped once. . . . The young have one thing, which is passion and idealism."

Khan said he would not participate in Bhutto's march because he believes she is too deeply involved in a power-sharing deal with Musharraf. He said he would hold a separate protest on campuses in Lahore this coming week.

And many students say they will join him.

In numerous cases, students have joined the protests in defiance of their parents, who have warned them about the potential for arrests and violence.

"I've seen many students suffering from spoiled careers after indulging in politics in their student life," said Malik Aman, a father of two students in Mardan district, near the northwestern city of Peshawar, adding that he was afraid his children would clash with police. "No father wants that."

Fayaz Tahir, a former student leader who led protests against Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq during his 1977-88 rule, said that "today, the world fights a dictator so differently -- with the media, with international pressure."

"But if you add to that even a small movement on campuses," Tahir added, "well, then you will see that Musharraf will have to bow down to demands."

Special correspondent Imtiaz Ali in Peshawar contributed to this report.