Another Dark Day, But Hope Persists

Posted on May 13, 2007
Filed Under >Fawad, Politics, Society
179 Comments
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Guest Post by Fawad

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 ‘Moments of Tranquility,’ where a version of this was first posted.

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179 responses to “Another Dark Day, But Hope Persists”

  1. JAWAD says:

    I think the media has made all the difference and partly the reason why these issues have become public is because of courage of media. I way good job to them. But it is also true that media often sensationalise everything because that sells.

  2. Aqil Sajjad says:

    Very true. Musharraf allowed the freedom initially but his recent efforts have been aimed at muzzling the media. Fortunately, he can’t put it back as much as he wants now. He has outlasted his utility and his further continuation is only making things worse rather than helping the country.

    Regular elections are useful for this very reason. They allow for a peaceful change after every few years, so that a government that has run its course can be replaced without too much instability and disruption.

  3. Kruman says:

    While media was given freedom earlier during the Musharraf era, the last few years of his rule have been the most repressive (for media) since the days of his predecessor Zia.

    Hayatullah was murdered by intellgence agencies last year. Geo TV was ransacked in Islamabad, Aaj tv was fired upon by MQM goons in Karachi, Turabi of Sana news was beaten up badly and suffered from internal bleeding, Dawn news has its own tale of woes on its website. Last but not the least the brutal murder of Hammad Raza, assistant registrar of the supreme court was a loud message to the judiciary and other dissenting voices in the society, including the media.

    One’s denunucuation of such tatics by Musharraf government should commensurate with the brutality of his actions.

    I don’t credit Musharraf for the freedom of press today (though he does deserve credit for initiating this). Now the genie (of press freedom) is out of bottle, Musharraf simply can’t put it back even though he desperately wants to.

  4. ayesha sajid says:

    Aqil sahib , very aptly put.
    The media has been given the kind of freedom and free hand that it has never experianced before and yet that also places the onus of being fair and partial on thier shoulders , i wonder if they are doing that job well ?
    Its like a spring that has been kept locked for a very long time , now that it has been released , it will shoot up to its full height before finally settling in to its normal state which means it will create checks and balances for its self and report in an unbiased manner … report that is , NOT comment and give voice to personell opinions.
    The same goes for the society at large , any society that is kept under tight control , will go biserk when a bit of levy is given to it, but eventually it shall find a midle way to tread on IF LEFT TO SELF CORRECT ITSELF.
    And unfortunately even with politics it is the same case , before it can self cleanse and provide itself with checks and balances , some one or the other thinks it is thier God given right to set things right but in the process they almost always tend to botch things up.

  5. Aqil Sajjad says:

    Ayesha:
    You have a point about the media, Musharraf came and allowed private news channels and cable operators which BB and NS were not willing to do. Musharraf bashers won’t admit that, which they should.
    But then, lets also admit that he has also cashed that quite a bit. There is a reason why there has been no serious challange to him for the last few years. He provided a refreshing change after BB and NS for the first few years. But in the last couple of years, he has clearly gone downhil, corruption scams have returned, and even in terms of policies, he does not have anything special to offer now. He has outstayed his utility for the country. It is now time to move on.

    As for the private channels, they are a reality now and even a future BB or NS govt can not roll them back. You may also want to recall that after Zia, the print media also became quite independent during the 1990s. NS had a confrontation with the Jang group but had to back down. My point is that media freedom is not easy to reverse once it has been provided.

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