You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

‘Black coats’ or ‘Blackshirts’! -DAWN - Top Stories;

IF Monday’s incident inside the Sindh assembly was despicable, the treatment meted out to veteran politician Sher Afgan Niazi by a group of ‘lawyers’ in Lahore yesterday has perhaps put the entire nation to shame.

The images of Arbab Ghulam Rahim being thrashed by an unruly band of PPP activists in Karachi were still fresh in the minds of most people, when the television screens started to flash some of the most disturbing images of people in black coats beating, abusing and humiliating a former minister. Sher Afgan’s only crime was that he didn’t agree with the lawyers’ movement, sided with President Musharraf on the issue of proclamation of emergency, and even lost his seat in the elections after being dumped by the then ruling PML-Q.

Perhaps in civilised societies even criminals are not treated the way some of the people treated Sher Afgan outside a lawyer’s chamber.

During the chaotic situation in Lahore on Tuesday, when this group of lawyers refused to listen even to their leader Aitzaz Ahsan, there were clear signs that if not checked at this stage the ‘black coats’ may soon be replaced by what were once known in Europe as the ‘Blackshirts’.

Indeed, what was being dubbed as a movement for restoration of democracy and rule of law was clearly showing signs of fascism.

Sher Afgan Niazi has always been a controversial person, and the way he had taken upon himself the task to defend all of the President’s actions earned him the reputation of being more loyal than the king.

At a time when most leaders of the previous governments were clearly avoiding taking a position on President Musharraf’s move to impose emergency, Sher Afgan was perhaps the only minister in the previous cabinet to publicly support or justify the presidential action. Of course, it made many people in the country quite angry. But could that justify such uncivilised behaviour? Certainly not.

One can argue about the real causes for this kind of intolerance in the society, and there is every reason to believe that because of repeated disruptions in the democratic process, many people have adopted violent means to voice their grievances. Still, there can be no justification for the way senior politicians and lawyers have failed to control their supporters, who are bent upon settling scores the way they feel is the right way.

Perhaps the first signs of such ‘fascist’ trends were seen when after the restoration of Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry the first time a group of lawyers in Rawalpindi took upon itself the task of enforcing their style of justice system.

During this period, at least one pro-Musharraf writer, and a lawyer, Naeem Bukhari, who was author of a controversial letter against the chief justice, were badly thrashed by this group.

Former Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad was roughed up at the Supreme Court, and at one point some lawyer activists burnt the copy of an apex court verdict simply because it was not acceptable to them. One can always argue these were aberrations in what had come to be known as one of the most forceful lawyers’ movement for restoration of the judges and rule of law. Had these incidents been condemned at that stage, those who took the law in their own hands in Lahore on Tuesday wouldn’t have dared to do so. Ironically, most of those linked to the lawyers’ movement, and the opposition parties of that time, preferred to recognise and condemn such fascist trends.

The result is that today those who in the past had been directly responsible for supporting and promoting military rule, dictatorial actions and dismantling the rule of law in the country, are now coming forward to present themselves as better democrats. They are certainly not democrats. If anything, they are the people who are directly responsible for destroying everything that is democratic in the country.

Most observers of democratic struggle in this country are of the view that these incidents, serious as they are, should prove to be a wake-up call for both the democracy-loving politicians and lawyers. And if one can dare say, also for the media, especially the independent television networks, to take a step back and think how the name of freedom and democracy is being used by some to damage or destroy the very basis on which these lofty ideals are set.

Pakistan’s chequered political history is witness to the fact that the opponents of democracy have always used such incidents to their advantage to disrupt the efforts for the establishment of rule of law in the country. Until two days ago the whole nation was in an upbeat mood, celebrating the restoration of democracy, and hoping for a better future. These incidents have somehow disturbed them, if not dashed their hopes outright.

However, there is still hope. It’s mainly because there exists in the country a very strong coalition of political forces who have suffered in the past at the hands of dictators. But these seasoned politicians and leaders of the lawyers’ movement need to rise to the occasion and instead of getting involved in petty issues and score-settling, deliver democracy and rule of law.

They are quite capable of delivering, provided there is realisation about the gravity of situation, and a will to do so. If they fail, the real loser will be democracy, and the people of Pakistan.
‘Black coats’ or ‘Blackshirts’! -DAWN - Top Stories; April 09, 2008

if lawyers did this, they did it wrong... if they have been used by some hidden hands, then they must be careful in future... but since it has now been done, I think lawyers community should extend an apology n improve their distorted image... they shld do it before it gets too late.
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aZ said...

The incident was a very shameful act on part of the lawyers and there can be no justification for such tactics whatsoever. Having said that, I think this article is a little too harsh on the whole lawyers movement.

You can not expect Aitazaz or anybody, for that matter, to be able to control the aggression of a group of stray lawyers. And, more importantly, the actions of such a small number of miscreants should not be taken as the norm of the whole movement who have spent more than a year under terrible oppression and still, unlike the ruling elite of the time, kept their honor code intact and did not turn to violence.

At least we, the people who have participated in the lawyers' movement with them, know better than to blame all of them. I still salute the courage of the lawyers and will take a black-coat over a khaki any time!

Akeel ur Rehman Faridee said...

what happened yesterday is not acceptable in any case, but at the same time it is also irresponsible and childish to blame Aitzaz for this situation and not being able to control the mobsters.

Q and MQM are always very quick to blame their political opponents. In both the incidents (the one that took place in Lahore and the one that happened with Arbab Ghulam Raheem) neither PML-N nor PPPP can be responsible because still 'Caretaker' government was still in 'control' and power ... and it looks like that they 'controlled' the situation very well in favor of Mush.

How come PML-N can be responsible (as MQM want the nation to believe) for yesterday's incident ?

Zeeshan Ali Rana said...

yes az, i agree tht this article is a bit harsh but we shld have the courage to listen to these things n ability to counter them...
the lawyers have done the great work, but such events would really undo everything... since aitzaz has revealed tht a few emotional lawyers were involved, i think if lawyers extend an apology, it would be a good gesture... tht will improve the image of lawyers tht they accepted their mistake, which a very few ppl do in pakistan...

on MQM thing, akeel saab, plz sit back n enjoy their stmts, they r issuing really funny stmts these days... :) i love them for providing this entertainment :) hehe... for example farooq sattar said "it was not an attack on Mr Niazi but on the entire judicial system, institution of the judiciary and its independence." [note the big words, the jargons :)] then he said “We wanted to inform the people that the country was being pushed towards anarchy.” n he was right see agar aap mqm ko hakoomat mein shamil nahi karein gay, to yeh to hoga :)... mqm k wukela nay pur aman muzahira kia, baad mein pata nahi kis nay firing kerdi, police aa gayee, firing huee, n is pooray qissay mein mqm begunah hai... who is controlling the police in khi? mqm has its governer in sindh, the city govt has its influence on police (since there r no major changes in sindh police after PPP take over), then who is responsible for all this?

Zeeshan Ali Rana said...

see url minor clashes in khi