Archive for Protests

Festival of the oppressed: February 9th, 2008

Posted in Communist Movement, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2008 by Umer

February 9th, 2008, was an important day for the lawyers’ movement and for the people of Pakistan. It was that day when the lawyers showed their resilience in the face of State repression on the streets of Islamabad. It was that day when the lawyers showed to the rest of the world that their movement will not fade away. It will stand to accomplish its objectives. It will stand for the rights of the people, for restoration of judiciary, for free and fair elections. The Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) finds it to their honor to stand by the lawyers in their struggle for democracy and justice.

It started with the usual chill of the winter morning when a car rally organized by the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan left from the gates of Aitzaz Ahsan’s residence in Lahore. The organizers were kind enough to give space to some student-members of the CMKP for free. The long journey was made easy by discussions that ranged from anti-war movement in USA to political theories and the upcoming elections in Pakistan. We made short stays at the Bar Associations on our way as more lawyers and cars joined in. Ahmed Mukhtar, who is contesting elections from Pakistan People’s Party against Pakistan Muslim League-Q’s stalwart Shujat Hussain, hosted our lunch and briefed us about his preparations to tackle rigging of elections in his constituency. As we were getting late, we had to avoid more stops and rushed towards Islamabad.

Still we were not on time to attend the Pakistan Bar Council’s meeting at Islamabad. We drove to the Aitzaz Ahsan’s house where a group of lawyers was waiting for us, ready to march on to the residence of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. As the demonstration started, members of CMKP from Rawalpindi/Islamabad arrived armed with large red flags marked with the hammer and sickle and a megaphone. Without wasting any moment, we ran towards the rally waving our flags, caught our breath, and started raising our slogans against the military rule.

The path to the Chief Justice’s house passes through an upward slope and a large contingent of Police was deployed there behind a barricade. As we approached the cordon, the first splash of water cannon was thrown our way. At first, there was a slight panic. The water cannon were being used for the first time and some people who were not expecting to face the strong pressure of water also fell on the road. The Government of Pakistan was trying to find proper use of fire brigade, which had failed miserably in dealing with a number of fires in the past, to defeat the political protests. However, it only dampened the protestors in the chilling cold – nothing more than that. Obviously, those who are willing to get their heads opened by stones in the course of struggle were not to be deterred by water. Soon there was a cry: “it’s only water”. Everyone moved forward facing the high pressure of water cannon. Some lawyers also started pelting stones to respond to State’s aggression. As I approached the barricade, all wet and damp, I found fellow CMKP members standing right on the barricade. Comrade A was standing with open arms challenging the water cannon while his back was being supported by Comrade F. The pressure of water was so high that even Comrade F slipped a few inches back to hold up Comrade A from falling back when faced with splashes.

The fire brigade failed miserably – again. They must have run out of water. The first shell of tear-gas was launched at the agitators. It was dreadful. I have been facing tear-gas since March last year and not that I can resist tear-gas (one of my friends who has been swimming since childhood can), I could see that this was not the ordinary one that we have been inhaling in Lahore. Old ladies, their commitment must be appreciated, who could not run fell down in the midst of the tear-gas attack and were helped out by young students. It was unbearable. As I ran back, my face and eyes were burning with stinging pain and there was a strong urge to vomit. With eyes half-closed and face coved by the wet flag, I ran back to the point where I could feel comfortable. It was quite a run.

Anyhow, I recovered in around five minutes and rushed to the front where an active fight was taking place between lawyers and Police. I immediately started looking for a stone and was lucky to have one delivered by the Police just few feet away from me. I happily returned it.

The lawyers were fighting with great energy and enthusiasm. They were chanting slogans against the Police and standing valiantly in the line of stone-fire. More tear-gas shells were fired, which were returned back by angry agitators who were wearing gloves to save their hands as they hold hot shells. Such daring was appreciated by loud cheers from the rest and boosted our spirits. Young girls were swearing at the dictator and throwing rocks at the Police. That was a place to be – all that I could have wished for. Now, I wish for more. But, I was joyful. Revolution is, after all, a festival of the oppressed.

In a middle of all this, a well-known senior lawyer positioned himself at higher spot, wanting to engage the crowd with his cold speech. That gentleman was keener to deliver a speech to the lawyers rather than leading them like other gallant senior lawyers, some of whom was arrested by the Police. People were not interested in words. They wanted action from their leaders. A young female lawyer asked the orator to step down (in no kind words) and to go where action is. That “leader” had to step down, but was nowhere to be seen at the front.

Another interesting bit was interaction with the management of Marriott Hotel that was on the street where the whole event was taking place. Some lawyers asked the Hotel management to provide them with water so that they can treat their burning eyes. The management plainly denied. The furious lawyers started throwing the tear-gas shells that could not be returned to the Police at Marriott. When the Police misfired a tear-gas shell into the Marriott, it was cheered by the protestors. Such was the anger against the apathetic management of the Hotel that found it better to serve their rich clients rather than those fighting for democracy in the streets. Such was the anger against the symbols of class oppression.

In the meanwhile, the protestors had divided in four groups: one in the middle, one on the right, and the third on the left. The fourth was at the back. The middle one was the bait for the Police. Attacks were launched from the left and the right. The group at the back only moved further back.

The Police, hitting their shields with their batons, moved further in offensive and the lawyers had the retreat. Some lawyers tried to make last attempts at attacking a police. A small group chanting Allah ho smashed themselves into the Policemen. All were arrested. It was interesting how the rich sufi tradition of the South Asia found itself in the movement for democracy and justice. The flank on the left was routed by Police into a street. One of my friends who were with that group evaded arrest by excusing that he was only there to pick up his sister from the protest. Many people from that faction were arrested by the Police.

Finally, the lawyers had to retreat into the Super Market with the chants of Allah ho. It was a good day. The lawyers engaged the Police for three hours in a fierce street battle and showed superb patience and valiance. The movement was shown to be alive and kicking.

Before I part with this report, there is a questions that erupted after the protest that I want to deal here. A good fellow questioned the utility of going these protests. His argument was that we should focus our energy in raising awareness elsewhere rather than attending public demonstrations. While I whole-heartedly agree with the idea that we must go to schools and colleges or, for that matter, everywhere we find a crowd to raise consciousness, we should not underestimate the potential of protests. People don’t learn merely through words. Had that been the case, the revolution would have occurred many years ago. People also learn from practical examples. We must show them and motivate them with our struggle in the street protests against the Military Dictatorship. As the Salvador Allende, the Marxist President of Chile, said in his last address to his people moments before he was murdered when fighting against military generals who instigated a coup against him: “I am sure my sacrifice will not be in vain; I am sure that it will at least be a moral lesson which will punish felony, cowardice and, treason.” When we attend the protest, we challenge apathy and cowardice. Not only we set an example for others, we educate ourselves with the lessons that can only be experienced from the streets and not the books.

Start your protest

Posted in Pakistan with tags , on November 11, 2007 by Umer

Are you finding it hard to motivate the students at your educational institution to protest against the Martial Law?

An easy way to encourage your student-colleagues to protest is to collect the news about the protests taking place at various campuses across Pakistan (LUMS, FAST-NU, Quaid-e-Azam University, Punjab University, etc.) into a pamphlet and distribute them in massive quantities. You can find plenty of news on the Internet. This should also include something like “are we to stay silent while others are resisting injustice?”

You will find that these pamphlets can be the spark to set fire to a prairie. Do this as soon as possible. Such pamphlets are already in circulation and have proven to be very successful in activating the students at various colleges and universities.

In case you want a prepared copy of the pamphlet, contact theemergencytimes@gmail.com asking them to send you a copy of The Emergency Times.

Hurry up!

Time is running fast.

We must do away with the Military Dictatorship now.

The Awakening…

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , on November 8, 2007 by Umer

The last few days have awakened the most crucial forces that have been missing in the politics of Pakistan for a very long time. The students of Pakistan, who have decided to rise from the slumber of passivity, have decided to reclaim their legacy. They know that they brought down a military dictator in 1969, and they are up for it again. The students movement, though in embryonic form at present, have given bright hopes to numerous those who considered battle against General Musharraf a lost cause. Rejecting those who laid arms without even giving a good fight, the students of Pakistan have shown the struggle for democracy is not over with the arrests of lawyers and political workers.

The call to students came from the most unexpected quarter. Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), considered to be an elite university in Pakistan, became the recipient to the honor of organizing the first student protest for democratic rights in the present anti-Musharraf movement. For the last four days, LUMS students have been actively involved in waging a constant struggle for their democratic rights in the face of intimidations and ill-intended rumors. Starting from Monday, when some students also decided to visit the Lahore High Court and saw the State repression happening in front of their very eyes, students from LUMS have been organizing rallies and meetings on the campus. The momentum of these meetings is escalating with every passing day.

The most remarkable feature of LUMS protests is their prudence in attracting massive attention from local and international media without engaging in any active confrontation with the Police. The coverage given by local and international media to LUMS, and the news of similar protests taking place at other educational institutions, has further raised the enthusiasm of the Luminites. Despite a strong presence of adventurists, the students are realizing that they are up for a protracted struggle and any clash with the Police, in the absence of iron solidarity, can compromise their efforts in organizing the students of Pakistan at large.

Following the lead of LUMS, students of other educational institutions have also risen up for democracy. The students of FAST-NU had to face the brunt of State on Wednesday, November 7, when a group of students and faculty members organized a demonstration. The Police trashed a student, Abdullah Zaki, and sealed the campus with numerous Policemen deployed at the gate to harass the agitating students. The enthusiasm shown by the FAST-NU students while facing the rage of the State was exemplary.

The faculty of Punjab University discussed the plans for protests on Wednesday. Around one hundred teachers of the University took out a rally an on-campus demonstration on Thursday.

While Lahore is following a trend of on-campus protests, the Leftist organizations of Rawalpindi have devised a unique ‘protest and run’ strategy. This strategy is very simple. As the term implies, get together, protest, and as soon as the Police is in sight, run. No arrests. That has been the course for the last couple of days. They demonstrate at random places, even famous markets, and retreat within fifteen minutes. The Police, unable to lay their hands on these careful protestors en masse, are further frustrated by the sympathizers who help the demonstrators to make safe escapes.

The students have also adopted the novel ‘protest and run’ method of getting the message through without undergoing much trouble (though no political activity is without risk in Pakistan these days). Students of Hamdard University have successfully implemented these tactics on Wednesday. Quaid-e-Azam University, another place which has surprised many, has also employed the ‘protest and run’ strategy with success.

This is so far the development of the early stages of the anti-dictatorship movement. While the university students will continue to mobilize there forces and strengthen to participate in the up-coming second wave of protests, some young twelve year olds from Karachi have understood the Emergency crisis in a very fascinating way.

The seven grade student of Karachi have observed from the Emergency that: General Musharraf is the evil Lord Voldemort of Pakistan; Benazir Bhutto is Umbridge, an evil ministry witch who had given Harry a hard time in his fifth year at the Hogwarts; Quaid-e-Azam is Professor Dumbledore; Shaukat Aziz is Thackneize, who was the prime minister of the wizards appointed by Voldemort; and, the Media emerged as the ‘Order of Phoenix’, a secret society working hard to bring down Voldemort independent of the Ministry of Magic. Guess who is the Harry Potter? Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the lawyers being Harry’s friends.

Carry on the good work, kids.

You will soon find Dumbledore’s Army in action as well.

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!