Archive for Karachi

Celebrating Jalib: Main Nay Kaha

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2008 by Umer

“Main Nay Kaha” is a satirical poem by the famous leftist poet Habib Jalib called “Musheer” (Advisor). Jalib wrote it in response to a conversation he had with Hafiz Jalandari during the time of Ayub Khan’s dictatorship. It remains just as fresh and valid today.

This poem has been put to music by Laal (Shahram Azhar & Taimur Rahman) a new Pakistani music group dedicated to resistance music and poetry. Shahram Azhar and Taimur Rahman are also political activists of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party and their poetry, music, and activism constitute an integrated whole the essence of which is always revolutionary. The CMKP has been an integral part of the lawyers movement and the movement for democracy in Pakistan.

The music video contains real images of events in Karachi, London, and Lahore during the tumultuous period between December 27th and February 18th. The song and video were recorded on a shoe-string budget of one session each.

This video and song are connected to a documentary on a journey through a life-changing period in the history of Pakistan. The journey begins in Pakistan on the eve of the assassination of Benazir and the ensuing grief, violence, and carnage. The film maker travels to London to discover a group of young activists organizing protests against Emergency rule. Following these activists full circle to Pakistan, the documentary captures the events around the 2008 elections. The film thus captures a moment in the life of Pakistan, from Benazir’s assassination to the elections, through the lens of young activists. The documentary by Widei Films will also be released shortly.

Habib Jalib – Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha
Shahram Azhar – Vocals
Taimur Rahman – Music
Mahvash Waqar – Backing Vocals
Taimur Khan – Director Producer
Dita Peskova – Assistant Director
Jamie Mill – Recording Director
Laal & Taimur Khan – Music Producer
WIDEi Films – Production Company

Karachi Arrests: Personal Account

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , on November 22, 2007 by Umer

On 20th November, around 180 journalists were arrested in Karachi while they were protesting outside the press club against the military dictatorship. They were released after a few hours of detention.

I am posting here a personal account of one of my friends who was amongst those arrested on 20th of November at Karachi. Her story is a testimony to the high spirits of the popular resistance movement against the military rule.

Long Live the Revolution!

Dear all,

First off, the funny part: All the journalists arrested (and later released) in Karachi yesterday have been charged with “rioting, creating [a] law and order situation, encounter, kidnapping and attempt to murder.” ATTEMPT TO MURDER!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Attempt to murder what? Musharraf’s hegemony? HELL yeah, baby! 😛
Okay, here’s what happened yesterday:

The rally

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) had called for a peaceful demonstration at 03:00 Tuesday (yesterday) outside the Karachi Press Club. The purpose was to demand the freedom of the Press, etc. Please note, all of us were totally unarmed, while the police surrounding the area were in complete riot gear with shields and motey dandey and bulletproof vests, helmets, knee pads, and whatnot. The entire area around the press club had been cordoned off.

The moment the rally got out of the Press Club, we were attacked (yes, “attacked”) by the policemen. There was a LOAD of brutal baton-charging, and one policeman hit ARY’s Aajiz Jamali so hard on his back with the shield, that the shield broke in two. :-S Women and men were hit indiscriminately and very VERY brutally — yes I can emphasize that enough. I’m skinny — I crawled around and got out unhurt. Everyone ran back towards the press club. Some of our office bearers and senior people had been picked up.

The demands and the negotiations

We all got out again and demanded that everyone be released. The policemen said they’d let everyone go if we went back inside the press club. We refused, and said we’d go in ONLY after our people were released. Negotiations followed, and it turned out that our people could not be released. We said fine, if you can arrest 10, you can arrest all the rest of us too. 😛 We gave in “ba-jamaa’at” giriftaariaN. The policemen tried to stop the women but we said we were standing by our male colleagues. They said there were no female police officials and we could therefore not be arrested. We reminded them that the people who had baton charged us were not female police officials, and if the male police waalahs could hit us, they could pretty darn well arrest us too. Khair, female police waaliaN were brought in, but we insisted that we will go in the same vans as our male colleagues.

In the van

Now this is the fun part! 😀 There were 27 of us in this van — seven women and 20 men. And boy did we raise hell!!! The van took us on a tour of the entire city, and we kept naarafying all the way. Passersby stopped to gape at us and then joined in the naareybaazi. In short, we conducted a State-sponsored anti-Musharraf rally. AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Yes, I can’t get over this — this IS funny!!! 😀 They took us to the Boat Basin police station, only to realise that it was full. Ditto for Gizri and Darakhshan. They were then told to take us to the Docks police station, but the driver did not know the way (YUP!!! :-D). He took us to the Jackson police station instead, where his bum was kicked, and the correct raasta explained to him by officials concerned. LOL! All this while, we weren’t making life easier for him by continuously naarafying, jeering and heckling. Yes we’re mean. 😛

At the Docks Police Station

We were “offloaded” and the women were told to go separately. We refused and decided to stick with our male colleagues. “We’re here as journalists, not men or women,” we told the police waalahs there. Since the Docks Police Station does not have a female lockup, they had to put all 26 of us in the interrogation room where we continued to party. 😛

At around 05:30 p.m. they came to the women and said that we were free to go. We asked if EVERYONE was free to go and we were told, “No, only the ‘laddiss’.” We told them to sod off — either EVERYONE leaves, or no one does.

They tried to confiscate our cellphones, and we refused en masse. So while cellphones at the rest of the police stations were taken away, us “Docks waalahs” still had ours on us. 😀

We also took over the SHO’s rest room, because the “prisoners’ restrooms” were filthy and the doors wouldn’t lock. We made them bring water for us, etc etc, didn’t tell them our home addresses for the FIR, bugged them every way we could. 😛 Faiz saheb’s kalaam was sung, nareybaazi huee. Some PPP waalahs brought us food, tea, diet coke and jaali ciggies, for which we’re thankful to them. 😛

A lot of people visited us, and we are sincerely grateful for their support. Special thanks to Ayesha Siddiqi from the People’s Resistance for staying with us for a whole bunch of hours together. A majority of the CMKP Karachi DC camped out outside the gates of the police station, as did Nasir Mansoor and Sherbaz Khan from the LPP, and Dr Riaz and all. The HRCP visited us too, as did members of Peoples Resistance, including Dr Awab Alvi and Sophia (I’m sorry I’m missing out names here). From what I heard from the other police stations (people were spread out — some, including two women, were at the Clifton police station, some at the Artillery Maidan police station, Frere police station, Darakhshan too, I think), journos there were having as much fun as we were having at the Docks Police Station.

Ten people who had been taken to the Shershah police station were brought over to Docks, bringing the total at our camp to 36 — the more, the merrier! 😛

The Release

At around 09:30 p.m. they said all of us were free to go. We came to know, however, that four of our senior office bearers could not be traced. It was mutually decided that no one would leave any police station, until those four people were released with us. The police waalahs threatened to physically throw everyone out, and they were told to “try.” 😛 The missing people were then “miraculously” traced out within 15 minutes, and everyone rejoiced. We left the Docks police station the way we’d entered it — naarafying and partying. 😀

All of us “criminals” from all the police stations then congregated outside the Clifton police station, where we raised hell again. We then proceeded to the Karachi Press Club, where we partied again — yes, that’s what us Karachi’ites do best — and we do things with a bang! : )

Lesson learnt yesterday: Unity = Victory.

Comrade Ziyad asked me yesterday about why we were not mistreated at the police station. The answer, comrade, is: they dared not mistreat us because we stood united.

Also, from what we were told by the new information minister, Nesar Memon, the decision to arrest journos was taken independently by the Sindh government — no such orders had come forth from the provincial level. Now I’m wondering how or why a caretaker government would take such a major step.

Moreover, there are people who’re going around saying that the police resorted to violence only after journos hurled stones at them. This is WRONG. Stones were hurled, yes, but only AFTER the police started beating us up like cattle. A friend of mine rolled up her placard and started hitting a police waalah on the head with it — after his lathi hit her really hard. Serves them right, I’d say. But let the records show that the stone-throwing was a REACTION. Anyone would do it if you saw your friends being beaten up this way for no reason — and we’re all friends here. No matter how cut-throat the competition between publications and channels, no matter how hard we try to outdo each other professionally, but when push comes to shove, we journos are all friends and we stand united!!!

Oh and naaras that journos came up with yesterday:

Mukk gya tera show Musharraf — Go Musharraf, Go Musharraf!

Kalla baetha ro Musharraf — Go Musharraf, Go Musharraf!!! 😀

Inquilaab Zindabad!

In Solidarity,

~ UZi

Also present at the CMKP Discussion Forum

Combating Religious Extremism II

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , on October 22, 2007 by Umer

In view of the criticisms that I received for my previous post with the same subject, I will try to elaborate on my meaning. It is difficult for me to reproduce the criticisms in this weblog due to their sizes, but they can be found here: from Hassan Nasir; and from Usman Ahsan. I have not replied to Usman’s criticism specifically. However, the basic contents of both the messages were more or less the same; and I find myself in agreement with Usman when he writes that “the extreme reactionary tactics of the religious right have there basis not in the loss of power but loss of allies”. This, I think, is the correct formulation.

Here is my reply addressed to Hassan Nasir:

I don’t think that the extremist elements are on the verge of extinction politically. As I mentioned in the essay, the extremist elements are making some savage and brutal attempts to maintain the influence that they used to hold over powerful circles. A force showing such brutality can not be expected to be ‘on the verge of extinction’ at the political level. The religious extremist elements might have gained some support amongst the people, but being alienated from the reins of power to a large extent can cause more anxiety amongst their members. It is this alienation from the power-bearing circles that my essay primarily referred to.

As for the recruits, the numbers were much higher in the preceding decades when the Imperialist powers and the Pakistani State funded the religious seminaries all across Pakistan that churned out thousands of ‘holy warriors’ every year. However, previously they were more focused around Afghanistan and now Pakistan is the center of their attention.

I hold that “the struggle against religious extremism is strongly tied with the struggle against the present military dictatorship”. It doesn’t sound counter-intuitive to me. The competition between the religious groups and the Left-secular forces is to gain support amongst the people – people who, we hold, harbor feelings against the military junta and US Imperialism. Now if the Left/seculars are to abandon their anti-imperialist and anti-military slogans, they will simply be leaving the doors open for the religious clergymen to gain popular support. People usually don’t care much whether you are wearing a red hammer and sickle badge or a green turban so long you talk about agenda. The agenda of the people can be represented in a much better way by the Leftist forces, and the religious forces are no match. If the Leftist/seculars abandon their struggle against military, as some have already done, it will only give more legitimacy to the Right as an anti-imperialist and an anti-military force fighting for the cause of the people.

The program of the Left is distinct from that of the religious parties, who claim to be anti-military and anti-imperialist, and that of the military, who claims to be secular. We need to oppose both and wage a simultaneous struggle for secularism, democracy, and against imperialism, as you also pointed out.

I agree with your possible results and the historical pattern that you pointed out (also add the collaboration between Benazir Bhutto and Ghulam Ishaq Khan after the death of Zia-ul-Haq).

Combating Religious Extremism

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , on October 20, 2007 by Umer

The recent bombing in Karachi on October 19th, one the deadliest terrorist attacks which killed around 136 and injured 290, has led many young Pakistanis to think about the future of their country, and, more importantly, their responsibility in shaping the future of their people. Such questions being raised are all the more expected after what we been through in Pakistan particularly during the last few. Aspiring for a positive outcome, one must effort to avoid cynicism and hopelessness in those who finally managed to think beyond their own individual selves.

After pondering over some of question marks that emerged from the Karachi carnage, I have drawn some observations which will, hopefully, be my small yet positive contribution to the larger debates and discussions about the future of Pakistan.

First, the religious extremist elements are one the verge of extinction in Pakistan. This may sound surprising, even preposterous, but, as history informs, the dying forces make the most savage and brutal attempts for a comeback right before their ultimate destruction. The religious extremist groups were in more powerful position during the preceding decades. However, now they are loosing power every day and they are feeling frustrated over that. As the religious extremists are pushed to the end of their life line, they are going to make some last attempts to ensure their survival – attempts that will necessarily be extreme.

Second, the most challenging job in eliminating a force which is regressive and reactionary, much like our extremist fellows, is serving the final blow. It is the most difficult to give the final shove, to force a man to let go of the end of the life line his life depends upon. Therefore, if we think that religious extremism is on the threshold of destruction, it must be recognized that it is more complicated to deal with it at present than it was in the past.

Third, people tend to attract to the extremes of religion primarily in order to seek an explanation for their economic and social grievances. Therefore, any attempt to remove extremism from our society must address these predicaments, and must, at least, provide an alternate and more satisfying explanation of the economic and social ills that come to define the life-cycles of the ordinary population. Therefore, there must be a more coherent and more agreeable theory that can explain to a common man the riddles behind his pain and suffering in a much better way than the account provided by the clergymen.

Fourth, the present status quo in the country – the military dictatorship – can not be relied upon to give the final death blow to religious extremism. This is because they are extremely incapable of alleviating poverty and suffering, which in a way serve their selfish interests, while affecting more and more people in Pakistan as the days go by. Moreover, they are also con not of give any explanations for the misery of the common man and continue to assert and reassert that all is going well when all is not going well. Furthermore, the ruling powers are also benefiting from the presence of religious extremism in Pakistan for it provides them with an opportunity to show to the rest of the world that they are best men to control the reins of power in Pakistan.

Fifth, religious extremism can not be curbed without a large scale engagement of people of Pakistan. It is only through a massive popular movement that the extremist elements can be shown the exit door. Through such a movement, people will not only challenge the alternate explanations for their sufferings conditions, but also, and more importantly, the status quo which turns a blind eye. Therefore, the struggle against religious extremism is strongly tied with the struggle against the present military dictatorship.

Sixth, and last, there is huge vacuum that needs to be filled without which one can not expect the large scale involvement of the people in the state of affairs of Pakistan: the lack of a proper public intelligentsia. It is usually not the case that people will by themselves understand the futility of the sermons of clergymen to come to terms with the progressive agenda. There is always a need of those who can share the necessary public knowledge with the people and lead them out of the abyss of the conservative and reactionary propaganda.

Our present intelligentsia, with minor exceptions, has thoroughly failed to construct a coherent theory to address the plight of the common man and to provide an ideal to substitute the unjust political, social, and economic structures. There is no good reason to expect that our intelligentsia will be able to change their attitudes as a collective in the recent future. To be very straight forward, those who have decided their occupations are to live in the comforts of the ivory towers are more or less useless for the people of Pakistan. What Pakistan needs the most, and what the situation demands, is a new breed of intellectuals to guide the people to a meaningful change – those who consider it their duty not only to interpret the world, but also to change it.