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Thursday, November 15, 2007

New caretakers; Elections under Emergency; Lyari killings; Events, blogs, HRW etc. - Beena Sarwar

Nov 15 update - besides the issues in the subject line, scroll down for upcoming events in NY (Nov 20), Academics for Freedom, and most TV news channels back on air...


It's midnight, and first assemblies to have ever completed their tenure in Pakistan are now history. A new caretaker set up is in place, headed by Senate Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro as caretaker prime minister to oversee elections in January. These elections will be meaningless under the Emergency that shows no sign of being lifted even though Musharraf has tantalizingly said that he almost stepped down. The Constitution, the judiciary, and human rights must be restored – as the Karachi University Teachers' Forum demanded in their banner (cleverly avoiding the use of the word `emergency' or any other overt criticism).


Here's how HRCP director I.A. Rehman puts it: "The whole transition to democracy is meaningless under emergency. Even elections will bring nothing for this country under the present circumstances. In my opinion emergency has made autocracy in Pakistan even more autocratic. It is true that before the promulgation of emergency Musharraf was already ruling the country by his own choice, but now all the powers have gone to him. He alone is responsible to decide." - – The text is worth reading in full, for the clarity IAR brings to the issue, as always.

The bottom line: "The real victims of this coup are the people of Pakistan. When you discriminate against the judiciary and gag the media both suffer, but the ultimate victims are the people. If they do not get a good government, they suffer. Then there is no democracy without the judiciary. As for the media, it has under attack so that people cannot formulate their own opinion by getting relevant information. The government is not against these TV news channels but against what they are doing -- informing people. This is a way to put a stop to the democratic process. So democracy is the real target. All these are pillars of democracy."


Several people gathered at the Karachi Press Club for a seminar on media freedom this afternoon – there were probably more police outside than journalists at one point. Many civil society activists (from People's Resistance) turned up with posters and banners expecting a rally (someone had sent out an email which caused this confusion), but it was essentially a journalists' event and the KPC officer bearers asked the activists not to go outside and protest as Justice Wajihuddin was coming and the police were just looking for a chance to pick him up.

I had to leave before Justice Wajih got there, so missed his speech etc – but as I walked to the main road displaying my `Hum Dekhenge' poster, the police started wondering what I was up to. A couple of them approached me wondering if `aap log' (you people) were going to Governor House ("we can't allow that and there will be trouble"). Fortunately, or not, depends how you look at it, I was only going home), and there was trouble at the KPC. In Lyari, however, it was a
different matter.


While at the Press Club, we heard that two boys had got killed in Lyari (PPP stronghold). Apparently there was a shootout as people tried to get the shops to shut down… News report here - -
And photos (thanks Choudhry) here. Sad


Another piece of news we heard while at the Press Club was that most of the TV news channels were back on air, with the notable exception of Geo (all channels, including sports & entertainment), and ARY. I suppose we'll have a better idea of the full story tomorrow (though we can all speculate about what happened).

Former Editor of The News Lahore (and former co-director of the HRCP) Kamila Hyat had a very good piece on this issue in The News today, \arguing that the channels can't indefinitely be kept off the air, there has to be some negotiation & give & take – `Futile measures'


The activism continues, adding a new element – `teach-ins'. Activist Naeem Sadiq and Sahar Shafaat (a political science professor based in the U.S., currently in Karachi) went to Lyceum Karachi today to give a lecture on the current situation in Pakistan. They spoke to about 30 A Levels students, focusing on the disparities in Pakistan, and what can be done about them. "The lecture made a very clear suggestion that students engage in peaceful protest as a way of
resisting martial law."


1) There have been reports of a few LUMS students being arrested in Lahore. If you have any information that could help in tracing them please email and IMMEDIATELY. A prompt response to help save a few people from military court.

2) Two innocent students were killed today in Karachi. If anyone has more information about their identity, affiliation, or any thing relevant please email We are especially looking for an eyewitness account of some one who was at the protest today and saw the firing today. If you know of anyone please forward them this request.

ACADEMICS FOR FREEDOM A Group of independent Pakistani academics have launched a new blog which is going to consistently update Pakistani and international audiences through analytical insights into the immediate and longer term adverse impacts and ramifications of the imposition of Emergency in Pakistan on November 3, 2007.


From Samar: A strong showing by citizens of Rawalpindi/Islamabad yesterday outside Dawn News office. Thank you all for your support; thank you Zanaib and Alia for putting it together. I'd also like to take the opportunity to decry the actions of Islami Jamiat Students in Lahore yesterday. Ours is a peaceful struggle for democracy and we cannot condone violence in any form from any party. Additionally, we firmly believe that, if we are to succeed in restoring democracy, we must remain united. There is no room for factional politics within our movement. Divided, we're easy pickings for a ruthless dictatorship. For those unfamiliar with the story, please read:


ISLAMABAD, Monday, 19 November - Student Protest outside Air University PAF Complex, E-9, Islamabad, Time: 2pm

KARACHI, Tuesday, 20 November, Karachi Press Club, rally by journalists Time: 3pm

NEW YORK - Doctors For Democracy and Justice Seminar: Pakistan main Aeen and Jumhooriat ki Pamaali- Ek lamhae fikr (Trampling of Constitution and Justice in Pakistan) Sunday November 18th, 1 PM to 5 PM (Ziafat ( previous Bukhara Restaurant)
786 Coney Island Avenue, Midwood NY 11230 - Tel 718-287-7011)
Speakers include:
- Justice (Rtd) Wajih-ud-Din Ahmed, through special telephone
- Ali Ahsan Esq, Attorney at Law, Son of Atizaz Ahsan
- Mazhar Abbas, Secretary-General of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (in NY to receive the CPJ International Press Freedom award – see
- Dr. Manzur Ejaz, Washington based renowned Journalist
- Hassan Abbas, Boston based political analyst
- Rana Ramzan, Pakistani American Advocates for Civil and Human Rights (PAACHR)
For further information, please contact Dr. Abdul Majeed (516) 655-4134) Dr. Qazi K.Haider (516) 225-7852, Dr. Faheem Butt (516) 410-1507, Dr. Nasir Gondal (917) 860-0808 and Ahsahullah Khan Bobby of Coney Island Avenue Project (917) 440-9002

New York Students' Pakistan Action Committee/EHTIJAJ/Featuring /Salman Ahmad (Junoon)/
Sunday, November 18, 2007, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
*Location: *UN Head Quarters,* *First Avenue at 46th Street/NY Students' Pakistan Action Committee is a coalition of students across NY Universities./

UPDATE ON ABIDA HUSSAIN From her son Abid Imam, a lawyer in the US:Sent: Wed Nov 14 18:12:50 2007

Syeda Abida Hussain, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, former Cabinet Member and Member of Parliament, and presently a member of the Central Working Committee of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, was arrested under orders of the present regime in Pakistan earlier today for engaging in the agitation for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. Some hours later, she was brought back by the police to her residence, which has been declared a sub-jail. She is under indefinite house arrest and is confined to her room and back verandah, with policewomen posted outside her bedroom door, and policemen posted at the gate.

All pro-democracy forces in Pakistan today, including the Pakistan People's Party, hope for the speedy release of all political prisoners, lawyers and members of the judiciary, a restoration of the 1973 Constitution, the reinstatement of the dismissed Chief Justice and the dozens of judges that were dismissed along with him. We also desire the repeal of the present administration's extension of the Army Act to apply to all civilians who, if now publicly say or are overhead saying anything critical of the Army or any member of the Armed Forces, are subject to arrest and trial by military courts, in addition to the repeal of the ban on the independent TV channels. All of the foregoing are prerequisites to holding free and fair elections.

HRW DEMANDS: Pakistan: Rescind Decree Allowing Military Trials of Civilians

For Immediate Release - Pakistan: Rescind Decree Allowing Military Trials of Civilians Amended Law Gives Impunity to Intelligence Agencies (New York, November 15, 2007) –…. …Trials of civilians conducted by special military courts under the amended law will not be public, investigations will be conducted by military officers, and rules of evidence and procedures laid out for constitutional trials will not apply. It is increasingly recognized under international human rights laws that the trial of civilians by military courts should be very exceptional and only occur under conditions that genuinely afford full due process….The amendment will take effect retrospectively from January 2003, in effect sanctioning impunity of the army for detaining and "disappearing" people. Full text at:


Winding Back Martial Law in PakistanIslamabad/Brussels, 12 November 2007: General Pervez Musharraf's declaration of martial law on 3 November can only bring more violence and instability to Pakistan. The international community must support the Pakistani people's demand for the immediate restoration of constitutional order and democracy and the end of military rule. …To achieve this, the international community should apply graduated sanctions, starting with immediate suspension of military cooperation talks and a review of military aid. If Musharraf does not take off his uniform by 15 November and undo martial law and its effects, tougher sanctions should follow, including suspending non-counter terrorism military aid. If there are no results in 30 days, the military's foreign assets should be frozen and senior officials and officers refused travel visas. Simultaneously, aid should be expanded for education, poverty reduction, healthcare and relief work, with \the money channelled through secular NGOs…. Read the full Crisis Group briefing at:


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