Pakistan: Brutal state force unleashed on peaceful protesters

Thousands arrested, tortured, beaten and humiliated on the streets

In the worst ever crackdown against lawyers, political workers, trade union activists and social workers, the Musharraf regime in Pakistan has arrested thousands of people so far. This crackdown is still going on as thousands of political activists are forced to organise underground. Here are some eyewitness reports of protests and state repression.

At the moment, Pakistan has been turned into a police state. There is no law and no morality exists for the police and other law enforcement agencies. The police are trying everything to please their masters. The courts are not taking any notice of the naked use of force against peaceful demonstrators. Even female political workers and lawyers have been badly beaten and humiliated on the streets. Anybody who opposes this tyranny and repression is treated as a criminal and a terrorist.

Lahore

Minutes after the imposition of emergency in Pakistan on 3 November by the Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf, law enforcement agencies launched a major crackdown across the country including Lahore. On 4 November, Lahore police raided the homes of many activists including lawyers, politicians and representatives of civil society, arresting over 800 people. The police had clear-cut instructions not to tolerate any act against the emergency and to arrest everybody who could potentially raise their voice against this act.

Monday 5 November was an even worse day in Lahore; police brutally targeted lawyers protesting against the imposition of the emergency. Around 3,000 lawyers gathered in Lahore High Court and tried to stage a protest rally on the Mall but were stopped by a heavy contingent of police. The police used tear gas and baton charged them and many of the lawyers were seriously injured. More then 1,000 lawyers were arrested. Police stormed into the lawyers’ chambers and High Court Bar Association office to arrest the lawyers. The police also used heavy tear gas and baton charge inside the Lahore High Court. The police also badly beat up the lawyers before their arrest.

This brutality failed to stop the protests and demonstrations in Lahore. Every day, police viciously beat and humiliated protesters but still people came out to defy emergency rule. These demonstrations are small but the numbers of protests and demonstrations are increasing in the different parts of the city. The people of Pakistan are experiencing this sort of brutality and humiliation two decades since the last crackdown. In last two days, students and political workers have also joined the protests. Journalists have also started daily demonstrations. The police have adopted a strategy of silencing and crushing every raised voice against the present regime. The regime has adopted a clear class policy as they are sending ordinary political workers to notorious prisons but the main political leadership belonging to the ruling class has been put under house arrest to keep them in comfort. At the moment, the overwhelming majority of protesting students, human rights activists and political workers are from the middle class. The working class has not really come out to take part in these demonstrations and protests in Lahore. The reason is that the working class and poor people are still not ready to trust the existing political leadership and parties.

Islamabad

Protests are taking place in Islamabad despite the arrests and crackdown against lawyers and political activists. Students have also organised two protest rallies in which hundreds of ordinary people took part alongside the students. The biggest show so far was organised by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) on 9 November. The PPP tried to organise a public meeting in Rawalpindi to protest against the imposition of the emergency. But the administration refused to give permission for this public meeting and started a crackdown against PPP activists. More then 2,500 party workers were taken into custody. PPP workers clashed with the police on the streets and the hide and seek was continued for a whole day between the police and PPP workers. The police also blocked all the highways leading to Islamabad from North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab. Thousands of security personnel have been deployed in Islamabad and Rawalpindi to stop protests and demonstrations but still people are coming out to protest.

Karachi

In Karachi the administration has adopted a policy of blocking any protest before it starts. Hundreds of lawyers, trade union activists and political workers have been arrested. The police and the paramilitary rangers are not allowing any lawyer in the premises of Sindh High Court without the permission of the registrar of the Court. The police brutally attacked lawyers in different District Courts to stop their protest. The police are also not allowing any demonstration or protest to take place around the Karachi Press Club and Regal Square, the main rallying point for the demonstrators. Arrests are continuing as protests increase. Eighteen lawyers have been charged with treason and sedition. The courts are not accepting bail for arrested lawyers, political workers and trade union activists. The size of demonstrations and protests is small because of state brutality and fear.

Peshawar

Lawyers and political workers are continuing their protest against the present regime. Hundreds have been arrested and brutally tortured. Almost all the main leaders of the lawyers’ community and political parties have been arrested and sent to notorious prisons in the province to further torture and humiliate them. All this brutality and the continuous crackdown has failed to stop the protests and the courts are not working properly. The protests are getting momentum in Peshawar and other cities of NWFP.

Multan

More then 300 lawyers and political workers have been rounded up in south Punjab. The security forces tortured and beat lawyers and political activists with clubs and punches. The police also dragged protestors onto the roads and beat them. The lawyers forced the judges that took the oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) to leave their courts. All the opposition parties are organising daily protests in solidarity with the lawyers. Lawyers, political workers, NGO activists, journalists and students have formed an action committee to mobilise the masses. This action committee is also asking transporters and small traders to join the struggle against the military dictatorship. There is a possibility of big protests in the coming days in Multan.

Interior Sindh

There were very few protests in Sindh in the first few days but now the momentum has started to develop. On Saturday 10 November, the whole of interior Sindh was shut down in protest against the imposition of the emergency. More then 2000 political workers, lawyers and trade union activists have been arrested in the last couple of days. As the PPP has come out onto the streets, the protests have become more intense. The protest movement in Sindh can develop into a mass movement.

Role of Socialist Movement Pakistan

The SMP is actively involved in the protests and demonstrations across the country. SMP members are not only taking part in the protests but they are also trying to mobilise the trade unions and workers organisations in the protests. SMP is also putting forward its demands through its material (paper and leaflets). The SMP is preparing itself for bigger protests and demonstrations in the coming days. Many SMP workers have been injured in these protests as the result of police brutality.

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