Compilation of responses, Laal, and the GPO 150

A compilation of responses to my last two articles on the `long march’ from
Hassan Gardezi, Chris Sinha, Zahid F. Ebrahim, Farooq Tariq, Fauzia Minallah,
Asad Jamal, Zaheer A. Kidvai.
Plus link to a music video by Laal to Faiz’s poetry that I’ve been wanting to
post for some time, and an eyewitness account by Ammar Ali Jan of how
demonstrators in Lahore stood their ground against the police (where the initial
resistance was made by PTI and JI workers according to various sources,
including Imran right at the end). It was such defiance that probably led to the
tide turning and pressurising the Presidency to accept the reinstatement demand.
Certainly a positive aspect of this entire movement was that it cut across
class, gender and political divides as I and many others have observed before.
My point in the Long View article was only to highlight a concern about the
politics of some of those engaged in this movement. I hope this is something
that can be discussed and debated without resorting to mud-slinging and
Beena Sarwar

Re: Five Days that Changed Pakistan

From Hassan Gardezi, Canada:
I do not know Beena, from whom your very last comment comes from. But I must say that the only credit I can give Zardari for his “retreat” is that he practically paralysed Pakistan’s ailing economy by commandeering transport trucks and containers with merchandise worth millions of rupees in order to build a protective wall around his seat of governance in Islamabad. He should be charged for this latest crime among other violations of human rights.
And allow me also to say that our progressive writers who were ready to bury the lawyers movement as an anti-democratic single person issue, should now hang their heads in shame.

[Dear Prof. Gardezi,
– Asad Jamal is an advocate of the Lahore High Court and has been active in the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the CJ.
– The commandeering of the containers and other vehicles did indeed cause huge
losses to the economy. Zardari and his cronies can certainly be held accountable
for their over the top response. By the same token, other elements can
– With all due respect, I don’t think that questioning the methods and timing
employed by the lawyers’ movement and the motivations of some of the elements
involved comes under the ambit of burying it as an anti-democratic single person

From Chris Sinha, educationist, UK:
Thank you for this very informative piece, which focuses on the internal, popular and democratic dynamics of Pakistan in contrast to the entirely US/UK “security” oriented semi-reporting that we in Britain have received. (Not that I deny either the international significance of these events, or the depth of the problems confronting democrats in Pakistan, but the news media here seem to view Pakistan as primarily a problem to be solved by Great Powers, rather than an agent in what we can at the very least hope will be progress to liberation and peace).

From Zahid F. Ebrahim, Advocate Supreme Court, Karachi:
My take `Did Zardari get the last laugh?’ – The News Op-Ed, March 17, 2009

[Zahid raises some pertinent points. Interestingly, his article on the bottom left of one page was juxtaposed by Farahnaz Ispahani’s article on the top right of the opposite page, `Jinnah & mob politics’. As a PPP MNA, she is obviously partisan, but her quote from the Stratfor commentary is still valid: Pakistan is becoming “increasingly polarised between idealists and realists…. It is ironic that a movement to establish rule of law in a country that has largely been under authoritarian military dominance for most of its existence could end up undermining the state itself.” (“Pakistan: Beyond a Showdown”)

Re: Long March – A Long View

Farooq Tariq, Spokesperson, Labour Party Pakistan, Lahore, to IPS:
Dear Editors,

I disagree with the analysis of our dear friend Beena Sarwar. The reinstatement of the deposed chief justice is not just a question of “one person”. It is a question of opposing the measures taken by a military dictator General Musharaf.

Pakistan Peoples Party is no more a left wing force, so no question of a right wing takes over by this long march. PPP and Muslim League Nawaz both are right wing political parties. A very significant part of civil society organisations
and all the Left wing political parties including Labour Party Pakistan are demanding the reinstatement of the top judges and are taking part in the long march.

The political parties that boycotted the February general elections played an important role in exerting pressure on Musharaf dictatorship for fair elections. President Zardari has become more like a civilian dictatorship. Banning GEO
television, arresting political activists in hundreds, closing all the roads to Islamabad and resorting to all sort of dictatorial measures is no tasks of civilian presidents.

I personally was jailed several times by Musharaf dictatorship and was in underground several times. I am again in underground to avoid an arrest for the only crime to support the lawyers’ movement.

Farooq Tariq
Spokesperson Labour Party Pakistan

[Farooq Tariq is a committed rights activist and we have worked together in many pro-democracy struggles in Pakistan. However, our readings of the current situation differ significantly, not in the end goal of the judiciary’s restoration but the manner in which it is being done. Soon after the elections of Feb 2008, Farooq wrote saying
an article that the boycott had contributed to the transition from military to civilian government. I agree that they did contribute to the pressure against Musharraf, but if the boycott had been completely successful, it is unlikely that transition to civilian rule would have taken place at all.

He is correct in pointing out that left wing political parties are supporting the long march – but within that support there is a divergence as not everyone within those parties agrees with the method of protest that brought the country to the brink of chaos, ably aided by the government’s blunders and overreaction.

Farooq Tariq correctly accuses Zardari of behaving like a civilian dictator – they have goofed up badly in deploying force to stop the long march – but I wrote the piece before the showdown began and Geo was banned (for a few hours) and the information minister’s resignation. Even if PML-N and PPP are both ‘right-wing’ according to Farooq Tariq, it does not take away from the fact that the long march has the full support of the right-wing players whom I identified in my article – forces which tend to justify and sympathise with the Taliban seeing them as an ‘anti-imperialist’ force. There are many people who want to discuss the fear of a right-wing takeover or dominance rather than sweeping it under the carpet. Doing so in no way implies an acceptance of Zardari and co as ‘left-wing’ – something I never
suggested in this or any other article.]

Fauzia Minallah from Islamabad, sent out the following email to my editors at IPS besides circulating it on various lists (from where it got circulated further, thank you Fauzia):

In response to Beena Sarwar’s article ‘ Long March- A Long View’

Dear Beena, I regret the aspersions and doubts appearing in your article for the IPS about human rightist activist Tahira Abdullah’s left wing credentials. She has been the most committed activist in the lawyers’ movement. It is ironic when liberal, progressive secular activists like yourself join the chorus of RIGHT WING taking over, and it is shocking when you write the following:

`There is also irony in progressive, secular activists like Abdullah joining hands with the emerging right-wing coalition to achieve a shared goal – the restoration of Chaudhry Ifikhar’.

KINDLY STOP DISTORTING FACTS. It is not about THE PERSON OF CJ Iftikhar Chaudhary. It is about the symbolism he embodies. It is to reverse the legitimacy given to the illegal action of dictator Musharraf on 3, November 2007. It is against the continuation of the same ‘Prostitution of Constitution’, and continuation of the same messy policies of the Establishment.

So who is LEFT WING in Pakistan ? This PPP and ANP lot who:
Joined hands with ultra Islamist Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, gave his JUI(F) federal ministries
To get Fazl-ur-Rehman’s support, re-opened the extremist Madrassah Fareediya
Made jirga, Karo Kari, burying women alive notorious Bijrani and Zehri federal ministers
Bartered away Swat, Malakand, part of Hazara, Dir and Chitral to the Taliban
Enforced Shariah through Nizam-i- Adl.

The Right Wing was there when the lawyers movement started in 2007, so what was the leftist PPP doing supporting the lawyers then and why were you a part of it?
You know very well the lawyers have been supported not JUST by the PML(N) and the MMA parties, but also LARGELY by an assorted array of progressive, left-oriented political organizations and civil society groups, including the Anjuman Mazarain Pakistan, Awami Party, Awami Jamhuri Party, Awami Jamhuri Ittehad, Communist Party, Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party, Labour Party Pakistan, Insani Huqooq Ittehad, Khudai Khidmatgaar, People’s Rights Movement, Joint Action Committee for Citizens Rights, Women’s Action Forum , Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan, Aurat Foundation, ASR, AGHS, Christian Study Centre, Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation, PIPFPD, PODA, Sungi Development Foundation, Strengthening Participatory Organisation, Simorgh, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Shirkat Gah and most of all the miorities leader J.Salik.

Tahira has always stood for progressive values and principles. If she is there in the movement, she is fully aware of and committed to the principles involved. In this she is not alone; she is in good company with progressive and leftist
stalwarts like Kishwar Naheed, Asma Jehangir, Shehnaz Ahmad, Amina Piracha (a die-hard PPP member) and hosts of others.

This article presents an intentional distorted view of the reality of the lawyers’ movement. It would be sad if such distorted views were to undermine the lawyers’ movement at this critical juncture.And for what? Zardari led ‘PPP?’
Where Benazir’s closest allies Naheed Khan and Safdar Abbassi are actively taking part in the Long March, Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman have resigned, Aitezaz Ahsan and Enwar Baig have been side lined from the party.

The greatest Left Wing Coalition is un-elected Zardari-Salman Taseer- Farooq Naek sharing the same bed with Maulana Faz lu Rehman????

[Dear Fauzia

You have a right to your opinion but I take exception to your accusation that I cast any doubts or aspirations on Tahira Abdullah’s commitment or credentials. Neither have I anywhere suggested that Zardari and co represent the ‘left’ wing, or what’s left of it, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Since you’ve seen fit to copy your response to various addresses at IPS, I’m doing the same. I’m also copying a response to your reaction below that was sent on to me too – I wonder if you’ll circulate that to all those you sent your
email out to.


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Zaheer Alam Kidvai
Date: Sun, Mar 15, 2009 at 7:27 PM
Subject: Re: In response to Beena Sarwar’s article : Long March – A Long View
To: Fauzia Minallah

Dear Ms Minallah

Since you asked for your piece to be circulated, it reached me, too.

Tahira is a dear friend and I’d take offense to anything wrongly said about her.
You’ve certainly gone a large step further and taken offense to something that
was not said about her. Beena’s sentence highlights a real irony – a word she
does clearly use at the beginning of the sentence which, btw, follows several
lines that show respect for Tahira’s principles. To jog your memory, here they

`The irony is illustrated by the recent three-hour detention of the firebrand
women’s rights and political activist, Tahira Abdullah, who has been mobilising
the lawyers’ movement from her home in Islamabad.

`She faced police batons and tear gas in the Zia and Musharraf eras. A day
before the long march began, a police contingent arrived at her house and
virtually broke down her kitchen door.

`However, her arrest attracted media attention, embarrassing the government into
quickly ordering her release. An undeterred Abdullah immediately resumed
mobilising for the agitation.

`”It is sad and ironic that the PPP government has come to this,” she told IPS.
“They said it was preventive detention. They can’t catch people like (Taliban
leaders) Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Fazlullah but they send police after me, a
very ordinary person.”‘

This ironic situation is one we face in several forms everyday in a confused
political landscape, internationally and nationally. We all gathered, marched,
protested – around the world – against the Americans when they attacked Iraq in
the reign of Bush the First and that of Bush the Second. All! Jamaatis, PPP,
PML-N, Muslims, Christians. Hindus. Fundos. Atheists. Communists. Just because
the Right Wing (and the much worse PML-N) chooses to support a cause, those who
feel the cause per se to be right need not stay away. Tahira’s wish to support
the restoration of Choudhry for the reasons you state may be totally at odds
with that of PML-N’s opportunity-riddled desire to do the same, but what does
one do: Should Tahira & Co display banners that state ‘I am with Choudhry but
not with Nawaz’ or some such thing? That’d be comical.

All Beena thinks is that the situation is ironic, That’s all. IMHO it is not
more ironic than for a pacifist like me to occasionally (secretly) hope – driven
by the insanity around us – that someone would blow the terrorists up before
they do the same to us. I really am too old to believe that we could talk them
out of their warped beliefs.

Of course, by saying ‘joining hands’ if Beena meant to imply that Tahira was
doing so beyond the issue at hand and changing her political stance, I’d be
upset for I have seen no evidence. However, I don’t think that was the case.


From asad jamal
Mon, Mar 16, 2009
Subject Re: In response to Beena Sarwar’s article : Long March – A Long View

Dear Fauzia,

First of all CONGRATULATIONS! The restoration, on the one hand, is a success of
the civil society members who have struggled hard in these two years; on the
other, this shows the resilience of democracy, and the ability of the present
rulers to submit to the peoples’ demand, even if belatedly. I think it would be
unfortuante if my fellow citizens who like to be part of the progressive civil
society, do not give Zardari credit for this retreat, howsoever belated it may
have come.

I think Beena in her article only pointed out the irony which indeed there was
and actually raised concerns of so many, like myself, who really feared a taking
over of the ‘situation’ by the right wing forces. History is full of such
incodents in not so distant past, Iran for instance has been cited by many as
one such example. What happened in 1977 when the progressive forces sitting in
opposition joined hands with Nizam-i-Mustafa Tehreek to derail the democratic
process is still fresh in our memories. Communist Party’s support for creation
of Pakistan and Muslim League’s parochial approach is another such chapter from
history which we in Pakistan are yet to discuss at length.

I think the difference of opinion is on the use of tactics. You may see the deal
with extremists in Swat as a submission to by the ANP-PPP government, but people
like Afrasiab Khattak and many others with unquestionable credentials may have
different view, who see it as mere tactic.

I don’t think Beena by any stretch of imagination cast aspersions on Tahira’s
credentials. I for instance was among the first ones to get Tahira’s message of
arrest around 6.30 am on March 9. and did whatever I could to at least register
my protest. While I was all for the march and protest, I never agreed with her
and other friends, to the call for ‘Dharna’, precisely for the fear which so
many of us found so real.

Equally disagreeable is the way how Zardari has been targetted and singled out
for all the mess. I have always found it confusing that while on the one hand my
civil society friends, save a few like Athar sb I believe, kept demanding for
the restoration, on the other they kept tagetting NRO and Asif Ali Zardari. I
think PPP is and will remain a major democratic force in Pakistan for a
considerable time to come. Targetting Zardari, as former Senator Farhatullah
Babar, said yesterday, can only be seen an effort to weaken the PPP. Such
tactics have not helped and will not.

You have pointed out Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman (and Aitzaz Ahsan whose case
is difefrent). I will add Farhatullah Babar to the list, all of who have reacted
gracefully without going public about the difference of opinion within the
party. This will strengthen the party and raise their own stature in the
estimation of the people. PPP, you will agree, is a force we need to strengthen
and further DEMOCRATISE rather than antagonise. and let’s, instead of getting
involved in arguments over difference of opinion on tactics, try to build upon
the gains we have made in the last two years. Let’s leave it to the future
historian who, in the ultimate analysis, may find people like me and Beena to
have been proved wrong on the issue of threat of dharna and coallition with
right wing forces. This is time to share fruits of success.

warmest regards,

asad jamal

Over to Laal, that wonderful musical band of young people active in the
Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (their first song was Habib Jalib’s Mein Ne Uss
Se Yeh Kaha –
The video referred to May 12, 2007 –

Umeed-e-Sahar (Hope for the Dawn) – Poet: Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Last but not least, Ammar Ali Jan in Lahore, posted to the CRDP list on March

Dear Imran,

I happened to be part of that “GPO 150” when the police started using tear-gas.
This is a picture of us throwing stones at the police
s_photos_wl/r469008846.jpg/ (Im in a red shirt on the right)

We had left Zaman park where Aitzaz had been placed under house arrest. Lahore
gave the look of a deserted ghost town in the morning with the Mall road
completely blocked. I was with the Labour party pakistan, Student Action
Committee and civil society members. We decided to walk our way towards the High
court in pairs so that the police fails to notice us. Some of us succeeded while
others, like nauman Qaiser and jalees Hazir were arrested at the checkpoints.

I have been to many protests in the past but I have never seen anything like the
passion visible infront of the High Court. There was a consensus that if the
Lahore High Court falls, the movement will fizzle out. We also had feryal gauhar
and Hina jilani with us in the crowd and they also thought that resistance
infront of the High Court is the key for a victory. As the police started
shelling tear-gas indiscriminately, many started falling unconscious. All of us
panicked and started fleeing the scene to evade arrests. A man who must in his
70s, started yelling to the fleeing crowd (which included me as I could no
longer breath) that this was not a time to run but to fight. Eventually, the
baba ji fainted as well but he encouraged all of us to come back and continue
the fight.

We resisted the police for over two hours, pushing them back many a times.
Express News reported that 250 to 300 shells had been fired at the protestors.
Express news reporter Rabia Mehmood and AAG channel correspondent Mani almost
fainted and had to be taken away from the scene. Many were vomiting because of
chemicals in the tear-gas which were worse than anything I have witnessed.
However, this brought the best out of the Pakistani nation. Some people were
carrying salt and water for those getting injured in the fighting. Others were
helping carrying people to the diagnostic center in the High Court or onto Edhi
ambulances. When the police would charge protestors on one side, they would be
pelted by stones from the other side. This was the key to this street battle as
the police was being hit by stones from all sides which is why they could not
takeover the High Court. It didnt matter which political party or group one
beloned to. Everyone was looking out for each other.

By this time, alot of lawyers, political activists and civil society members had
gathered at the gates and those of us who had been there since almost 12 decided
to leave as we felt de-hydrated and coult not breathe properly. When we went in
the courtyard where all the activists had gathered (including Justice Tariq
Mehmood, Advocate Anwar kamal, Hina Jila, Tehmina Daultana etc), we had no idea
what this battle at the GPO really meant. We were just looking for water and a
place to sit. Infact, I was a little dissapointed that the numbers infront of
the GPO had not been big and that the Long March could be a failure.

It is here that we recieved the news that this battle had gripped the entire
country’s imagination. The news channels were constantly talking about the
police high-handedness and the resistance by many activists. I even recieved a
call from a friend in States who said that she had read about the crazy fighting
at the Lahore High Court. The tide was deifnitely turning.

After this, the people were in complete cotrol of the city. Thousands joined
Nawaz Sharif’s caravan as he defied detention orders to lead the procession from
his house in Model Town. The High Court courtyard went ecstatic when we heard
the news of the resignations of the IG,DIG, SP, DCO and deputy attorney general
of pakistan. Crowds cheered wildly as some of these gentlemen joined us at the
High Court. The most memorable part of the evening for me was to see Aitzaz
Ahsan defiantly enter the High Court building despite orders for his house
arrest and the police officers stood in line to salute him. This meant a
complete victory for the movement and from their onwards, it was just a matter
of time before the government would be forced to accept our demands.

I feel that the way Taseer’s goons were defeated at the GPO showed the weakness
of this state apparatus. It represented the best of pakistan. On one side, it
represented despair, state brutality and police repression. On the other, it
reflected hope, resistance, the passions and the dreams of many Pakistanis. We
had won not because of the generosity of the country’s leadership, but because
of the countless sacrifices of lawyers and activists for the past 2 years with
15th march 2009 becoming the grand finale in Lahore. Despite the success, our
post-colonial state is still full of problems and oppression and there will
inevitably be more resistance. In all of the future struggles, we shall remember
and take with us the spirit of March 15.

In solidarity,
Ammar Ali Jan

P.S. I had always been embarassed about bthe fact that Punjabis have shown the
least amount of resistance to the establishment. Our brothers and sisters from
the smaller provinces have been at the forefront of the anti-establishment
struggle and have rightly accused the Punjabi leadership of making compromises.
I hope our performance in Lahore and generally during the lawyers movement will
also help enhance the image of Punjabis as people who can take a stand and fight
the tyranny of an oppressor even if he is Punjabi (Salman Taseer).

Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2009 08:02:58 +0500
Subject: [CRDP] GPO-150, PTI and JI, Asma Jilani and Liaqat Baloch

Regardomg my email on the heroic GPO 150, Qaisar, who was there ( he has been
there for the whole struggle, and gave me courage to do my own little bit) has
just conveyed that the initial resistance there to police efforts to vacate GPO
chowk was done by PTI and JI workers.
Salute to PTI and JI. Qazi Sahib’s struggle has been heroic too. Shows when the
cause is true, Liaqat Baloch and Asma Jilani can stand shoulder to shoulder and

The marchers prevailed despite heavy police contingents. Photo: Rahat Dar

The marchers prevailed despite heavy police contingents. Photo: Rahat Dar

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