Archive for LUMS

Silence before the Storm

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , on November 6, 2007 by Umer

The third day of Emergency, or what should be honestly termed as Martial Law, remained passive at Lahore. The reason for such silence was clear: almost all the active lawyers were arrested yesterday, on 5th of November, in a massive crack-down at the Lahore High Court. They are still detained along with their leadership, and the most active amongst them, more than 300, are expected to face charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Others will not be able to find an easy way out. According to the laws amended in the course of Emergency, any person can be detained by the Police authorities for three months without any trial or presentation before the magistrate under the amended Maintenance of Public Order Act, one of the most notorious laws of our colonial past.

I received a call early in the morning from a lawyer warning me to stay away from the High Court building and the Mall Road for today. I complied, as I also wanted to hold some discussions with some contacts. One of my friends, who unsuccessfully tried to enter the High Court building from all four gates early in the morning, informed that the Police was arresting every lawyer that showed up at the Court entrances. They were arrested even before they entered the building. According to some sources, few lawyers approached the courts in order to seek bails for those detained on Monday. They were also arrested.

While the streets of Lahore remained calm, there was also some good news. All the people who were arrested by the Police on Sunday from the HRCP building – including Dr. Ali Cheema and Mr. Bilal Minto, both members of LUMS faculty – were finally released on bail late in the evening after two and half days of detention. However, the criminal charges brought against them have not been dropped.

The students of LUMS, who received a lot of media attention due to their activism on Monday, celebrated the release of their heroes with enthusiasm. They remained in high spirits through out the day and resolved to continue their struggle for democracy and social justice.

From where I see, everyone who is enraged by General Musharraf’s actions will have to take a step back, recompose, and rehash their strategy for the future. People are realizing that they are up for a long fight against a force that will not think twice before using brute force. Any agitation that takes place in a disorganized fashion can be easily crushed.

During the Lahore High Court protests, the lawyers were not expecting the whole building to be swarmed by Policemen. The lawyers were asking us, the students, to stay at the rear of the demonstration to ensure our safety. They later had to realize that no place was safe from Police brutality. The Police action took place with such rapidity (it took less than 30 minutes to arrest all the agitators) because there was no plan of action for retreat. People ran in random directions to protect themselves from the Police. Even the leadership, that should have been guarded, could not evade arrests.

In my view, therefore, the democratic forces will have to reconstruct their plan of action so that massive arrests do not dent the progress of our revolutionary struggle for democracy. Other sections of the society – particularly workers, peasants, and students – will have to be included in the movement for a meaningful result. So far, there has been no noticeable contribution made by the non-lawyers. That will have to change. To change that all those who are outside the lock-ups should exhaust their energies in motivating the ‘common man’ to join the democratic movement. These moments of silence and reflection are the most favorable to encourage more people to join the struggle.

The movement is on. To ensure that it does not fade away, arm yourselves for the second wave.

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Draft Resolution of the LUMS Community Regarding Martial Law

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , on November 6, 2007 by Umer

Draft Resolution
03/11/07
Preamble:

There is so much to condemn today that we may not begin with the unitary. We must take liberty to accept that the actions of a single individual have marred all three pillars of the state – all ‘four’ for that matter. Even, the institutions of preservation/maintaining the balance of power are now subservient to a single institution. The condemnation today, therefore, we must make in the harshest possible language – a condemnation directed towards the actions of that very single ‘dual’ institution – the President cum Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan.

Resolution:

We, the faculty, students and staff of the Lahore School of Management Sciences (LUMS) extend our voices in condemnation of the gross political injustices that the nation has experienced in the past few months – more so, we take liberty to condemn the ethereal blockage imposed by the executive by the declaration of a Martial Law in the country. We condemn General Musharraf for employing a ‘notorious’, uncalled for action; an unnecessary action, by revisiting the ‘doctrine of necessity’ which, perhaps, could have (in today’s climate) only be called upon for its self-removal. His referral to the ‘preservation of the union’ quotation of Abraham Lincoln in his speech to the “American friends” appears to have been employed in the wrong context for Lincoln had to preserve a union from disintegration from problems that he had himself not partaken to create.

We deny the military leaders of today both the moral ground and the legitimacy to raise again this ‘doctrine of necessity’ that must now be shunned to the echelons of earth. The LUMS community, again, make the statement that the incumbent government may not be extended the right to ‘dirty the laundry first, and, then, be let to clean it up after dismantling the machine that fulfilled the task’.

We resent and condemn the brutality dealt out to the bearers of right that have protested this illegitimate action. We express solidarity with those who find themselves in hospitals, in prisons and ‘missing’ for raising the voice of the right, including our own faculty members. A solemn request we make to the law enforcement authorities of the state: that the protests be let be…the protesters be let go…for the time today is for the nation to rise.

Our voice echoes the popular desires of the nation – the resolution of the crisis that has unveiled itself to our nation and its people – and, in attempting to echo these considerations we call upon the state to:
Lift the ‘Martial Law’ immediately
Retract the new PCO [Provisional Constitutional Order]
Restore the Judiciary to its pre-Martial Law state.
Demarcate a method to return the military to the barracks for good.
Provide the assurance of the right to life to each citizen of Pakistan
Restore legitimacy to the government by the exercise of the right of voting to the citizens
Therefore, we call for an immediate declaration of the election schedule.

We, the LUMS community, reach a collective consensus that the problems that the military run government declares as responsible for the need to declare the current state of emergency are its own pandemic. We, therefore, refuse to acknowledge any attempt by the government to employ the ‘doctrine of necessity’ and call upon the same to immediately lift the martial law as per instructions of the Supreme Court.

We must color the nation again with the green and white of our flag – and, perhaps, engrave that flag on our hearts. Time today is of highest value: we invoke and request the citizens in general and other institutions to join us in raising a collective voice.

Destiny will be made or marred in the coming days! Remember that!

The Resolution is taken from The Emergency Times

Today, at the Lahore High Court

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , on November 5, 2007 by Umer

Today, I was witness to the worst of the State brutality. With every passing day, it is getting clearer what the present regime is about – naked tyranny. It is not that I have not seen any State repression before. I was there in the High Court on 17th of March when the building was surrounded by the Police, and the lawyers were disallowed from leaving the premises of the Court. We were practically detained in the High Court. At that day, the news was about the Police firing tear gas shells from the outside and entering few feet from the gate into the High Court premises. Everywhere people were talking about how the Police had violated the sanctity of the Courts. The popular reaction was understandable – the event was unprecedented. But, if I compare what happened today with what I saw eight months back, I can say without a moment’s pause that 17th March was nothing compared to what took place today on 5th of November.

While driving to the Lahore High Court with a fellow member of the Communist Workers and Peasants Party (CMKP) and few students from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), the lack of Policemen stationed on the Mall Road was conspicuous. During every visit to the Lawyers’ protests, during the movement for the re-instatement of Chief Justice of Pakistan, there used to be a massive number of Policemen deployed on both sides of the Mall Road.

‘What are they thinking to do’, we were all discussing that while we walking towards the High Court building after parking our car at a safe distance. My estimate was that something on the lines of 17th March event will take place. I was very wrong. That I knew as soon as we entered the Court building after going through a cursory security-check. There were a huge number of Policemen deployed inside the High Court. It was blatant that today the pitched battles between lawyers and Policemen will take place inside the Court building. Still, we were not able to grasp what their plans were, which we soon found out.

In the courtyard of the High Court, surrounded by Karachi Hall, a Bar room, a Dispensary, and a Canteen, the lawyers had gathered and were chanting slogans against the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), the Emergency, the Martial Law, and the judges who had taken oath under the PCO. There was no noticeable presence from any political party. I found a group of faculty members and fellow university students with whom I had made the plan to attend the rally last night. We were around 30 to 35 and almost everyone had an idea about the risk involved in being present in the High Court. We knew that some of us will certainly be arrested, and everyone will have to smell the tear gar, taste salt, and cry. Nevertheless, we also knew how important it is to be present in the struggle for democracy and social justice.

The Lawyers’ convention started at around 10.30 a.m. at the Karachi Hall. We all gathered there with Lawyers to listen to the speeches made by the officials of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). The mood was full of enthusiasm, despite the gravity of the situation. Every now and then, the Lawyers raised slogans against General Musharraf and Emergency. The speakers made passionate speeches in favor of democratic action and struggle against the military dictatorship.

After listening to few speeches, I returned to the courtyard where I found two other members of the CMKP, both of them were not students. I also met few other acquaintances amongst the lawyers. Many came up to us to appreciate our presence at the Lahore High Court, and advised us to avoid arrests. ‘Go and spread the word, there are enough to get arrested’, one said.

The members of the Lahore Bar Association had arrived, and everyone was awaiting the call of the LHCBA. It soon came. We will march towards the gate of the Lahore High Court that opened on Mall Road near the General Post Office. As we walked towards the gate everyone was getting their handkerchiefs wet, as covering your face with a wet cloth is an effective way to repel the effects of the tear gas. I also got a piece of cloth from a fellow student, damped it, and joined the protest. I was somewhere in the middle demonstration, trying my best to get to a spot where I can see what is happening at the gate.

Some lawyers were trying to open the gate that was closed by the Police. As the pressure built around the gate, the first tear-gas shell was fired. Everyone covered their face and retreated. Lawyers are not so easily intimidated. They halted, and so did we. More shells were fired and we had to retreat to the parking lot near the Bar room, where some Policemen were stationed to ensure that the lawyers don’t get to the judges’ offices.

The lawyers, enraged and furious, pelted stones at the windows close to the Policemen. Some even got in front of the Policemen and pushed them. When a Policeman raised his baton, they retreated only to throw stones at them from a safe distance. That forced the Police to take few steps back, but they returned – in a larger number.

This time they were furious. They were accompanied with some plain clothes men, who I noticed were much more active in throwing stones at the protestors. We all started moving towards the Bar room when, I saw two tear gar shells thrown towards the protestors. Knowing that we are not in a very open space with walls on both sides and dense leafy branches of an old tree above us, the shells were expected to hurt badly. The shells did hurt severely, even though one of them was hurled back at the Police by a courageous lawyer. Almost everyone around me had his face covered with the wet cloth, and were moving into the Bar room, the other door of which opened to the courtyard. I also got my face covered as the pain was unbearable and followed the rest into the Bar room.

In the Bar room, there were easily more than 150 people clustered, all victimized by the tear gas. They were treated their throats affected by the tear gas with the help of salt. We, students, immediately started counting ourselves. Two of CMKP members were not there, along with two students from LUMS.

Before we could call our friends up and get their know-how, the Policemen approached the door of the Bar room from which we had entered from the parking. As the Policemen got to the glass door, a staff-member of the Bar locked it. Without any pause, the Policemen hurled their big boots at the door. The glass door, weak and old, could not take it long. Everyone in the room was rushing through the one and half meter wide door that opened to the courtyard. I was almost at the end of the crowd, trying to make my way through. As I was leaving the Bar room, I looked back to witness a spectacle of valiance. The Policemen had almost smashed the door, but three lawyers were still standing, throwing chairs at the door to block way of the Police. Had those lawyers not been there, several who were the last ones to leave the Bar rooms, like me, would have received a sound beating.

Entering the courtyard, I saw one person standing in the front of a corridor calling up the people. Everyone followed the call, only to realize that there is Police on the other end of the corridor. Stuck in the middle, we halted. While we were thinking about our possible courses of actions, getting arrested being a major one, a very senior lawyer, who was the patron of LUMS Law programme approached and led us into the Dispensary.

The Dispensary had a glass front towards the courtyard, with two or three rooms for patients. Many of us recomposed ourselves, got information about our friends who were safe till then, and informed our contacts outside about the situation in the High Court. While we were doing that, we witness how the Police stormed into the courtyard and started with arrests. They went to every room one by one and arrested everyone, beating them up while taking them to the Police vans. Uncertain about our own fates, but all mentally ready to get arrested peacefully if the push comes to shove, we saw how the Police was rounding everybody up. We did not know if friends who were not with us at the Dispensary were safe anymore. It had only been thirty minutes since the call was given by the LHCBA to march towards the Mall Road gate.

One by one, all rooms were emptied. Only Dispensary was left. As the Police approached the door of the Dispensary, all of us huddled in the two rooms that were usually used for the patients. ‘I will try my best to save you students from arrest,’ assured the senior lawyer who had led us to the Dispensary. He went to the Dispensary door to negotiate on our behalf, and was arrested. Then the Police asked the people in the other room to give arrests without any protests, they did. And then we also peacefully gave our arrests with our hand up, as the Police had ordered.

While walking out of the Dispensary, one of our faculty members started shouting ‘we are students’ to garner attention of the media present there to stay safe from any off-handed behavior from the Policemen. The Police, seeing the media around, asked us to put our hands down. We were led to the gate towards the Mall road, the same one towards which we were asked to march earlier in the day.

At the gate, we were asked to gather on one side. I tried my best to get some information about the two non-students members of the CMKP, as they were no where to be seen. My estimate was they must have been arrested. We were asked or ordered, to put it more correctly, by the Police to stay at the side of gate, and were assured that we will not be arrested. A number of media reporters come up to us to know what we were doing at the High Court. The lawyers were lined up at the gate and were being packed into Police vans to be sent to distant police stations. The information about the two non-student CMKP members also came. They were safe and had escaped arrests by jumping over the boundary wall of the Court. That was a relief. Soon afterwards, we were all allowed to leave and that marked the end of our eventful stay at the High Court.

There are some important lessons that I learnt today after seeing what I have written above. To expect mercy or justice from the present military regime is simply ridiculous. This is State built on the blood of millions of toiling masses. It rests on tyranny and brute force. It is alien to the worries of the countless people, who work days and nights only to be exploited by the powerful few. It only serves its own interests, and that is to maintain and reinforce the present system of exploitation and repression at the behest of their Imperialist masters. Not even its own professed rules can come in its way. They have no regard for justice and no respect for the people. Such a regime deserves only one response – strong condemnation.

Some readers might find the massive crack-down at the Lahore High Court to be demoralizing. However, taken in the right perspective, it is not. After a long dark night of passivity during the rule of injustice, there is ray of hope. Some have decided to take a stand against military dictatorship despite all odds. More will follow. Don’t be impatient. Don’t loose hope. There will soon be an era when the people will do away with all forms of exploitation and despotism, when justice and truth will be respected, when the people will rule, and when the democracy will be our constitution.

Till then, struggle, struggle, and struggle.

Power to the people!

Arrests all around

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2007 by Umer

With the passage of time the effects of the Emergency imposed by General Musharraf on Saturday are becoming glaringly visible, though they were not surprising for anyone with even minute political knowledge. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, was kidnapped from his office along with many other members of the apex court on the evening when the Emergency was declared. They were all placed under house arrests. Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir A. Malik, and Ali Ahmed Kurd – the leaders of the Lawyers’ Movement – were also arrested on the same evening on one-month detention order. Aitzaz has has been detained in the Adiala Jail. Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) President Ahsan Bhoon was also detained. Imran Khan, leader of Tahrik-e-Insaaf was placed under house arrest on the Saturday evening. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Chairwoman Asma Jehangir was also placed under house arrest.

Today (Sunday), several journalists, lawyers, academics, and human rights activists gathered in Lahore at the office of Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP) office to peacefully protest against the declaration of Emergency. They were surrounded by the Police and later on many of them were arrested. Amongst the arrested are: I.A Rehman, Iqbal Hyder, Robina Saigol, Azra Shad, Khalid Mehmood, Mehboob Khan, Raja Salman, Salima Hashmi, and Dr. Mubashir Hasan (later released because of his old age). Mr. Bilal Hassan Minto and Professor Ali Cheema from the faculty of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) are also amongst the arrested. According to the latest information, detention orders are expected to be issued soon for all those arrested, which means that they may be put in jail indefinitely.

In Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Police has detained scores of prominent political figures, lawyers, and human rights activists.

The news of this massive crack-down on the opposition figures has remained missing as all Private TV channels remained off the air for the second day. Premises of private ‘Aaj TV’ channel were raided by officials who tried to seize live broadcast equipment, but had to make a hasty retreat after vociferous protests by the staff.

Senior journalist and secretary general of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), Imtiaz Alam, was detained and later let-off.

Around 500 people, including 80 lawyers, have been arrested so far on the first day of the Emergency. More arrests can be expected to take place on Monday as the legal fraternities meet up and demonstrate.