Sunday 16th of MARCH 2008, 2.00 pm
The Drum, 144 Potters Lane, Aston, Birmingham B6 4UU
Political groups, parties and concerned individuals will come together to discuss the situation in Pakistan and explore ways in which we can provide help and support.
Last November, President General Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution and effectively declared martial law in Pakistan. He dissolved the judiciary, arrested the judges (including the Chief justice), imposed a blackout on all non government media and in effect attacked the entire population of Pakistan by suspending fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty, freedom of speech, assembly and association, and equal protection under the law. Army, police and secret services setup road blocks, restricted people’s movement and violently attacked protestors.
Thousands of people, including lawyers, judges, human rights activists and opposition politicians were arrested. Most have now been released but the ex-Chief Justice remains under house arrest and large numbers of judges and lawyers remain without jobs. Most TV stations are back on air, minus certain presenters deemed too critical of the government. However, just recently, one TV channel was switched off for half an hour or so when one of these ‘unsuitable’ presenters appeared as a guest on a chat show!
War on Terror ::
Musharraf has targeted lawyers, judges, liberals, human rights activists and opposition poiticians, but they are not the ‘extremists, terrorists and suicide bombers’ that Musharraf cited as the reason for imposing the emergency. It is Musharraf’s backing for Bush’s ‘war on terror’, opposed by many Pakistanis across the political spectrum, that has increased ‘terrorist’ violence in Pakistan. This support, to some extent forced on Pakistan following 9/11, has come at a terrible price to the people of Pakistan. And the Americans continue to make demands and impose conditions on Pakistan in order to further its own agenda in the region.
Before Musharraf’s onslaught on the judiciary the Supreme court had begun to demand that the executive and law enforcement agencies reveal the whereabouts of several hundred people who have ‘disappeared’. Some of these people, including women and children, have been missing for more than five years. It is feared that many of them were arrested and handed over to the American administration and subsequently transferred to Guantanamo Bay or other US secret prisons. Without judicial oversight, how many more people will disappear?
Poverty and Insecurity::
Despite claims to the contrary, life for the majority of people in Pakistan has not improved. Only 1.8% of GDP has been spent on education - the lowest in Pakistan’s history. Consequently the state education system has collapsed. According to the UN, Pakistan has the worst social indicators in South Asia. With the 5th largest army in the world, Pakistan spent 5.1 billion dollars on arms in 2006, yet just recently, hundreds of thousands of people were unable to afford basics such as flour and cooking oil.
Pakistan Solidarity Campaign::
This was set up to provide support and solidarity to the people of Pakistan as they struggle for freedom, democracy and a better life. So far we have been organising discussions and meetings and also a letter writing campaign to MPs and Gordon Brown. The view of the British Government appears to be that all is well because Musharraf is an ally in the ‘War on Terror’ and an election was held. We demand that the Constitution and the judges be restored and moves be made towards a genuine democracy.
Pakistan Solidarity Campaign : email@example.com