Red, White and Black


Black Flag Week: Support the Judiciary
9 March, 2008, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

blackflagweek.gif

From here. And the email forward:

Aitzaz Ahsan has given a call to observe Black Flag Week in Pakistan.
Everyone is requested to show their solidarity for the restoration of
the independent Judiciary in Pakistan. You can watch the message (with
English subtitles) at:
The Emergency Times: http://pakistanmartiallaw.blogspot.com/
Teeth Maestro: http://www.teeth.com.pk/blog/2008/03/07/aitzaz-ahsans-call-for-black-flag-week/

Here are a couple of things you can do:

1) Record a small video of yourself wearing a black flag, black
clothing or even just a black cap and post it on youtube in response
to the Aitzaz’s video message. In the video you should talk about why
you support the restoration of the judiciary.

To respond to the video:
http://www.youtube.com/video_response_upload?v=EOzwt953sTU

If you have trouble uploading the video on youtube please email the
clip to blackflagweek@gmail.com

2) Take a picture of yourself, your friends and/or your family holding
a black flag or wearing black clothes and send it to
blackflagweek@gmail.com. If you are uncomfortable revealing your
identity you can have the picture taken from your backside or cover
your face before taking the picture. You can also help us by taking
pictures of your friends, family members, relatives and others who may
not be able to take pictures

3) Take part in the events that observe the Black Flag Day in your
cities. You can get information about the major events at:
http://blackflagweek.blogspot.com/

If your event is not shown on this blog please email
blackflagweek@gmail.com with details of the event and it will be
updated shortly.

4) Attached is a picture that you should use as your facebook, orkut
and myspace picture for till Sunday, March 16, 2008.

5) You can use many variations of a black flag. Suggestions include
black armbands, headbands, stickers, caps, headscarfs, etc.

6) Please encourage your friends, family, teachers and everyone else
you know to participate in the Black Flag Week. The biggest strength
to the campaign would be pictures and videos.

7) Please forward this email to as many people as you know to make
this campaign a success. You can also inform them of this campaign
through facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=22589890270

In solidarity,
Samad



What Next?
19 February, 2008, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Around 3 months ago, I had made a post on this blog calling for a boycott of the elections. The post was made when the civil society movement was at its highest and the political parties were toying with the idea of a boycott to pressurize Musharraf. I got a number of comments on that post, but owing to the necessities of academic work, I was never able to reply to them.

One of the main reasons, I had supported the call for boycott was that I was certain that under the pro-Musharraf setup, elections would be massively rigged and that the issues of the judiciary and media’s independence would not be addressed. I was also disappointed by the fact that PML-N (at that time) and PPP were not taking a strong stance in support of the civil society and the lawyer’s movements. I had hoped that if a society-wide boycott could be engineered, it would sound death for Musharraf and his cronies.

Did my position change in the post-Dec 27 world? I don’t think so; I still retained the principled stance of the boycott. But the events witnessed over the past 48 hours do shed a different light on the entire set up.

Continue reading



Boycott
4 December, 2007, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Boycott the Elections. Stay at home.

media-campaign-poster-v4-copy.jpg

Can you? [Access full size here, as I can’t get the wordpress editor to process a full image.]



The question of the nukes
19 November, 2007, 1:36 am
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Our esteemed President declared two days ago:

“Allow me to stay in power, or else the nukes go into the militants hands. Only I (Repeat I), can safeguard the nukes. The west has a choice. Me or nuclear talibans.”

Good God. On Friday, at a panel discussion we organised at Kroc on the state of emergency in Pakistan, 2 friends and I spent the latter part of the discussion arguing that the nukes were NOT a danger to the West. That fears of OBL getting his hands on them were plain paranoia. That it was more important to root for civil and human rights, for democracy and for an open society than harp around the dangers of nuclear proliferation and AlQaeda (which sadly ended up being the hot topic, but more on that some other day!). But no, that is what they are most concerned about here in the US! Pakistan’s nukes and what do you do when your dear President offers such statements of confidence?! Oh, the MFoA says:

Meanwhile in Islamabad, the Foreign Office clarified certain reports of President Musharraf saying the country’s nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands. The FO spokesperson said in a statement, “The report is a complete distortion of the president’s interview. Contrary to the report, President Musharraf had reiterated that the nuclear weapons could not fall into wrong hands.” The spokesperson said, “He had argued that because the military organisation is responsible for their safety and security, our strategic assets are secure and in no danger of falling into wrong hands.”

Yeah right.

The top NYT story yesterday was US Sceretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms!

And oh, before I get back to work:

A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said. If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agreed to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said. [Here]

Charming proposal.



Gagging the Media
6 November, 2007, 12:03 am
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Provided here are the two ordinances which were issued by the government which put severe restrictions on both broadcasting televisions and the print media.

PEMRA Ordinance

Press Ordinance.

And its Day 4 of the media blackout. All hail the regime.

I had planned to write this long invective against the rattling events of the past 2 days, but I am too tired. So I will just leave this apt Faiz ghazal:



Updates on civil society activism
5 November, 2007, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Following the events covered in my last post, below are some updates on the developing situation. Most of these updates have been compiled from the LUMS email network.

Daily Times carried this story yesterday on the HRCP arrests:

The police locked up the others at Model Town police station, while former finance minister Dr Mubashir Hasan, among the participants at the meeting, has reportedly been released. Sources said the arrested people were forced to sign a statement declaring that they would not participate in any “anti-state” activity in future. Reporters were kept in a police prisoners van for more than 40 minutes and released only after showing identification cards. Meanwhile, over 150 activists, relatives of arrested persons, journalists, students and teachers of LUMS, BNU and GCU remain gathered outside Model Town Police Station. They also lit candles as a symbol of hope. Sources said intelligence reports had revealed the people were arrested because they were planning protests along with lawyers. Later on Sunday night, the authorities considered to keep the detainees at the police station, and later also thought of keeping them for a 30-day period. After a one-hour talk, however, police decided that the detainees would be released today (Monday), on an understanding that those arrested would not participate in “anti-state” activities in future, or else the government would not show any leniency. The government decided that the detainees be shifted to three different houses, chosen by them, to serve as sub-jails. Two houses would be reserved for the women.

This is the update received through the LUMS network:

Dear All

Proceedings have just been adjourned at the Model Town Kachehri where the participants from yesterdays Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) meeting who had been arrested and now detained for over twenty-four hours,were presented before a magistrate. I have just spoken to Mr. Abid HassanMinto and Khawaja Harris Ahmed – who had rushed to the court in order to represent the detainees. They have told me that the detainees have been charged for unlawful assembly (Section 144 Pakistan Penal Code) and Section16 of the Maintenance of Public Order law which illegalizes endangering
public safety and inciting violence. The magistrate refused to admit bail applications today and adjourned proceedings till tomorrow. Meanwhile, the detainees have now been sent to Kot Lakhpat Jail for the night. Let us remember them and their families in our thoughts and prayers tonight. I will keep you updated.

Osama Siddique

The LUMS administration has issued a formal protests at the arrests. It can be accessed here.

Below is an update on LHC protests by the lawyers, where they were joined by some LUMS faculty and students:

Yesterday around 35 students and a couple of faculty members of this university, on their own decision, went to the Lahore High Court(LHC) to register their protest against the suspension of civil and political liberties. For those who dont yet know about the proceedings here is a synopsis.

After raising slogans against the current regime, more than a thousand lawyers tried to move on to the mall road to protest. The police outside the main gate baton charged the lawyers and tear gased them. Some lawyers hurled back stones in retaliation. In response, a major tear gas-baton charge operation took place which forced everyone to take refuge inside buildings such as the cafeteria, bar hall, medical centre, and the library.

The police, breaking all rules and laws, proceeded inside the LHC premises and in a brutal assult broke into each and every building one by one, breaking doors and windows, and beat up anyone they say including ladies and elderly lawyers. Two of our students were kicked, slapped, and roughed up during this operation. Despite Dr. Pervaiz Hassans insistance that the police cannot enter into a medical facility no matter what, abusive plainclothes and baton weilding police broke down the door and entered. Dr Pervaiz Hassan was dragged out. The brave man was arrested defending the seriously injured people inside.

Meanwhile most of the lums groups was inside a tiny room in the medical centre after barely escaping baton charging fanatics by mere feets in the bar hall. After arresting Dr. Pervaiz Hassan, the policemen broke down the door to our room. After long protests, we were finally let out, forced to raise our hands as if we were prisoners of war and led out while policemen standing around threw verbal abuses at us. However, once the media got hold of the fact that we were students, it created a weird buzz that resulted in us standing on one side of the main gate. This happened momments before all of us were loaded into vans with the lawyers.

The concessions given to us did not change the fact that many already injured and bleading lawyers were being dragged and beaten brutaly infont of our eyes even after being arrested. The police also hit an ex lady judge of the high court on the head with a baton and then later did not even let her treat it in the medical centre. According to conservatice estimates more than half of the lawyers present were arrested.

It was a sad and shameful day for the country!

Karachi Metblogs reported on the civil society protest in Karachi at the Karachi Press Club here.



Now the civil society…
4 November, 2007, 4:37 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Just received this from the LUMS alumni mailing list:

LUMS Professors Dr. Ali Cheema (Rhodes scholar, Econ phd from Cambridge,and one of Pakistan’s most notable economists, with whom I had the pleasure of working after the tragic earthquake in Kashmir in Oct 05) and Bilal Minto (Lawyer, teaches Pakistani Legal System) have been arrested while INDOORS.. I think they were organizing a protest for tomorrow. I was talking to another LUMS professor and he told me around 10 pm Sunday, 4 Nov 2007 that he was standing with around a 100 people holding candles, outside the Model Town police station in Lahore and that police were asking the people arrested to sign some document. I don’t know what this document said but they police were insisting the protesters sign it and they were refusing.

Asim Sajjad (teaches History of De-colonization etc) being arrested (in pic) here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21622463/displaymode/1176/rstry/21609019/

At the moment, private television channels are shut down, the Supreme Court bar has been removed along with the CJ, Musharraf’s cronies have been placed on the bench, opposition leaders are being arrested as are human rights activist, lawyers and professors.

Since private channels are shut down, here are some ways to get information:

GEO’s Stream is available here: mms://203.128.14.5
Al-Jazeera English News Stream is available here: http://www.jumptv.com/en/channel/aljazeerainternatio nal/
(set the video to lowest quality)

SPREAD THE WORD!

Also see. And.

These protests will only work when people come out in hundreds and not the tens. It will be interesting to see the police attempting to arrest a crowd of 200,000 peaceful protesters. Question is can such a protest be pulled off?

On a tangent, it is surreal to witness all of these developments from so far off. I never thought that it would come down to this. God help us.

In other news, GEO reports that public gatherings and protests have been banned by the government. So all the more incentive to gather a large number of people.



After the emergency…
3 November, 2007, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

This quotation has been residing on my study table for 2 months now. Figured this might be a good time to share it:

Even the seemingly impregnable dictatorships can be swept aside when the governed refuse to be ruled. ( David Cortight, Gandhi and Beyond: Non-violence for the Age of Terrorism, p. 193).

hmm?



The Swat Imbroglio
3 November, 2007, 1:30 am
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Things have not been getting any better in Swat. By the looks of it we are going to have a Lal-Masjid-esque fiasco on our hands, again. Dawn today carried an excellent analysis of the situation in Swat. It can be read here. Some highlights:

The gem of Pakistan’s tourism that once attracted tourists from all over the world, with its roads meandering the mountainous region along the River Swat, has been swarmed with Jihadists and Islamists of all hues and shades, spearheaded by a cleric who rules the airwaves.

The problem in Swat and much of Malakand that encompasses the districts of Lower and Upper Dir, Buner, Shangla and Chitral, has been festering since 1994, when the now-defunct Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) mounted its first rebellion against the state and demanded the enforcement of Sharia in the region.

The rebellion was put down by a combination of force and political means. The problem, however, continued to simmer. Almost five years later, in 1999, the NWFP government promulgated the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation that provided for the establishment of the courts of district Qazis in place of district judges, which some believed at the time merely a change of just nomenclature than one of substance.

That, however, was not the only contributing factor to the rise of the TNSM in the region at the expense of Jamaat-i-Islami that considered Malakand as its stronghold. There were other factors as well, say the analysts, including the growing resentment amongst landless peasants against the local Khans, the huge trading community and those involved in smuggling of tax-free vehicles, to gravitate towards a movement that considered all forms of taxes un-Islamic in a region that has remained outside the ambit of taxes since the abolition of princely state and its merger into Pakistan in 1969.

The TNSM ranks and file have been infiltrated, and, according to some analysts, even led by hardcore Jihadists and militants from banned outfits who have set up their own shops and training camps in the mountainous region.

The first tell-tale sign of the militants’ presence emerged in December, 2004, when, according to security officials, militants from a banned Jihadi outfit robbed a bank in Matta. Police gave them a chase and eventually got hold of them with the help of villagers. The outfit came to be known as the ‘Peochar Group’, named after the area of their operation in Matta.

On November 9, 2006, a suicide bomber blew himself up at an army recruitment centre in Dargai in Malakand, killing 42 recruits. Investigators following a lead traced the bombing to the Peochar Group. Several arrests were made but its ring leader, a cleric, remains at large.

The district coordination officers have no legal authority to exercise powers with regards to maintenance of law and order. The elected district mayors are reluctant and too weak to take on militants while the risk of violence spilling over into the adjoining districts in Malakand looms large. There is no coordination between the nazims on the one hand, with two of them already having left their areas because of security concerns, and the district coordination officers and district police officers on the other, leaving home secretary and the provincial chief to resolve the issue.

The fact of the matter is that Fazullah has Swat by the throat. The past few days have seen two fatal attacks on the defense establishment of the country in Rawalpindi and Sargodha. The frequency of such attacks has been alarming and it is directly correlated to the deteriorating situation in the North West of the country. Over a month ago, close to 300 soldiers were taken hostage in Waziristan. They are still being held. In recent days, we have seen public beheadings of security personnel. Today, it is reported that 48 paramilitary men haver surrendered voluntarily in Swat to Fazullah’s men:

Some of the released militiamen said they had been treated well by the militants and they would not return to their force.

“We had no option but to surrender because we were running short of food and there was no reinforcement in sight,” said Rizwan, a militiaman hailing from Tank.

Another militiaman said some of their colleagues had escaped before they were captured by the militants.

Note, the report says that before releasing the miltiamen, the militants gave them a stipend of Rs. 500 to travel back to their homes! Another report states that they surrendered because they didn’t want to fight their Muslim brethren and they wanted to save the local population from attacks from the militants.

These developments lead to two critical conclusions:

  1. The writ of the state is dead. Absolutely dead. The state ignored the crisis to such a point that it is unmanageable now. Now the state flounders. The traditional policy of half a step forward and two backward is in action again.
  2. The moral of the military forces is going down. They received quite a reception upon their arrival in Swat. They have been systematically targeted since then.The local population has been fleeing. How do you continue to enforce counter-insurgency operations in the light of such developments?

The question that should then posed is this: how do you get out of this royal mess? There are no simple answers. You do need swift coordinated military action to take out the leadership of the militants, i.e. Fazullah. But what do you do about the support that he has amassed in the region? It does not help when none of the mainstream political actors are unwilling to condemn the incidents and to coordinate alternative for his support base. The damage that has been done by Fazullah cannot be undone overnight – so the prime goal at this stage has to be the re-establishment of the writ of the state in the valley, at minimal cost. That is going to be a very fine line to walk and it will not be easy to rally the troops in the light of recent events.

Another important issue is coming to head now: how do you address the growing divide in society? Perhaps, I need to rephrase that. How do you get the government to acknowledge that there is such a problem? In the absence of reformative measures, doomsday scenarios will come true. Civil conflict will become rife and spread out of the north-west. The days are not good for Pakistan and they are not going to get any better. Prepare yourself.

*sigh*



Is there a silver lining?
27 October, 2007, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

Lately, all news that has poured in from back home has been anything but normal. Actually it hasn’t even come close to being normal. And it has been depressing. Very. Just 9 days ago Benazir’s political convoy was brutally attacked. A carnival was turned into a bloodbath.

I keep asking myself: who would do this? To kill a politician is nothing new, history is full of countless assassinations – but you know what was different in all of those incidents? Of course, you do. All the other incidents attacked one particular person. They specifically targeted one individual. They did not attack packed crowd of hundreds of thousands to kill one individual.

They did not aim to take close to 140 lives.

They did not mean to put in the agony the lives of another 500.

How do you explain it to someone? How do you explain it to yourself? What force could be so potent that it would compel someone to undertake such carnage? I have been a firm believer that incidents of religious extremism owe this roots to social and economic grievances. But I am hard pressed to explain this incident through that perspective. I have to tell myself that the person who carried it out was brainwashed to such an extent that he believed he was doing humanity a great favor by killing 140 innocent human beings? Sure, so the individual who carried out the attack was under adverse influence? But what about those very sane and rational individuals who planned it? What did they tell themselves? That they were attacking a stooge of the US or that they were attacking a woman who had dared to defy their notions of a woman’s position in Islam by venturing into politics? What motivated them?

I don’t know.

The trouble is that you cannot even begin unraveling this riddle unless you know why such acts are perpetrated. The solution to such a problem will not and cannot come solely in the form of a physical response. The solution will only become visible when you begin to address the structural dynamics of the problem. Only when you begin to understand and nullify the whys of the problem.

Rant over I suppose.

ps. What will become of your country when the ruling party, nay your very Prime Minister, visits Nine-Zero (yes, the very same) to devise a broad-based coalition for the upcoming elections? Of course, May 12 just happened and these guys weren’t involved.

pps. What will become of your country when BB insists that she has not cut any deal with the government, but is merely negotiating to assist “transition to democracy? Yes, we believe you. Just like we believe that you did not swindle $1.5 billion to your cosy little Swiss account. Yes, we do.

ppps. What will become of your country when beheadings of this sort begin taking place every other day in one of the most beautiful valleys of the country? And you know what the best part is? We let that one mullah develop his clout and decimate the area with his venom for over an year before we thought: oh shit! The government obviously had better fish to fry in the meantime.

pppps. I suppose the rant really is over now. Sorry.