The details emerging out of Pakistan are still somewhat sketchy but some facts are clear; more than 30 people are dead and over 115 injured. The Chief Justice of Pakistan was unable to address the Sindh Bar Association and was forced to go back to Islamabad and the private television station Aaj TV, which has been in the forefront of covering pro-judiciary and anti-Musharraf protests, was attacked by armed gunmen. This is indeed another dark day in the checkered political history of Pakistan.
It is now well past time for the Musharraf regime to go. This government has now lost the last shreds of moral authority required to govern. I salute the men and women of the civil society of Pakistan and the courageous independent media who are leading this struggle for the supremacy of the law and freedom of expression at grave risk to their life and limb.
As tragic and sad as events in Karachi are, this political moment is of historic import for the people of Pakistan and even on this day of darkness I see some hope for a better future. Since the sacking of the CJP on March 9th, the heroic struggle of the lawyers has germinated greater democratic desire and decisively strengthened Pakistan’s civil society and its beleagured independent media.
In the face of relentless governmental coercion there have been heartwarming displays of peaceful resistance, none more evident than in the historic journey of Justice Chaudhry through the heart of Punjab. Those in Pakistan and abroad who desire an eventual constitutional democratic polity rooted in a rule of law have to be encouraged by these developments. The conclusion of this episode, however, remains highly uncertain because no political sagacity can be expected from those who have brought us to this pass.
This grassroots peoples’ movement has also forced the politicians of all hues to make a choice; they either stand on the side of the rule of law or for the perpetuation of a dangerously unstable, one-man military banana republic. Mainstream politicians (despite all their historical shortcomings) clearly seem to grasp the national mood and the King’s men who are standing up for the present dispensation to save their personal fiefdoms will hopefully pay a steep price whenever they face the electorate in a fair election.
MQM more clearly exposed itself today than it ever has in its sordid history (thanks to private TV channels). The party that started with great hopes, rooted in the educated middle classes has over the years just become a collection of vicious thugs. It is wielding its fascistic tactics on behalf of people who seem to believe they have a divine right to perpetual power and who originally nurtured this party as a counterweight to PPP. MQM has shown itself the mirror image of the worst of MMA; both groups want people to acquiesce to their ideologies by force. Neither believes in nor has any fundamental respect for a constitutional rule of law.
Pakistan stands at a critical juncture as it has so many times in its unfortunate 60 year independent history. I would urge all Pakistanis and their well wishers to lend thier support to the struggle of Pakistan’s revitalized civil society. Let’s hope that the forces of peaceful democratic activism led by the country’s courageous lawyers ultimately emerge victorious and we can close this latest chapter of the military’s recurring era of authoritarian and unconstitutional misrule without further human suffering.
Fawad is a California-based literati-at-large and writes the blog ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Moments of Tranquility,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ where a version of this was first posted.