Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Struggle for a New Pakistan in the Shadow of Tyranny

A combination of distractions had kept me away from this blog for a few months despite having queued up a number of things I had been meaning to write about such as a piece on Quarratulain Hyder and one on Pakistani writers in English. Depressed by the shenanigans of BB and the politicians, NRO and the sham Presidential elections I just couldn't muster the enthusiasm to even consider writing about Paksitan but then ----

this past Saturday Musharraf defaulted to a state of naked tyranny, declaring a martial law, decapitating the independent judiciary, killing off the independent media and declaring open war on all forces of civility, honor and decency in the country. For a few days I was just glued to Geo TV (which Pakistanis are deprived of) in a virtual state of shock. I still find the hubris, "beghairati" and gall of Musharraf's actions hard to believe. But there it was, Jinnah's Pakistan reduced to worse than a banana republic by a tinpot despot given too much rope by a short-sighted American government.

But now is the not the time to dwell on how we got here. Now is the time to take an uncompromisingly clear position: these actions of a self-styled savior, supported by his political minions and cowardly, kleptocratic generals will not be allowed to stand. If there is a silver lining to this tragedy, it is in the pictures of resistance that are pouring out of Pakistan. The country should be justifiably proud of its judges, lawyers, human rights activists and students who are showing tremendous courage and paying a steep price for their honorable resistance to tyranny. They are Pakistan's heroes and it fills my heart with joy to know that the country has so many sons and daughters who are willing to pay the price of liberty, even in the complete absence of credible and principled political leadership. It is now up to all Pakistanis and their well wishers to support these heroes with everything at their command to return Pakistan to full constitutional democracy and to send the forces of military dictatorship back to their appointed role under the Constitution.
Here are a few things I want to post as resources that may be helpful to those who get to this blog:

1) Live audio and video streams of GEO TV:

2) Collection of invaluable information on Martial Law 2007 with news, petitions, campaigns, testaments, images, details on detainees and more:

3) Teeth Maestro's Blog which according to the NY Times has become a "hive of information for the resistance" at (LUMS protest, Imran Khan's video from an undisclosed location,'s petition etc.)

4) "The Emergency Times" blog with details on student resistance and protests on college campuses including LUMS, Punjab University, FAST etc.)

5) Another great source of aggregated information on the Pakistan crisis and its global coverage

6) Another petition organized by a group called "We oppose emergency in Pakistan"

7) The following letter was sent by the South Asian American Forum to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate:
November 6, 2007

Dear Member of Congress:

South Asian American Forum Action Fund ("SAAF Action Fund"), affiliated with the South Asian American Forum, a legally registered, bipartisan political action committee consisting of community and business leaders united behind a progressive policy platform, strongly condemns the actions of General Pervez Musharraf and his government for what is, in effect, a second Martial Law imposed by the General who took over the country in a coup in 1999. We urge the US government and elected officials to call for an immediate return to full Constitutional Democracy in Pakistan.

On Saturday November 3, 2007, General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan as well as its Chief of the Army Staff, declared a state of emergency and issued a "Provisional Constitutional Order" (PCO). Under this PCO, General Musharraf suspended that country's 1973 Constitution depriving the people of Pakistan of their fundamental rights and preventing the actions of his government to be challenged in the Courts. The justices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan were ordered to take a fresh oath to abide by the PCO. The Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and seven other justices issued their own legal order calling General Musharraf's declaration of emergency unlawful and urged military officials not to act on unlawful orders. General Musharraf then dismissed Chief Justice Chaudhry and in his place swore in a pro-Musharraf member of the Supreme Court as the new Chief Justice.

In addition, all independent and international TV channels in Pakistan were forced off the air by the government. Thousands of civil society activists and lawyers have been arrested, including the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Chairman of the Supreme Court Bar Association. Interestingly, even though General Musharraf suspended the country's Constitution after declaring emergency and fired the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he did not dissolve the pro-Musharraf Parliament. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, announced on State TV on Sunday that the parliamentary elections due in January 2008 could be postponed by up to a year under the PCO.

Specifically, we urge you to support the following measures towards restoration of full Constitutional Democracy in Pakistan:

1) Immediate revocation of the state of emergency and the PCO and re-establishment of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan

2) Reinstatement of Justice Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the reinstatement of all supreme and high court judges who have refused to take oath under the PCO (Justice Chaudhry was dismissed by General Musharraf in March of this year and was later reinstated as Chief Justice by the Supreme Court's special bench)

3) Timely return of the normal constitutional process by regular dissolution of the Parliament and provincial assemblies and holding of free and fair elections under a neutral caretaker administration supervised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. These elections are to be held by January 2008 at the latest under Pakistan's Constitution

4) Active participation of all political parties and their leaders in the new parliamentary elections

5) Election for the President of Pakistan by the new parliament and provincial assembliesThe

United States and its people have always stood for freedom and democracy around the world. In addition, we believe that in the long term the fight against terrorism will be ill served by backing governments that take away democratic rights from their people. The situation today in Pakistan is such that the US government is stuck dealing with a single individual and is not being seen as a friend of the country or the democratic aspirations of its people. Pakistan remains a front line ally in the War on Terror but we believe that only a democratic government with its roots in the people of Pakistan can effectively fight terrorism while reducing the acute political uncertainties gripping the country. The US government and Members of Congress should act to push for the re-establishment of full Constitutional Democracy in Pakistan.

1 comment:

Zakintosh said...

Thanks for such a comprehensive post.