Click on Links masthead to clear previous query from search box

Lawyers' `Long March' in Pakistan `a great event in the movement against dictatorship' (+ video)

By Farooq Tariq
Thousands of lawyers, political, trade unions and social movement activists have made their way to Islamabad. They are participating in the Long March called by the lawyers' movement. This is to push the Pakistan Peoples Party government to restore the top judges without any conditions.

June 11 report: The Long March started from Karachi on June 9 and arrived in Sukhar at early hours of June 10. Here they were joined by the participants from different groups from Baluchistan. They arrived at Multan on June 10 in the late hours, where the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Choudary had arrived to welcome the rally. They left for Lahore around 1pm.

At Lahore, thousands will go to Lahore airport at 5pm to receive the chief justice Iftikhar Choudary and other deposed judges. The caravan will come to Lahore High Court where Iftikhar Choudary will speak to a convention of lawyers. On June 12, the participants of the Long March will leave for Islamabad. The lawyer's leadership has not yet announced the plans for Islamabad. But it is understood that the activists will Gherao (picket) the parliament.

Labour Party Pakistan activists have joined the Long March from Karachi and on the way and they are joined by other LPP activists. They will be joined by another 50 LPP activists from Lahore. At Islamabad, the LPP is setting up camp to welcome the Long March participants.

The Long March was called after the newly elected parliament failed to restore the top judges as promised before the general elections. The Pakistan Peoples Party had promised to restore the judges within one month of coming to power but failed to do so. They want these judges restored through a constitutional package that include many conditions on the freedom of the judiciary. The lawyer's movement started on 9 March 2007 is entering its decisive phase. The Long March has caught up the imaginations of many workers and peasants and has started to join the movement.

June 12 update from Gojranwal: At Gojranwala, a city around 70 kilometer from Lahore, it was once again a scene we had witnessed all the way from Lahore: hundreds of youth raising slogans against Musharraf. It is 1 am and still hundreds of people on the road to welcome the Long March.

All way long it was a jubilation and slogans and a lot abuses shouted against Musharraf. Maybe over 100,000 had waved hands to the 1000 or more vehicles in the Long March.

At one time, while I was doing an interview with KTN, a Sindhi TV channel, hundreds of youth surrounded our bus and raised popular slogans like "Go Musharraf go!" It was broadcast live through my telephone.

At Lahore, while we were stuck for half an hour, a comrade told us that Mian Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, was going to speak at a rally to welcome the Long March. We decided to have our own rally while all the traffic was stuck.

Over 100 of us with red flags started going to the place where Nawaz Sharif was going to speak. Many more hundreds followed us. We were raising slogans and waving our flags. While near the rally place, we were stopped by police, we pushed them to go further. Next were barricades to stop people going near the platform. I was the first one to jump the barricades despite all the efforts of police to stop us. Then four women jumped the barricades.

The police were very rough and so were we! Police overpowered our comrades who were unable to jump. They asked us to go back. We refused point blank. The SP police threatened me of arrest, I became more vocal on this and started shouting at police. They had to retreat. We went ahead very close to platform, five of us: four women and myself with red flags.

We were cheered by some from the platform including Nawaz Sharif. Others were Aitezaz Ahsan, Saad Rafique, Iqbal Haider of HRCP.

Some TV channels showed live about our encounter and a lot of press photographers were seen taking photos. I was later called by Daily Dawn if I was manhandled, and I told the whole story. Thousands cheered our action and showed V signs while we were returning.

At Gojranwal city center, we got of our buses and raised slogans at 1.30am. Here, over 5000 had gathered and we were surrounded immediately by hundreds.

We have been offered and given food and drinks all way. A lot of rose petals showered on all the buses. Here one commented when I opened my window: Go and get rid of Musharraf and I am also coming to Islamabad.

June 12 update from Lahore: We are now ready to go to Islamabad at 3pm on 12 June. Original schedule of 9 am departure had to be changed as the address of the Chief Justice finished at 6am Lahore High Court.
Labour Party Pakistan set up a big camp in front of Dher Pindi, a village opposite Lahore Airport. The village land has been taken over by the land mafia of PMLQ. We had this campaign of land rights for the last two years. Over 500 participated, many women.

I had a brief chat with Iftikhar Choudry CJ while he stopped at our camp of all red flags. I explained him about the land mafia and requested to take a notice. He was smiling and may be happy to see hundreds of peasants with red flag and supporting him.

Our Karachi comrades arrived this morning at 6 am and we had arranged their residence at Caritas. We had to pay for the residence. They are 40 of them travelling since 9 June from Karachi.
We have booked three flying coaches from Lahore for Islamabad leg of the Long March. Now waiting for the mini buses to arrive. Around 60 from LPP Lahore will join the laywers.

June 13 update: I am on a bus roof top for two hours. I cannot tell how many have started from Lahore for the Long March to Islamabad but everywhere there are heads and heads. It is going beyond our expectations. Our four vehicles are decorated with red flags and they are flying like anything.

The lawyers movement have caught up the imagination of hundreds of thousands. It took us two hours to travel few kilometers inside Lahore and still in Lahore.

There are thousands of people on both side of the roads waving us and happy to see the thousands of people in Long March.

Slogans are against military dictator Musharraf, American imperialism, and against price hike, for restoration of top judges, and for a just society.

There are cheers and confidence on every face. Activists from Muslim League Nawaz, Tehrik Insaaf, Jamaat-i-Islami, Labour Party, Awami Tehreek and lawyers movement are in thousands on different buses, trucks, mini buses and cars.

Islamabad is around 400 kilometers and we are still in Lahore at 7.30pm. I think it could take whole night to arrive in Islamabad. We want to have a sit in at parliament.

Pakistan Peoples Party is nowhere to be seen. It is an all out
opposition show. What a tragedy for PPP to bring so many in opposition within three months.

June 13, Rawalpindi Update: I could not write as regularly on the developments of the Long March as I had wished due to the stealing of my mobile that I was using to send reports on the way. Now I am at net cafe in Rawalpindi, as thousands are in the Long March and stuck at Liaqat Park. I took the opportunity to write on.

We arrived in Rawalpindi from Lahore in nearly 20 hours. So a distance of 300 kilometers was covered in 20 hours. The reason was that many thousands of people were waiting for the Long March and they were stopping them to speak to them. I have never seen such a sentiments against the military ruler General Musharraf as was witnessed on the route. Every single person was angry on General Musharraf. they wanted the judges to be restored.

At 4am, in Gujrat, over 4000 were waiting for us and there was a public meeting at the time. So was the case all along. The road were not deserted but full of people where ever there was some population. At Rawalpindi, it is see of heads all over. After long time, ordinary Pakistanis have joined the lawyers movement. Those who were saying where are the people, they can see today where are the people. They are all against the military rule and for restoration of the top judges.

There are stalls every where and the participants are offered water and some time some food as well. It is very hot and still the participant of this historic long march are fighting the heat by coming openly in the sun to raise slogans.

Around fifty women members of Labour Party Pakistan were raising slogans all the way. they were very energetic and participating in full capacity.

[Farooq Tariq, spokesperson, Labour Party Pakistan, 40-Abbot Road Lahore, Pakistan
Tel: 92 42 6315162 Fax: 92 42 6271149 Mobile: 92 300 8411945, visit www.laborpakistan.org www.jeddojuhd.com. Reports from Farroq Tariq have been combined and edited by ASAP at http://www.asia-pacific-action.org/node/53]

* * *

Pakistan: Al Jazeera video news on lawyers' mass sit-in in Islamabad

 

Tens of thousands of Pakistani lawyers taking part in the "long march" have now descended on the capital Islamabad. They're staging a mass sit-in outside parliament to pressure the new government to reinstate judges fired by President Pervez Musharraf.
Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reports

See BBC video news report here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7454322.stm

* * *

Pakistan: Lawyers' leadership calls off picket of parliament at end of Long March

By Farooq Tariq, Labour Party Pakistan

"Despite the conciliation of the lawyers' leaders in the end of the Long March, this was one of the great events of the movements in Pakistan against the military dictatorship. It brought hundreds of thousands in the street against militarization. It helped developed new layers of political activists It was a great manifestation of the working class joining hands with the middle class. Not only those who participated will not forget it but by those as well who joined to welcome the caravan. It has put a lot of pressure on the parliament but it could have been done decisively."

We started our Long March from Lahore around 6pm on June 12, 2008. Four vehicles were carrying around 100 Labour Party Pakistan activists. The destination was the capital, Islamabad, where the leaders of the lawyer’s movement announced a picket of parliament. This was to put pressure on the Pakistan Peoples Party Government to fulfill their promises to restore the top judges removed by President/General Pervez Musharraf.
The judges had refused to take oath under a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) after General Musharraf announced an emergency on 3 November 2007. Taking of oath under PCO would have legalized the Musharaf dictatorial measures.
The Pakistan Peoples Party came onto power after the general elections of 18 February. The PPP had promised to restore the top judges within 30 days of coming into power. However, they failed to fulfill their promise and wanted to put some conditions on the independent judiciary before they are get their job back.
'Go Musharraf, go!'

We arrived at Islamabad on June 14 at 2am. It took 44 hours to cover, a distance of around 300 kilometers. On average, we drove at a speed of 7 kilometers an hour. This was due to the massive presence of ordinary people all the way to Islamabad. They were reception camps and many thousands people were queuing many hours to receive the Long March and say to them a good luck.
No one had any rest but attended all the public meetings, replied to all the slogans against Musharraf regime, put stickers, spoke to people, waved hands all the time and walked some time ten kilometers along thousands.

The mood was euphoric. They all wanted Musharraf to go. I have never heard so much muddy language against a ruler as was used by many who saw this opportunity to express their real inner feeling. They all were happy that at last something is going to happen. “Go and get Musharraf out, we are with you” was a comment we heard very regularly. It was an all out anti-Musharraf consciousness expressed all the way.
Imagine people queuing up in thousands even after 12 pm...

Dirty tactics by PPP

We attended a public meeting at 4am at Gujrat where few thousands have refused to go home until out caravan arrive and speak to them. This is a city where he leader of Musharraf supported Pakistan Muslim League was defeated despite all his best efforts. Here we saw for the first time the flags of Pakistan Peoples Party within the crowed that were waiting for the participants of the Long March.

The PPP leadership had advised its members not to attend this Long March. The Peoples Lawyers Forum, a PPP front among the advocates, had announced a complete boycott of the event and many PPP leaders were making jokes of the Long March. They were making very hurtful remarks about the Long March.

Javed Bhatti, an LPP activist, called me and told me that some private television channels are commenting about the “low turn out” of the Long March. I was surprised about this dirty tactics of PPP leadership who had used some of its journalist supports to propagate this lie. This was all contrary to the factual position.
However, the PPP activists in hundreds had defied the main leadership to become part of the lawyer’s movement. This was a welcoming sign and the speakers at the public rally at 4am recognized the importance of this participation.

Mobile stolen

I had started using my mobile to write every few hours a running commentary on the long march and was posting to Labour Party Pakistan supported email list “Socialist Pakistan News (SPN)”.
However, here in Gujrat, my revolutionary tempo had a break. I lost my mobile and so was the hard labour of at least six months to collect all the telephone numbers and emails addresses. The leaders of Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union at Gujrat offered us a cup of tea. I had almost lost my voice because of the consistent sloganeering. While I was using some hot water to freshen up my throat, my mobile was taken away within seconds and the sim was thrown out immediately. It took few hours before I recovered from this great shock.
Those who had erected the reception camps offered a lot of drinks, food and biscuits on many places. We were quite pleased with this gesture.

At Jehlum, around 6am we had a meeting of all the comrades of LPP and discussed our strategy so far and the improvement. It was a very good road side meeting which brought good results in shape of more active participation of all the comrades.

Rawalpindi to Islamabad in 12 hours

We entered Rawalpindi around 2pm and saw some LPP flags welcoming the Long March. We also saw an LPP flag waving on the main truck of the lawyer’s leadership, a truck that would lead us to the parliament. It was the work of Rawalpindi comrades.

Here we saw the red flags of other Left groups like the Peoples Rights Movement, Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party, Awami Jamhoori Itehad, Awami Tehreek and National Workers Party. While the green flags of Jamaat Islami and Muslim League Nawaz were the major part of the caravan, but it was difficult to ignore the red flags as well. Flags of Imran Khan Tehreek Insaaf were also seen all along the route.

It took us around 12 hours from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. Alia, an activist of People Rights Movement inspired many thousands by her creative slogans and speeches. We all were now out of our vehicles and gathered around the truck of PRM who had good arrangement of loud speakers. All Reds were there. A good unity action by all the left groups.

We were the last one to reach the parliament area. The reason was that none of us had a rest or a proper hot food for the last eighteen hours. Comrades wanted to eat something before we reach for the final destination. Here the comrades from Rawalpindi had also joined us. Over 100 of us started walking to the parliament from Aab Para Chouck at around 1.30am. It was around two kilometers. We all had our red flags and started the final chanting of slogans.

We had heard already that over 100,000 had arrived before our main caravan to reach at the main venue. At Rawalpindi, it was an ocean of heads. Everywhere, there were people waving flags and chanting slogans.
As we arrived at the main area where over 100,000 had gathered already, we started moving to the front of the gathering and raised slogans. We saw thousands of lawyers in their suite lying on the ground because of long distance they covered to come here. Some have already erected the camps in anticipation of few days of picket. For them, it was now or never situation.

PMLN's role and a 'bitter end'

We came very near to the main platform and Mian Nawaz Sharif was just going to speak at the time. He spoke well about the issue of the judges but in the end, he advised the lawyer’s leaders to rethink about the picket of the parliament. He in fact asked them not to go ahead for the picket and that it was OK what they have done.

We immediately realized that the leadership of lawyer’s movement had been in discussion with PMLN and that they had not announced publicly what they will do at the end of the Long March. The impression given by the leaders of the movement was very clear. “It is now or never”.
A picket of lawyers in thousands would have spoiled the uneasy relationship of PPP and PMLN, the two main parties of the capitalists and feudal. The PMLN is in power in Punjab and had come out of the central government when PPP had not restored the judges as promised. However, they did not want to go very far in this regard. The chief minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif had already come out openly against the picket of parliament.

Resistance turned into reconciliation

Aitzaz Ahsan, president Supreme Court Bar Association announced the end of Long March while speaking to thousands. It sparked an immediate reaction by the young lawyers who wanted go all the way. Many wept and had tears in their eyes on this open reconciliation policy of the main leadership of the lawyer’s movement. The leadership had moved quickly from resistance to reconciliation. No one agreed to the arguments of Aitzaz Ahsan that we do not have the resources for the picket.

Much more could have been gained if the leaders of the lawyer’s movement would have stood according the predominant rebellious consciousness. It was a gross tactical mistake to loose this opportunity to put more pressure. It left a very bitter mood in the end and a movement divided on the issue. A bitter end in short terms of a historic gathering. It was a crisis of the leadership. It may be the beginning of the more and more conciliation by the leaders of the movement.

Despite the conciliation of the lawyer’s leaders in the end of the Long March, this was one of the great events of the movements in Pakistan against the military dictatorship. It brought hundreds of thousands in the street against militarization. It helped developed new layers of political activists It was a great manifestation of the working class joining hands with the middle class. Not only those who participated will not forget it but by those as well who joined to welcome the caravan. It has put a lot of pressure on the parliament but it could have been done decisively.

We arrived back in Lahore on June 14 evening. However, the comrades who had started their participation on June 9 from Sind arrived back to their homes on June 16 evening. For them, it was a long week on the roads, as was the case for those who started their Long March from Quetta and other cities of Baluchistan.

Powered by Drupal - Design by Artinet