Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Long March in Pakistan

On March 12, 1930 Gandhi marched to Dandhi - stopping in forty plus villages - and speaking about swaraj and breaking the salt laws to show their inhumanity. Satyagraha is definitely at the heart of the nonviolent demand for the restoration of the Supreme Court deposed on Nov. 3, 2007 by Pervez Musharraf and specifically Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9, 2007.

Much has happened since then. Benazir Bhutto's return in October 2007 and her assassination in December 2007. The elections in February 2008 brought to power a new coalition of Pakistan People's Party to power with the swashbuckling widow Zardari taking over as President. A basic campaign promise was to solve the judicial crisis and reinstate the Supreme Court of '07.

None of the promises have been kept. Instead, the PPP regime has used the Dogar Supreme Court (cronies put in place by Musharraf) to throw out the opponent political party PML-N out of power in Punjab and restrict Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif from electoral politics.

The Long March of March 12, 2009, leading up to a sit-in at the capital on March 16th, is the only way that the people of Pakistan can produce pressure on the civilian and military regime to pay attention to justice, to accountability and to democracy.

What shouldn't escape anyone's attention is that _THIS_ is what democratic, nonviolent, resistance looks like. This is fine. This is normal. This is what we should expect in a society where the government and the people are out of step. This is not a coup, nor the '79 revolution.

The Zardari regime has reacted as all cornered governments do: mass arrests, police violence on crowds, implementation of laws against critical speech etc.

The best place to follow developments is on Twitter. You should also follow the liveblog on Teeth Maestro. You should also look over this excellent background piece by Madiha Tahir at APP. You should read Sahar Shafqat's op-ed.

[x-posted on CM]


Anonymous said...

"This is what we should expect in a society where the government and the people are out of step. "

Nope. This is what it looks like when the largest province is out of step with the rest of the country and when its urban class is unable to accept 4 years in opposition for its party. This is also what it looks like when the right-wing is unable to accept 4 years in power by a moderate/liberal party and co-opts a liberal cause for its anti-government demonstrations.

Anonymous said...

The sticking point preventing agreement is the re-instatement of the former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

What I don't understand is why don't the two sides of this issue come out and debate in public the pros and cons of such a re-instatement? After all, back room deals out of public eye don't last, as this whole episode has already shown.

Standing firm on truth or 'satyagraha' should be carried out in the open in the public eye. If Nawaz Sharif's or the lawyers' or Zardari's true positions are hidden or obsfuscated from the public view, it cannot be called satyagraha.

Anonymous said...


Out of the other ethnicities, the Baloch people have suffered the most under an administration dominated by Punjabis.

The region of Balochistan is mostly waste land covered by deserts and uncultivable land. However this area is also rich in mineral reserves such as natural gas and petroleum.

In fact, 90% of Pakistan’s energy requirements are met by the natural reserves of the province of Balochistan.

But the irony is that this province does not even get 5% of the electricity produced from the land in this region. So much for Islamic/Pakistani brotherhood!

The per capita income of Balochistan is next to zilch when compared to Punjab.

Balochistan has hardly any schools or colleges except in the capital city of Quetta. The Baloch people have to travel great distances even to get basic necessities such as water and food supplies.
There are hardly any roads or major railway links in Balochistan. Most Baloch people have to work as migrant labourers in the more developed cities of Karachi and Islamabad.

The Pakistani Army rape women and young girls, kill non-combatants; in general terms, they spread misery amongst the Baloch population.

It is not as if the Civil or Military Administration is unaware of these facts. On the other hand, the Administration fully supports these cruel techniques used by the Pakistani Army to subdue the Baloch.

This is actually a return gift from the Pakistani Administration for the audacity of asking for the basic human rights by the Baloch.

There are no technical institutions where people from Balochistan can pursue education, which would enable them to achieve a respectable status. All the work in the various military or civilians are assigned to non-local labour.

This is not done because the Baloch people are lazy or unable to do work. Rather this is being done to add to the depravity of the already suffering people of Balochistan.

The Baloch people who are not so religious, but are however fiercely independent in spirit were ultimately fed up with the Punjabi-led administration decided to rebel against it.

Even though there is a long history of rebellion of the Baloch people against the evil Pakistani Administration, I will confine myself to a recent event that has become epoch in the history of Balochistan.

I will tell you the short story of Nawab Akbar Bughti. He was a man who once believed in the nation of Pakistan and even occupied several important positions in the Pakistani administration unlike most of his Baloch brothers who were not so lucky.

When he came back to his native place, he was really appalled to see the barbarity with which the Pakistani army treated the Baloch people. He could no longer tolerate the injustice and decided to fight the oppression.

He fought, to secure basic Human rights for his people. The Pakistani Administration decided that this impudent Baloch, who had the guts to ask for equal rights, should also be given a return gift. He was bombed in his house, which was actually a cave, in the middle of night.

This was a warning for the rest of the Baloch people to shut up or suffer similar consequences.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Now the Pakistani administration has found a new way of subduing the Baloch. They have started colonising the Baloch land in bits and pieces to establish colonies of Punjabi ex-army men in order to destabilize the ethnic balance of the area.

To add to the woes of the Baloch, Afghan refugees have also been provided habitations in the Baloch land. This was hardly done out of compassion for the refugees, why not house them in Punjab?

The real reason was to turn the native population of Balochistan into minorities. This way, they are being gradually subdued with ease.

While the Western Media chooses to cherry pick the events in Pakistan, we seldom get to hear the moans and cries of these unfortunate people, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

As I write this article, there might be a Baloch woman being molested by the Army of Pakistan, a child being beaten up for being who he is.

Nobody will ever be able to assess the exact extent of the atrocities the Pakistani Administration has committed upon the Baloch people.

I really don’t understand why the media of the free world chooses to ignore a Human tragedy which occurs everyday in a country as well known as Pakistan.

I also wonder why the Western leaders don’t ask the Pakistani administration as to why these people are suffering so much even after the billions of dollars in Aid.

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