Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad (Long) March?

March 13, 2009 § 1 Comment

[Long March Primerfor those who want to know more than ‘all the news that’s fit to print.’ Yes, we think you can handle it.]

An email update by a protester on the ground in Khi:

it was a very up-and-down day. when people set out from the high court (felt brilliant!), we thought the police would respond immediately. they didn’t, but had  obviously made a plan to corner the marchers outside of the city…. the marchers reached there much later in the evening–it was slow because the bus drivers that were supposed to take people had been warned against it by the police, so new arrangements were made–when they finally did reach, after much nare-bazi, they were prevented from going further than the toll plaza….[where arrests were made].

people have been going thaana [police station] to thaana to release ppl from police custody. many have been released, but march seems to have been stopped for now, as best as i can tell. there were rumors that the buses were going to be burnt! though i don’t think that happened.

anyway — the feeling on the ground was brilliant, very fearless….

Karachi Police arrested  nearly 200 people. They were later released on Rs 5,ooo each after the local magistrate issued an order, according to the News. Dawn confirms that scuffles broke outside of Sindh High Court where 35 people were arrested including the Vice President of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Party. Police beat protesters with batons and sticks, reports BBC. You can find the BBC’s video here. Approximately 10 prison vans were on hand at a main exit point in Karachi for arrests. An SMS update by Anonymous from Karachi:

Lawyers lock thenselves in their cars at the Toll Palaza Karachi and resisting arrests.

Protesters have been winding their way to Islamabad for the main rally in small groups.

OF NOTE:

1. Aitzaz Ahsan defies Section 144 and leads a rally on Mall Road, Lahore. A key leader of the lawyers’ movement and member of the PPP, Ahsan has been suspended from the CEC of the PPP for violating party discipline. Of PPP supporters of the Long March, he told Dawn blog:

”Many PPP supporters are with us because they know that Benazir [Bhutto] had promised them that the judiciary would be restored,” he says, adding ”it is not true that the lawyers’ movement does not have massive public support…. People are just waiting for the right opportunity to come out on the streets.”

2. In Lahore, police tortured a cameraman and seized his camera as he was filming lawyers arrests, GeoTV reports.

Head of Supreme Court Bar Association, Ahmad Ali Kurd led a march from Quetta which was stopped at Jacobabad. An SMS:

We have surrounded ali ahmad kurd. To govt authorities: if u have the courage come arrest him.

But protesters remained spirited. One texted:

Jacobabad we are going to have a sit-in here. We are not going down that easily.

TV MOMENTS

An emotional moment: human rights activists Tahira Abdullah broke into tears as she took on the PPP’s Minister of Information, Sherry Rehman. If you don’t speak Urdu, no worries here; much of the exchange is in English:


Nawaz Sharif on Live with Talat: PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif who’s party is supporting the Long March appeared for a hard-hitting interview on the news show of one of the top journalists in Pakistan, Talat Hussain. The exchange was interesting. The video will be available here. Hussain asked Sharif why he was taking on the PPP so directly rather than waiting till next elections.  He also questioned whether the Long March was a national movement or one that belongs prominently to the province of Punjab. Sharif’s responded by saying that most Pakistanis support the march and that the PML-N has been winning by getting votes in all provinces.

It may also be added that several of the top lawyers movement leaders are not from Punjab, but Sindh.


The Long March -It Begins

March 12, 2009 § 5 Comments

A primer for those who want to know more than ‘all the news that’s fit to print.’ Yes, we think you can handle it.

WHAT IS THE LONG MARCH?

The Long March is a set of upcoming protests and rallies of thousands of Pakistanis demanding the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other judges who were deposed by Gen. Musharraf in Nov 2007.  Protesters will begin marching towards the capital Islamabad on March 12th. Activists from Karachi and Quetta are expected to arrive  in Lahore on the 14th, and converge on the capital by March 16th for a dharna (sit-in).  This is an independent, grassroots movement for democracy led by the Pakistani lawyers movement that  includes lawyers, activists, students and workers. The term “Long March” refers to Gandhi’s march against British colonialism. The Pakistani government has reacted defensively to this broad-based movement by shutting down the capital and arresting hundreds of activists. Bans on gathering are in effect in several cities.

It’s the second such mass protest. Last June, thousands of Pakistanis of various political stripes and socio-economic classes, marched from Karachi to Islamabad to demand the restoration of the judiciary in first Long March. Benazir Bhutto’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N campaigned on the issue for the Feb 2008  elections. While the PML-N has continued to push for restoring the judges to the bench, the ruling PPP has spurned the demand since winning the elections. Instead, judges loyal to the party have been sworn in, including the questionable Abdul Hamid Dogar.  Also see here.

This is the new democracy movement in Pakistan today.

FOLLOW IT:

The Long March is here. A roundup of some places to keep up:

OF NOTE:

1. Sahiwal, a district of approximately 1 million residents in Punjab, has refused to implement orders under a colonial-era law, called Section 144, which would ban public gatherings of five or more people. Mayor, Rai Hassan Nawaz Khan’s courageous act comes at a critical moment. Government officials have already imposed the law in several cities across Pakistan as part of a crackdown on activists and lawyers preparing for the Long March. Checkpoints or blockades have been erected on all main roads to the capital Islamabad, the destination of the lawyers protest.  The army has deployed some 300 Rangers in and around the city.

The law, which has its roots in 1860 British colonial Penal Code law, empowers district govermnents to promulgate order in cases of emergency for the public interest. Human Rights Watch has issued a demand to the Pakistani government to release the 300 activists currently detained under this draconoian legislation:

Since March 10, 2009, authorities have detained at least 300 activists from the opposition party and affiliated groups from across Punjab province, the partys stronghold. Scores of opposition politicians are in hiding, fearing arrest. The activists have been detained under various provisions of the Maintenance of Public Order Act or simply detained without charge.

“Its a disgrace for elected officials to mimic the discredited military government by using old and repressive laws to stifle political expression,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The protesters who were arrested should be freed right away and allowed to demonstrate peacefully without fear of violence.”

2. Punjab government leader, Shahbaz Sharif defies the ban and addresses a large gathering in Gujranwala. His government was ousted last week following a ruling by the Supreme Court retroactively disqualifying him and his brother from the watershed elections in Feb 2008 that brought him to power. The decision is widely regarded as illegitimate, a biased judgement by a discredited Supreme court packed with judges installed by and loyal to the ruling PPP party. Shahbaz Sharif’s speech is available here.  His brother, Nawaz Sharif’s speech in Abbottabad on the same day is available here.

3. Arrest warrants have been put out activists using lists that the Musharraf government had compiled.  The result? Warrants are out for folks who aren’t even in Pakistan at the moment. Five activists from the Student Action Committee including  Samad Khurram, who refused to accept an award for academic excellence in protest against US policy towards Pakistan from then US Ambassador Anne Patterson, have a warrant out against them. They should lapse after 90 days. “The crime?” says Khurram, is that they “could ‘potentially’ be protesting.”

GET UP TO SPEED:

THE LONG MARCH BY OTHER MEANS:

Long March Songs hit the Internet: http://pkpolitics.com/2009/03/08/songs-for-rule-of-law-long-march/

Remember Jalib:


We will rock you -a Long March mix:

A Long March Anthem by Aitzaz Ahsan:

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