FIR against 3 LUMS Faculty members and 2 students

Academics for Freedom condemns in the strongest terms the FIR on false charges registered against 3 faculty members of the Lahore University of Management Sciences and 2 students, including the president of the Student Council. The faculty members include:
1) Osama Siddique (Law faculty)
2) Rasul Buksh Rais (Social Sciences faculty)
3) Aasim Sajjad Akhtar (Social Sciences faculty)
The students include:
1) Saad Hassan Latif
2) Umar Malik
The charge leveled against them in the FIR is that of wall-chalking the Defence Police Station. Academics for Freedom recognises that these extremely frivolous charges are simply an attempt to harrass and intimidate members of the LUMS community.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The New and Improved ‘War on Terror’ – Episode 1: Saving Pakistan from the Pakistanis

In these dark, bitter days, Pakistanis stoically retain their sense of humour! Two quips that have been lately doing the rounds are: ‘One coup per dictator please!’ and ‘News of the Day: General Musharraf sacks President Musharraf!’ In many ways they encapsulate the ridiculousness of the situation. Here is a man who has held more or less absolute power during his forced occupancy of the top civilian and military positions in the country; who has waged major brutal offensives in various parts of the country against its citizens without even seeking a cursory nod of acquiescence from his lame duck parliament; and whose trademark is a constant condescending sneer for his fellow countrymen. And yet he is now bending backwards to try and convince us and the gradually awakening international observers, that the misgovernment and maladministration of the last eight years is someone else’s fault. Musharraf is shouting himself hoarse in branding key sections of Pakistani society as unpatriotic, irresponsible, and anarchist and bent upon undermining all the good work that he has painstakingly done over the years. The barebones plot of this piece of fiction is as follows. Taliban ‘bogeymen’ are fast hurtling down the green slopes of the Swat Valley in order to establish their control over all and sundry and that the aforementioned villains are plotting to give them secret access to the otherwise impregnable citadel of progressive, forward-looking and liberal governance that our fearless man in khakhi has erected to fight off any obscurantist forces.

Since Musharraf is so persistent in his illusionist story-telling, one is curious to identify these mysterious supporters of the Talibaan, who are being constantly maligned of knee-capping our valiant hero. Arguably the very first batch of ‘miscreants’ picked up by the ‘forces of good’ after Musharraf’s imposition of emergency (read martial law) were those handful of Pakistani citizens who had assembled at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) building in Lahore. A quick scrutiny does reveal an amazing array of dubious credentials. After all, the group includes university teachers, lawyers, policy consultants, N.G.O workers, businessmen, doctors, entrepreneurs and even that most lethal category – the housewife. And surely they are in disguise for none of them have Talibaan style beards (any beards for that matter), or flowing kurtas and sophisticated weapons. Quite a few of them seem to have gone to tremendous pains in order to meticulously construct their disguises over the years for they are graduates of top international schools and are recognized as the best at what they do in not just the city but indeed the country.

“See I told you – the Talibaan are getting smarter by the day in order to effectively wage their uncouth war. See for example that chap from Harvard – I am sure that our intelligence will corroborate his being particularly savvy with small weapons and IEDs. And those two blokes from Cambridge just look as if they are up to no good. And one can plainly see that the other one from Oxford is not particularly sold on our manner and style of waging the ‘war on terror’ either and, therefore, must be with the forces of evil. And this older man! The one who was suspiciously dunking his biscuits in his tea, when we valiantly barged in to apprehend them. He must be thinking up the formula for a new explosive. How else can you explain his quietly having a hot beverage in times of emergency? As to housewives – you think they cannot be lethal? Well Madam Defarge was a housewife’ (I know! I Know! I am getting a bit carried away in my attempt at reconstructing the ‘incisive’ thinking process behind the stupendous progress in the ‘war on terror,’ evidenced by the HRCP arrests. After all, law enforcing agencies don’t commit the outrage of reading literature. It is forbidden for it stimulates one’s mind and gives ideas – God forbid!).

The HRCP arrests are not an event in isolation but epitomize Musharraf’s real and fast worsening headache, as demonstrated by multiple subsequent arrests of similar people in a similar manner. The very sections of Pakistani society that he has been inaccurately and exaggeratingly purporting to the West as his staunch supporters seem to have betrayed him. Musharraf’s self-imposed myopia inhibits him from seeing that these very people have been displaying their growing discomfort and dissent for quite some time now. His ire and vitriol for judges, lawyers and journalists is not just perception and hearsay. It is documented for posterity in his unique ‘Proclamation of Emergency’ and ‘Provisional Constitutional Order,’ as well as his post 3/11/07 public statements. These documents and statements are unique because never before, even during the heydays of the Newspeak of earlier martial laws, did an autocrat chose the patently laughable option of blaming it all on the scribes, the lens men and the bench and the bar. A sitting President, who is also the Chief of the Army, kicks out the Constitution, fundamental rights and civil liberties and is then irate and accusative because, according to him, the aforementioned scoundrels made him do it. And the lists and numbers of these heinous characters grow by the day as Pakistani cities lose their characteristic charm and vivacity to the constant hum and flash of speeding police vans.

Every day, the ‘war on terror’ progresses in leaps and bounds as the very people who give Pakistan real hope for a bright future, who inform and advise it policies, who interpret and advocate its laws, who galvanize its economic growth, who worry, plan and work for its disadvantageous, who teach its children, who dream its dreams and who move its wheels, face the brunt of a roguish, blunderbuss clampdown on thought, voice, speech and dissent. Pakistani civil and political society, its intelligentsia and its thinkers, its writers and its poets, its professors and their students – in short its best minds and its biggest hearts – are in a state of siege. If they are stifled and decimated – one wonders as to what will be left to save and salvage, to revive, build and sustain against the so-called onslaught of the obscurantists. The obscurantists, if they come to occupy and inhabit these lands, and we are told that they are on their way, will find themselves very much at home for Musharraf will have delivered to them a veritable wasteland.

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