Guest Post by Riaz Ahmed of International Socialist of Pakistan
We were released around 12:05am after being arrested at 10:55pm on July 17. It was a fantastic experience. Everyone managed to force the police to spoil the Doger show. Imposed as Cheif Justice of Supreme Court on Nov 3 by General Musharraf Doger is trying to establish himself and came to address a function in the late of night on July 17 at the Sindh High Court.
Thanks everyone for the frantic phone calls, smses and email alerts that within minutes the news of arrests of us 16 was flashing on the entire planet! So much energy. But we should not exaggerate. Not because that exposes our weakness in mobilizing many after the Long March but solely because exaggeration of our numbers obscures the fragility of this regime — its panic, its inability in handling a minor protest, its failure to estimate the popularity of our movement, its inefficiency in forcing a small victory for its side — its powerlessness after being so ‘powerful’ with all the state apparatuses.
We were few, I counted at most 70 to 80 people in all, at the most, not more. They, the police were many, about 50 on trucks and vans on each side of High Court, hundreds waiting in police stations all around. When people assembled at 8:55pm at the Naubahar Restaurant opposite Election Commission Office on the road leading to the imperial High Court Sindh building it was obvious the protest will be a photo-session. Leaders of Karachi Bar like Secretary Naeem Qureshi (who was arrested later) were quick to first move the protest from main road (already blocked by five police vans) near to the pavement and then to the disgust of all us activists (Peoples Resistance 4, International Socialists 5, Trade Unionist 1 and about 12 lawyers led by the very able Ahmed Salahuddin) the Naubahar was forced open by police and Naeem Qureshi announced at about 9:25 that we stop the protest and have dinner inside!!
About 16 of us continued protest, then a brilliant young lawyer Noor Khan started raising slogans ‘high court chalo ya jail chalo (high court or jail) and suddenly the crowd swelled only to be stopped by a handful of policemen helped by cooperating lawyers asking us not to proceed. We tried again after 20 minutes, now 8 of us, but could not find any echo, by now about 50 odd protesters were eating the dinner in Naubahar (one free biryani Rs 115 paid by the leaders). Salahuddin, Noman and Noor the trio that initiated the idea of protest against Dogar a day before went busy trying to convince people for further action. Around 10:35pm one whispered us few standing outside that the protest is moving quietly to the front entrance door (the pigeon chowrangi near Sindh Assembly) of the High Court. Naubahar is on the back side, we had to travel around to the front side. By the time Ayub (Pak Trade Union Federation), I, Burhan, Asim, Usman of IS reached there the scuffle had begun. The pigeons sleeping on the chowk were flying desperately as the police shoved protesters from over the chowrangi towards the Sindh Secretariat side, I and Ayub decided to court arrest. When we got near the crowd Adv Noor was being bundled in the van, badly beaten but continued raising slogans until arrested. We raised slogans and were mercilessly attacked by the panicked police. Ayub was encircled by plainclothesmen and I saw all hell broke on him. I raised the slogan ‘Hum Kiya Chahtay Hein (What do we want)’ and the burly policemen cried jumping on me ‘Aa Behn@#$% tujhey batatey hein (Oh fuck your @$%*, let me tell you) and while pulling me himself fell on the ground. Quickly I too was bundled in by other of his brethren.
In the van I saw Ahmed Salahuddin, Naeem, Noor, KK Jawaid, we all were very happy that we succeeded in protesting and getting arrested, everyone knew anything less than that was of no good. Everyone who wanted to continue protest was arrested. Women to Women’s Police Station and men to Preddy Police Station.
That they continue to mention Ahmed Salahuddin as son of Sindh CJ Sabih is only to personalize Ahmed’s role in this struggle, that is highly unjust. However the fact that they are young, brilliant, consistent and mindful-of-the-need-of-moment lawyers like Ahmed and Noor will itself come out as a much much larger truth, it’s a matter of time only.
That it all was organized in a matter of few hours is marvelous. It was against heavy odds: the dharna-spectre of Long March, the ferocious speed and brutality with which the US and Pak state war on North West has managed to get popular consent/shock as the silence against it shows, the massive rise in price and people’s frustration and the exhaustion of struggling activists. They attacked us thinking we can be overwhelmed but failed miserably.
The state is weak, it is desperate to maintain a facade of its existence. What we need is to spread this realization that forcing a change only requires tipping the balance, gathering of our potential energies — they are few and we are many. And they no longer have the guts to be our masters.
Wondering how one can come to that conclusion? Just one last episode: Ayub Qureshi got arrested for the third time in this movement. This short-height smiling left-trade-unionist in late forties was arrested in protests in Karachi raising slogans last year on Sept 29 against Gen Musharraf’s ‘election’, on Nov 5 against Emergency and now on July 17 at Sindh High Court. This time while he was pushed, dragged and bundled in the van, someone took a photograph. In this photo full of fantastic expression of anger there is another but disgusting action in progress too. You can see in the attached photo that while the plainclothesmen are arresting Ayub the ‘two starred policeman (part of name appearing as ‘hahzada’) is actually busy taking away Ayub’s watch!
(International Socialists (Pak))