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.
For Pakistani Students, a Reawakening: 'We Can't Just Sit Idle'
Long-Depoliticized Campuses Stirred Into Action by Military Government's Declaration of Emergency
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.