The situation after Emergency / Martial Law in Pakistan – An overview
General Pervaiz Musharraf, Chief of the Army Staff and the President of Pakistan on November 3rd, 2007 imposed a state of emergency through out the country and promulgated a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO).
This Emergency is in fact a martial law. The Constitution was held in ’abeyance” and fundamental rights suspended which means that from now onwards, the country will be governed by the dictate of the President.
The PCO expressly suspended the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan under Articles 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 25.
The PCO prohibits the courts from holding or issuing any decree against the President, the Prime Minister or any one exercising powers under their authority. Specifically, the President shall now require a fresh oath under the PCO by those judges who wish to be included in the High courts and Supreme Court.
After the imposition of emergency, the General blamed judiciary for growing militancy, attacks on state infrastructure, security agencies. He said that judiciary was working at ”Cross purposes” with his government and the legislature.
He alleged that the judiciary interfered with war against terrorism, economic growth, and was responsible for weakening writ of the government, demoralization of police, hampering intelligence agencies, release of some militants, judges overstepping their authority, supreme judicial Council made irrelevant, humiliating government officials in courts. As a result, in his opinion the trichotomy of powers was eroded and law and order situation in the country was affected.
Despite the official pretext (Taliban and suicide bombers), the real targets were judiciary and media. Why? The regime feared that a Supreme Court judgment otherwise due next week might declare Musharaff’s re-election by parliament last month as illegal. Musharaff’s present crisis in fact unfolded itself last summer when regime suspended the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The chief justice had built him respect among masses owing to some radical decisions on women issues, environment, disappeared prisoners and privatisation. His suspension triggered a three-month mass movement, led by advocates that forced Musharraf to humble: Iftikhar was reinstated. A reinstated Iftikhar kept on embarrassing the regime by his bold but principled decisions. Iftikhar’s principled and brave attitude was in strong contrast with the traditions of Pakistan’s otherwise corrupt judiciary.
The judges have usually been compliant (of course for lucrative rewards). Few bucked the trend but were soon sorted out. Hence, Iftikhar Chaudhry’s fight back came as a nice surprise winning him tremendous respect. His struggle and consequent mass movement last summer also belied the business-as-usual global media coverage of Pakistan: a country under jackboots, run by corrupt politicians and rampant with bearded lunatics. The struggle to reinstate the Chief Justice as well the ongoing resistance by judges, aided by charged advocates, against Emergency presents a different picture of the country.
Curbs on Media
Similarly, media have been targeted in particular. According to censor laws imposed under Emergency, all material is banned:
* That may aid terrorist activities
* That jeopardizes integrity of Pakistan
* That defames the administration
* That is deemed vulgar or obscene
* That promotes ethnicism
* That defames army (!!!)
* No broadcast of video footage of militants
* No programmes that incite violence
* No live coverage of incidents of violence.
Crackdown on Civil Society, Lawyers and Political Workers
Even draconian is the suspension of basic human rights. For an ordinary Pakistani citizen, Emergency tantamount to:
– The suspension of right to assemble, form associations or trade unions or political parties.
– The suspension of right to have or consult legal practitioner in case one is detained under any crime.
– The state of emergency also allows the state to deprive a citizen of his property and compulsorily take possession of, for a public purpose, any property by compensation or fixing the amount of compensation.
Till the time of writing these lines (Nov 8), we have seen that in last four days arrests of lawyers, political workers and civil society activists have been made in thousands, while thousands have gone in hiding.
On Sunday, the November 4, police raided Human Rights Commission of Pakistan offices and arrested over 70 civil society activists gathered for deliberations upon the implications of Emergency on human right situation in Pakistan. Among arrested were leading journalists and artists too. I was also arrested during action, which I have reported earlier. Attacking HRCP office is like attacking Amnesty offices in a country.
On Monday, the November 5, police all over country attacked lawyers and arrested several thousand from all the major cities. Lawyers have started their campaign against the emergency and are willing to give any sacrifice for this. First time in the history, police entered Lahore High Court premises to arrest the protesting lawyers. It was a tough battle for police as the lawyers resisted and lot of them were injured by baton charge and tear gas shelling by police.
On Tuesday, the November 6, police raided offices of several lawyers and political parties and arrests in hundreds were made all over the country. Some of the prominent political leaders were arrested in these raids.
Labour Party Chairperson Comrade Nisar Shah Advocate, a leading lawyer was arrested along with dozens of protesting lawyers in Islamabad yesterday, November 7 during protest demonstration.
Since the imposition of emergency by the military dictator Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) is on streets with other protesting democratic forces. Comrade Nisar Shah had been organizing numbers of protest demos in markets, thoroughfares and on public places of the capital and also in Rawalpindi city against the military rule till the today morning when he was arrested during the demo. He was severely tortured by the police at the moment of his arrest. He is shifted to unknown place.
Three other party Comrades are still missing after the arrests and we all are searching for them different police stations of the capital to know about their where abouts.
It is third big assault on party comrades since the second coup of General Musharaf, first the Lahore police raided LPP General Secretary Comrade Farooq Tariq’s house three times and misbehave with the inmates in very inhuman manner and still trying to arrest Comrade Farooq who has gone under ground for a while to organize the protest movement of the party.
In Karachi party comrade Shakeel Malik was beaten up by the police when he and other party comrades trying to safe Karachi Press Club General Secretary Najeeb and other journalists from the police torture.
Despite regime’s attempt for tightening its grip through Emergency even further, situation remains very fluid. Few bold acts of resistance by advocates or if majority of judges remains adamant (majority has refused until now to baptize Emergency) may inspire masses to take to roads as was the case last summer. On the other hand, regime may crack down even hard to strike terror in masses’ heart to pre-empt mass assemblies Pakistan witnessed recently in summer.
Text: Khalid Mahmood, Director, Labour Education Foundation