Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Dark Day in Pakistan's History - Karachi Burning

The details emerging out of Pakistan are still somewhat sketchy but some facts are clear; more than 30 people are dead and over 115 injured. The CJ was unable to address the Sindh Bar Association and was forced to go back to Islamabad and the private television station Aaj TV, which has been in the forefront of covering pro-judiciary and anti-Musharraf protests, was attacked by armed gunmen. This is indeed another dark day in the checkered political history of Pakistan. It is now well past time for the shameful Musharraf regime to go. This illegal government has now lost the last shreds of moral authority required to govern. I salute the men and women of the civil society of Pakistan and the courageous independent media who are leading this struggle for the supremacy of the law and freedom of expression at grave risk to their life and limb.

As tragic and sad as today's events in Karachi are, this political moment is of historic import for the people of Pakistan and even on this day of darkness I see some hope for a better future. Since the sacking of the CJP on March 9th, the heroic struggle of the lawyers has germinated greater democratic desire and decisively strengthened Pakistan's civil society and its beleagured independent media. In the face of relentless governmental coercion there have been heartwarming displays of peaceful resistance, none more evident than in the historic journey of Justice Chaudhry through the heart of Punjab. Those in Pakistan and abroad who desire an eventual constitutional democratic polity rooted in a rule of law have to be encouraged by these developments. The conclusion of this episode, however, remains highly uncertain because no political sagacity can be expected from those who have brought us to this pass.

This grassroots peoples' movement has also forced the politicians of all hues to make a choice; they either stand on the side of the rule of law or for the perpetuation of a dangerously unstable, one-man military banana republic. Mainstream politicians (despite all their historical shortcomings) clearly seem to grasp the national mood and the King's men who are standing up for the present dispensation to save their personal fiefdoms will hopefully pay a steep price whenever they face the electorate in a fair election. MQM more clearly exposed itself today than it ever has in its sordid history (thanks to private TV channels). The party that started with great hopes, rooted in the educated middle classes has over the years just become a collection of vicious thugs. It is wielding its fascistic tactics on behalf of people who seem to believe they have a divine right to perpetual power and who originally nurtured this party as a counterweight to PPP. MQM has shown itself the mirror image of the worst of MMA; both groups want people to acquiesce to their ideologies by force. Neither believes in nor has any fundamental respect for a constitutional rule of law.

Pakistan stands at a critical juncture as it has so many times in its unfortunate 60 year independent history. I would urge all Pakistanis and their well wishers to lend thier support to the struggle of Pakistan's revitalized civil society. Let's hope that the forces of peaceful democratic activism led by the country's courageous lawyers ultimately emerge victorious and we can close this latest chapter of the military's recurring era of authoritarian and unconstitutional misrule without further human suffering.

6 comments:

Zakintosh said...

The Aaj TV saga was the weirdest real-life drama I have ever watched. For a TV station to be under siege and attack before the eyes of a million viewers and for the situation to continue worsening for 7+ hours without any response to the calls for help was mindnumbing.

I 'messaged' several influential friends fairly early, expressing my disbelief, and the most common response was on the order of "So, what's new?"...

The government has 'condemned the attack and promised to investigate', just as it did when 6 policemen ransacked the offices of Geo TV - again in full view of an audience. So far there has been no report on who ordered that action, although it should have taken less than 15 minutes to ask the policemen and to retrace the orders to the original source, if different from the investigators.

It is certainly time for an end to this chapter of the continuing farce of Pakistan.

Fawad said...

Zakintosh,

Thanks for your comments as always. It must really cause pain to Karachiites to see their city turned into an ethno-political cauldron once again. I sincerely hope that Karachi does not return to its dark days. What surprised and encouraged me today was the number of Urdu-speaking Karachiites who expressed their deep anger at MQM on the "All Things Pakistan" blog. I am not sure how representative an English blog site is of the general sentiment but it would be interesting to hear what Karachiites generally symathetic to MQM really feel.

Anonymous said...

Well posted Fawad, had posted comments on your previous article right after this happened and see that u may not have read or commented on that.

The time is right for the President to avert the approaching doom, step forward admit his lack of judgment in sacking the CJ and mend his ways, believe me he will go down a hero.

For this as Eqbal Ahmed put it 'Read and intervene, don't just become consumers of knowledge' - I urge you to get the message through Bilal Musharaf to his father, as he probably listens to no one else (he has shown that). This matter is too big for silence, it will not go away. The good general must see the folly in his ways and Bilal may be ours (and 160 million Pakistanis) only hope in stopping this madness in Pakistan, else countless children will be orphaned and a hundred Edhi drivers burnt alive.

Pls post your decision on the blog, here is a moment, you a thinking person must show that you can act. You are doing an outstanding job by articulating your thoughts and saving this for our children who may never know what u and I felt and, thought and what we said- you are saving history for posterity.

But the day you put the blog on the web, it’s not yours, so listen and act. I apologize if I am being presumptuous and assume that you have not already done so. But I believe Bilal is an honorable man so he would act. If you are already doing so pls post on your blog. Else we the reading public will continue to ask this of you. As the net is not yours and this blog is not yours...its ours, you are just a historian.

God bless you and keep posting.

Albela Rahi

Fawad said...

Anonymous,

I appreciate your kind words about the blog but given your specific comments about a personal relationship I believe it would have been more appropriate if you had revealed your identity.

However, here is my response: I am personally acquainted with General Musharraf's son. In our few interactions he has been personally cordial with me and my family but has never asked for my views on the Pakistani political landscape or expressed his own views. I am a passionate believer in freedom of expression and publicly state my views as candidly as I can on my blog and any other outlets that will publish me. However, I do not believe in personal moral heckling. Every private individual is answerable to their own conscience. It is through my public writings that I hope to influence as many people as possible to see things my way.

albela rahi said...

Fawad,

Wonderful response. I was not at all insinuatiing any form of personal moral heckling, which I too believe is wrong. But I do take your point and will find another avenue to channel the humble suggestions.

Take care,

Albela Rahi

Fawad said...

Albela Rahi,

Thanks for your kind acknowledgment of my reponse. I appreciate your coming to the blog, thoughtfully engaging with the content and caring about making a better Pakistan a reality.

Regards