Anj — Pakistan /Journalists "Black Day"

Topic(s): Pakistan | Comments Off on Anj — Pakistan /Journalists "Black Day"

Thanks to Beena for this …
The papers are full of news of protests all over the country — and police brutality. The tempo is picking up as the PPP weighs in. Today’s News carried a front page picture of police attacking a PPP demonstrator, the force of the blow breaking the stick on the man’s back.
PPP is going ahead with it’s protest tomorrow, which the PFUJ has also declared as a “Black Day” after unsuccessful negotiations with the government (the Federal Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani and Secretary Information Anwar Mahmood). Their four demands are: withdrawal of the two amended Ordinances against print and electronic media, resumption of tv news channels and FM-radio; action against police officials responsible for manhandling journalists: withdrawal of notices against two newspapers under PPO-2007: and immediate appointment of the Chairman Implementation Tribunal for Newspapers Employees. Besides “Black Day” on Friday, PFUJ members will boycott officials functions, hold protest camps Nov 14-17, Global Action Day Nov 15, and countrywide demonstration on Nov 20.
Besides CNBC-Pakistan and Business Plus (yesterday) BBC and CNN are back on air in Pakistan, as well as Indus Vision. The govt wants the electronic media bosses to accept certain conditions before they’ll let them broadcast news. Channels like Geo, Aaj & ARY are till holding out, despite huge revenue losses. Business, sports
and entertainment have been allowed but not for these channels.
Today AFP reported from Lahore that the anti-terrorist court has
freed 300 lawyers on bail – this is a total falsehood as the bail
hearing has been fixed for Nov 10th. So someone is spreading
misinformation. Only two women were released.
Ali Cheema on NPR – recently released activist (and economist at
LUMS) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16107657
(thanks Ayesha)
>From Omar Khan in the Bay area: Commentary and Pak-American reaction
to the crisis from Jaiza. We will continue to post reactions across
the U.S. on both Youtube and www.jaiza.com

Below, a comment I wrote (unpublished), please don’t circ for a couple of days. thanks
November 7, 2007
Pakistan `Emergency’: A preemptive strike, collateral damage, and
Beena Sarwar
The first reaction was that of disbelief, quickly followed by
outrage. We had been hearing rumours of an impending emergency for
several days, but few thought that President Gen. Pervez Musharraf
would actually go that far. In the end though, it should not have
come as a surprise. After all, he had nothing to lose but his chair.
And the `kursi’ as we all know in Southasia, is all important for the
one that has it.
Hanging on to the kursi, the chair, by any means possible takes
precedence over institutions or democracy for many of our political
leaders. Why should President General Pervez Musharraf be any
different — especially when he has two chairs to protect? When it
became clear that the case regarding his presidential nomination,
filed while he was still army chief, pending before the Supreme Court
would not go in his favour, he went for a swift preemptive strike,
targeting the only government institution that stood in his way, the
higher judiciary. The collateral damage is going to be heavy in terms
of democracy in this country.
Since he made the pronouncement as Chief of Army Staff (rather than
as President), critics are terming the move as a martial law, rather
than the more innocuous sounding `emergency’. In a televised address
to the nation, Musharraf chose to wear a black `sherwani’ rather than
a western suit or his military uniform. With a picture of Pakistan’s
founding father on the wall behind him and a Pakistani flag on the
other side, he explained his reasons. The spread of `religious
militancy’ and violence coupled by the counter-productive stand taken
by the higher judiciary left him with no choice but to take this
painful step.
The negativity of the judiciary has included their taking up cases of
hundreds of `disappeared’ people, in which the bench made the
unprecedented move of summoning the heads of the powerful
intelligence agencies and other high officials to court to account
for these missing people. Since many of the `disappeared’ have been
whisked away supposedly because they were engaged in terrorist
activities, this countered the military’s fight against the US-
led `war on terror’. However, many political observers believe that
the real reason for the imposition of the emergency was the soon-to-
be announced Supreme Court judgment regarding Musharraf’s
presidential nomination, which was expected to go against him.
Interestingly, other all government institutions are kept intact —
the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies, as well as
the Senate. The offices of the Prime Minister, all four provincial
governors and chief ministers remain functional. But the judiciary is
in tatters. The judges who refused to take fresh oath under the
Provisional Constitutional Order proclaiming the `emergency’ were
promptly dismissed. These included of course the troublesome Supreme
Court judges who were hearing the presidential nomination case. The
judges refused to accept this. An emergency bench of the Supreme
Court ruled against the PCO and directed the government not to heed
State force was then used to physically remove these courageous
judges from the Supreme Court premises. They have been placed under
house arrest. The provincial Chief Justices and high court judges are
also confined to their houses. The leaders of the `lawyers’ movement
are behind bars. This is the movement that Pakistani lawyers
sustained for over four months, supported by civil society, when
Musharraf first suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry in March
this year on charges of misuse of authority.
The detained lawyers include the star of the lawyers’ movement, the
charismatic, recently elected Supreme Court Bar Association President
Aitzaz Ahsan. The government has placed Ahsan in isolation in the
notorious Adiala jail, where Faiz Ahmed Faiz and his co-accused were
held in the Pindi Conspiracy Case. Ahsan’s predecessor as SCBA
President, Munir A. Malik and another former SCBA President are also
in prison.
The new chief justice hastily sworn in by the uniformed Musharraf has
since declared that as the judiciary had to take fresh oath under the
PCO, the bench which ruled against the PCO was in any case invalid
and therefore so was its ruling.
A large number of Pakistan’s lawyers and judges have refused to
accept this verdict — and the offending PCO. They are once again for
the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry. They refuse to
recognize the judges who have taken oath under the PCO. The deposed
judges also refused to accept their dismissal and resolved to enter
their chambers on Monday. Police prevented some of them, like the
Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court Sabihuddin Ahmed, from leaving
their homes in the morning. Those who reached the courts were
escorted back to their homes by the police. The lawyers who had
gathered there to support them paid a heavy price for their defiance—
hundreds were severely beaten up by the police all over the country,
hauled off to police stations. Many face charges under anti-terrorist
However, they are not alone in their defiance. They are joined by all
those groups and individuals who have for decades been fighting for
democracy in Pakistan. There is outrage among civil and human rights
activists who stand for peace and democracy — artists, economists,
teachers, development consultants, and journalists.
Apparently the threat from this quarter is so great that it warrants
police breaking into an NGO office and arresting all those present,
as happened at the office of the independent Human Rights Commission
of Pakistan on Sunday. A large number of human rights activists were
meeting to discuss the situation. Police smashed their way in,
rounded up everyone present and carted them off to the Model Town
police station. They must be appreciated for chivalrously having
given the women the opportunity to leave. More laudable was the
stance of the women, who refused the kind offer. But then, they
included long time activists like Salima Hashmi and Lala Rukh, both
artists and art teachers, and educationist Samina Rehman — and that
is what one would expect of them. Another prominent woman, the
celebrated activist Asma Jahangir who is also the HRCP chairperson,
was already under house arrest, served with a notice of 90 days.
In the First Information Report (FIR) against the activists, police
claimed that they were creating a public disturbance outside the HRCP
office. Such falsehoods are common in FIRs, and they appear to be
particularly common in these trying times. The FIR against
journalists arrested outside the Karachi Press Club on Monday
describes them as `hardened’ criminals. Police produced them before
court in handcuffs later that day.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has termed the
repression as the worst since the Zia days. The journalist body has
given the government 48 hours to withdraw the two new ordinances
promulgated to control the electronic and the print media. After
that, warns PFUJ, its members will observe a `black day’ and boycott
government functions.
For the first time in decades, college students have joined this
struggle. With them are hundreds of young `techies’ who are posting
out photos, video and testimonies on the web and networking around
the globe to get the message across, that the `emergency’ is
unacceptable. People are going to the homes of the dismissed judges
to leave bunches of flowers (prevented in some cases by the police
guard outside). Activists are wearing black bands and holding `flash
protests’ and vigils around the country. And all over the world,
outraged Pakistani expatriates, traditionally a pretty apolitical
lot, are holding protests in front of the Pakistan embassies and
consulates — from Hong Kong to London, New York to San Francisco.
And in Washington, in front of the White House, that has stood by
Musharraf unconditionally, merely giving him a rap on the knuckles
for this latest transgression by loudly condemning the emergency and
detentions on the one hand, and vowing to stand by him on the other.