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Black Flag Week Protest at Harvard University

Cambridge, MA: Student Action Committee USA Chapter (SAC-USA) staged a successful protest in Harvard Yard today demanding immediate restoration of the pre-Nov 3 independent judiciary in Pakistan. The protestors condemned – in no uncertain terms- the unconstitutional acts of General (r) Musharraf which include the sacking of an independent judiciary, gagging of media and free speech, suspension of civil liberties and fundamental human rights and illegal detention of judges, lawyers and political opponents without any trial or charges. They chanted “Bring the Judges Back” and “No more Musharraf” and walked from John Harvard Statue to Harvard Square holding black flags and banners.

The protest – which is one of three organized by SAC-USA (the other two being in New York and Washington DC) – attracted a large number of students from Harvard College, Kennedy School of Government, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law, Boston University and other premier institutions of the Boston region. Joining students in their demands were doctors, lawyers – particularly the National Lawyers Guild, Massachusetts chapter-, professionals of Pakistani origin and other members of American Civil Society.

Speaking to the protestors, Aqil Sajjad, member of SAC-USA, condemned the illegal detention of the Chief Justice and his family. He said that the people of Pakistan want the judges to be restored and Pervez Musharraf to be ousted, the US and the international community should respect their wishes and stop interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs to keep the judges out. He also spoke against the continued detention of the judges with their families, including the Chief Justice whose 8-year old disabled son has been kept in confinement with him and at times denied the medication he needs. He argued that the US government should build a solid relationship with the people of Pakistan instead of supporting a very unpopular dictator.

President of Harvard Philipine Forum, Marlowe Rillera, stressed for the need for an independent judiciary. He said: “An independent judiciary assures people that court decisions will be based on the country’s laws and constitution, not on orders of a dictator.” In addition he said that while the situation in Pakistan did not affect him or the Philipines directly, he cared so strongly for an independent judiciary and the serious consequences of not having one that he came with his friends to protest.

After the protest, Samad Khurram, a columnist for The Harvard Crimson, said that Musharraf must respect the wishes of the people of Pakistan. He commented on the recent elections as being a heavy blow to Musharraf’s rule with an overwhelming number voting against his King’s party. “In addition there were a huge number of us who boycotted the elections on principle. If you add both the opposition voters and those who boycotted, the numbers exceed 80% of the country”, he noted.

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