PAKISTAN

Pakistan’s Appointment with Democracy

Friday 7 December 2007, by Feroz Mehdi

On Saturday November 3, 2007 Pakistan’s President elect and Chief of the Army General Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency in Pakistan on the pretext, citing among other things, a “visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks ... have taken such activities to an unprecedented level of violent intensity posing a grave threat to the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan” and “some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions”.

On Saturday November 3, 2007 Pakistan’s President elect and Chief of the Army General Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency in Pakistan on the pretext, citing among other things, a “visible ascendancy in the activities of extremists and incidents of terrorist attacks ... have taken such activities to an unprecedented level of violent intensity posing a grave threat to the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan” and “some judges by overstepping the limits of judicial authority have taken over the executive and legislative functions”.

The ongoing protests all over Pakistan demanding the President to give up his army position and hold elections as scheduled for mid January intensified with this declaration of emergency. Thousands were thrown in jail including lawyers, journalists, human rights activists, while the police and armed security forces brutally attacked non-violent demonstrations in all major cities of Pakistan. Eminent human rights activists like Ms Asma Jehangir and Mr. I.A. Rehman were put under house arrest. Ms Benazir Bhutto, who came back from Dubai on the eve of the imposition of emergency was also put under house arrest as armed police cordoned off her house preventing her from leading a protest rally in Rawalpindi.

In one of the protest rally organized the day after the imposition of emergency at the Karachi Press Club, Mohammed Ali Shah, the Chairperson of one of the largest social movement in Pakistan, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, along with leaders from many other organizations declared that “The unity of people belonging to different walks of life is the need of the hour. We have to stand together to struggle against the newly-imposed martial law.”

In the continuing repression and arrests of protesting citizens Karamat Ali, Director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) sees some hope. And this hope and optimism comes from the very continuation of protests despite the imposition of Martial Law. « Never has this happened in the history of Pakistan that public outcry and protests have continued, in fact increased, after imposition of emergency by a military dictator. Under Zia and Ayub Khan, (the past two dictators) people were afraid to voice their dissent under such conditions »

Everybody knows that Musharraf has been effectively cornered, politically speaking. Threatened by suicide attackers from Islamists organizations, under attack by the judiciary, challenged by the civil society movements and opposition political parties, he has not been left with many friends except for his loyal generals around him. To top it all, the USA and other Western countries are pressuring him to take off his uniform and hold democratic elections. Musharraf is once again trying to buy time. He is pleading with the Western masters that Pakistani democracy is not as strong as the ones in the West and that such measures are necessary in the reality of Pakistan. Nobody is buying such arguments, both inside and outside the country.

In a meeting organized by major human rights groups, labour unions, writers union, women’s organizations and progressive political formations on November 7, 2007 in Karachi it was unanimously resolved « We strongly condemn the imposition of State of Emergency, promulgation of Provisional Constitution Order (PCO), suspension of fundamental rights and the dismantling of the entire structure of the judiciary, by the Chief of Army Staff. We regard these steps as illegal and unconstitutional, amounting to virtual abrogation of the Constitution and imposition of Martial Law... an act of high treason according to Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan”. The gathering demanded immediate announcement of the schedule for holding free, fair and impartial general elections under a neutral caretaker government and an independent Election Commission, constituted with the approval of all political parties and opinion groups in the country.

The ongoing people’s protests demanding democratic elections is a very healthy sign and carries with it the promise of strengthening democratic institutions in a country that has been ruled by the military for more than half the period of its existence since 1947. This cannot be achieved overnight. If there is any guarantee to achieve a sustainable democracy in Pakistan, it can only come from people’s will and the likes of current display of actions. But in the short term, a real analysis of the concrete situation on ground demands that in order to untangle the present state of affairs, the key players involved, the Army (Pervez Musharraf), Opposition political parties (Benazir Bhutto) and the Judiciary (Chief Justice Iftekhar Chaudhry) should talk and reach a quick agreement. Musharraf has been repeatedly saying that he will give up his army job as soon as the Supreme Court recognizes his election as the civilian President that he won recently and Bhutto has been given a clean chit on charges of corruption and now has the constitutional right to be the Prime Minister once again. At the face of it there are grounds for a mutual agreement between the key players in favour of holding democratic elections in shortest delay possible.

Musharraf has announced that elections will be held on January 8, 2008. The Supreme Court, with Judges appointed of his choice, has declared his election legal. It will not be surprising that he takes off his uniform sooner than later. He has also reiterated that he will not lift the emergency till the elections are held under the pretext that chaos will reign the land thus hindering fair polls. People continue not to buy this and the protests and repression continues. Yes, elections will be held with or without emergency. One has to watch if the army will remain in their barracks to let the democratic process take roots in Pakistan or will history of Pakistan repeat itself.

À propos de Feroz Mehdi

General Secretary, Alternatives International *

Feroz Mehdi is one of the founder member of Alternatives. He has been working on projects related to the countries in South Asia. He has also been working in education programs in Quebec and Canada organizing conferences and contributing to publication of newsletters and other documents of analysis and information.

Since 2007 he has taken the job as General Secretary of Alternatives International. The federation of AlterInter has 9 member organizations from Canada, France, Brazil, Israel, Palestine, South Africa, Niger, India and Morocco and its Secretariat is in Montreal.

Vous avez aimé cet article?

  • Le Journal des Alternatives vit grâce au soutien de ses lectrices et lecteurs.

    Je donne

Cet article est classé dans :

Partagez cet article sur :

  •        
Articles de la même rubrique

Analysis and Articles

In Defence of Neve Gordon

Plus d'articles :  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Articles du même auteur

Feroz Mehdi

Élections indiennes de 2019 : les défis à relever

Plus d'articles :  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Je m’abonne

Recevez le bulletin mensuel gratuitement par courriel !

Je soutiens

Votre soutien permet à Alternatives de réaliser des projets en appui aux mouvements sociaux à travers le monde et à construire de véritables démocraties participatives. L’autonomie financière et politique d’Alternatives repose sur la générosité de gens comme vous.

Je contribue

Vous pouvez :

  • Soumettre des articles ;
  • Venir à nos réunions mensuelles, où nous faisons la révision de la dernière édition et planifions la prochaine édition ;
  • Travailler comme rédacteur, correcteur, traducteur, bénévole.

514 982-6606
jda@alternatives.ca