04 Nov, 2007

Pakistan: Martial Law….again

04 Nov, 2007

On November 3, General Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan (something that has been expected for the last 6 months). My sister, who is presently back in Karachi, has been posting regular updates through her yahoo group. To join the list, email her at: bsarwar1@yahoo.co.uk Below is one of her most recent posts (many of the people she lists as under arrest are artists, activists, lawyers who have been protesting for years). In a conversation with my brother earlier today—as he and I were planning our December Karachi visit—we commented that no curfew has been declared-as yet. This is the Zia era being relived all over again.

Here’s Beena’s post: Police rangers surrounded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) office this afternoon, where a meeting to discuss the current political situation was underway organised by the Joint Action Committee. Police broke the hall windows and disrupted the peaceful meeting and asked the participants to come out. All the participants were bundled into the police vans and driven to the Model Town Police Station.

Some activists who were a bit late for the meeting found the office cordoned off by 12.45 and the road blocked towards the office blocked. “We stayed outside the hall for half an hour to assess the situation. We contacted some friends in present in the meeting on moble and apprised them about the situation outside. More contingents of police were pouring in. It was all a threatening scenario. Gun totting police men on red lighted vehicles and bikes were all around. The police ordered all the people waiting ousite the hall to leave the place,” said one of the activists. They remained in contact with some participants on phone and learnt that after police entered the hall and stopped the meeting “they offered the women participants to leave the venue while all the men were told that they are arrested. The women participants refused to go so they were also arrested along with men. later they werte all taken to police station. Police has refused to tell them the nature and period of their detention.”

Over 70 people have been detained and taken to the Model Town (Block A) police station. They include eminent journalist & director HRCP I.A. Rehman, economist Shahid Hafeez Kardar, lawyer Iqbal Haider, HRCP’s Rao Abid Hameed, Dr Mubashir Hasan (later released because of his age), artists Salima Hashmi & Lala Rukh, educationist Samina Rehman & other Women Action Forum members, SAFMA’s Imtiaz Alam. Their families are not being allowed to meet them, although some were able to get medications etc through to them. There are about 150 family members and friends gathered outside the police station. Police are saying that under Sections 3 & 16 of the MPO 1960 (maintenance of public order) they have the right to detain for up to 30 days without charge.

Meanwhile, about 50 people gathered at Karachi & chalked out a plan to keep information flowing. Anoher 50 or so just met at Karachi Press Club at a meeting called by the Peoples Movement for Justice. Prominent Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Hafeez Lakho, Yusuf Mastikhan and others was also there. Other updates coming in thru various sources, some already published on newspaper & TV channel websites: -Sindh lawyers are defying the replacement of the judiciary.

They’ve sent out a text msg saying: “Sabihuddin in our Chief Justice. All judges continue to hold office. We do not recognise Afzal Soomro!” -Sindh High Court Bar Association president Abrar Hasan has been arrested and taken to Karachi Central Prison (source – his daughter in law) -Asma Jahangir is under house arrest. -Other prominent lawyers like former president SCBA Munir Malik are also under arrest -Judges being pressurised to take oath – All news channels still blocked by cable operators, but cell phones and internet working (at least in Karachi) – In a press release today, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) rejected the promulgation of “mini-Martial Law” in the cover of emergency, “strongly condemned late night police raids on private tv news channels, two FM radios following the virtual ban on news channels for the last two days and decided to resist these action with the cooperation of other media organisations including International media watchdogshas.

They have called an emergency meeting on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Other journalist unions have already held meetings in different parts of the country. – PFUJ has condemned the ordinance-2007, to amend Press, Newspapers, News Agencies, and Books Registration Ordinance, 2002 and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, PEMRA, 2002 – the amendment has ‘added to already existing “black laws,” against media and its a direct attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the Press.’ Earlier some ideas were floated about peaceful protest against the emergency: – Wiki site being set up for info – Wear white with a black armband or black ribbon. – Put a black flag on your car or motorcycle and wear black arm bands in peaceful protest against martial law.

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