A perfect victim

On 13th September, a 5 year old girl was discovered outside Ganga Ram hospital in Lahore. She had been raped and dumped on the street, a victim of a callous man who probably felt he could get away with what he did.

And sadly, he is right. Most men who rape or commit sexualised violence in Pakistan do so with complete impunity. The only difference here is that this little girl is the perfect victim worthy of our pity.

When a child is raped, societal outrage is far greater than when an adult is raped. Children are innocent and we, as adults, realise we have a responsibility to our children collectively. We realise they are worthy of pity if wrong and we acknowledge that sexual crimes against children are criminal. As I write this, the police are actively looking for this rapist, who, if caught, will certainly face the collective wrath of society as he rightfully should. The chances of him being declared guilty are high, certainly much higher than when an adult woman is raped.

There are many reasons why he’ll be seen as guilty by most and many are reductive without a proper understanding why rape occurs. We, as a society, believe rape is about sex and not power despite evidence to the contrary daily. Rape in our culture is largely about honour. Mukhtaran Mai, who despite her brave fight, was the victim of a sexualised honour crime which had nothing to do with sexual lust. Mai’s rapists were let off despite the collective outrage, despite the evidence and despite the fact that she had excellent legal counsel.

When a female child, whose body hasn’t experienced any pubertal changes, is raped, we instantly see the victim differently and automatically say she’s innocent. But that’s not the case with females whose bodies have matured. Once a female looks womanly enough to seduce, we blame the victim. Was she really innocent? What was she wearing? Did she have makeup on? If so, didn’t she realise she was tempting men? Why was she out alone? Why wasn’t she with her father, brother or husband? Did she not know that she was asking for it by daring to enter male territory alone?

So while child rapists and paedophiles are seen as evil, rapists of adult women are often seen as the innocent victims of women’s feminine wiles. They are seen as men who were left with no option but to ravage a woman and she is the one who is held responsible for it. This then translates into the victim not being believed by the police who hesitate to register FIRs and then by the courts.

In a patriarchal country, the existence of patriarchal attitudes in court is no surprise. Judges, too blame the victims. Judgements include speculations asking why the victim didn’t scream, completely neglecting the fact that many freeze when they are in danger. Judgements also state that there wasn’t enough physical injury so if a woman is raped, but not left beaten, she is often accused of framing a man for rape.

We also assign degrees of blame on victims not just based on their age, but based on sexual experience. A non virgin who has been raped is often called a “woman of easy virtue” and her rapist is seen as the victim of a seductress.

While I sincerely hope this case opens the floodgates of outrage and leads to a demand that we need to reform our rape laws, we must not leave out the many victims other than female children. This includes boys, transgendered individuals, men, sex workers, and all women, including wives. We don’t recognise marital rape. Wives are property of their husbands who need to submit to them sexually and if they don’t, we feel no pity if force is applied. Our conversation has hopefully begun and this time, we must make it more inclusive than it has been in the past.

Written for The Express Tribune

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Daily Times Pay Your Employees!

Did anyone else think it was impossible for Daily Times− a propaganda tool and mouthpiece for the Governor of Punjab, which doesn’t even deserve to be called a newspaper− to get worse? To sink to the depths it has sunk to now? I happen to know that many of the employees haven’t been paid a penny since the editorial regime change from Najam Sethi to Rashid Rahman, which has become a perpetual excuse given to the ones who have asked for their basic right: their salary. I have written this to the letters to the editor to some newspapers but so far, no one has published it. There’s a very simple reason why: they all do it, at least periodically. I cannot think of one newspaper that hasn’t delayed/denied payment. Sometimes, it can take months for writers to obtain even meagre sums, basically the amount they end up spending calling up the office and begging for what they were promised. And it most certainly isn’t particular to newspapers in this nation.

Those of us who have been in the workforce for even a few years know that even when your own relatives promise to pay you, the chances of getting what you deserve are not exactly high. And the richer the person, the lower the chances of ever seeing a penny, at least in Lahore. It’s a sad reflection of what being Punjabi is.

One my cousins, who worked for MTV Pakistan, was also a victim of this. Actually, let’s just say that most people I know have been a victim of this other than the elitist brats who work for dad or have pulled lots of strings to get comfy jobs, robbing the deserving who don’t have connections of their futures. Anyway, she coined a phrase that remains stuck in my mind: “the inshallah syndrome.” This nation, by and large, is stricken with this syndrome, as evidenced by those of us frustratingly trying to get work done. Some of my own students, instead of getting organised and working properly, also love this term. Plenty of times I’ve asked right before a paper is due if they’re working on it or are finished with their rough drafts. The replies that frustrate me the most are from the ones who think that saying “inshallah” and writing a rant the night before will be sufficient.

My point is that there are many of us who have been victims of this “inshallah syndrome” when it comes to payment. This is especially true for those of us who are in the education industry or the media. But what’s truly sad is the fact that the majority of people who are deprived of their basic human right are too scared to speak up. They are too scared to say a thing knowing, full well, that the Punjabi elite, the affluent and influential who run all these industries, will malign them or ruin their careers. In this case, as in many others, silence is violence. This systemic exploitation must stop, and the only way we can do so is by speaking up and making a stink. I realise not everyone’s brave enough to take a stand, but those of us who are crazy enough need to speak up on their behalves. Daily Times pay your employees. You’re disgusting enough as it is.

Hum Logge 9 February, 2008

The Hum Logge protest rally was by far the most incredible rally we’ve had so far. The response and turn out was astounding. Over 1000 people came together from all over Pakistan to demand the restoration of the judiciary. What was most incredible for me was the fact that people were united under one flag: our flag. Of course, there were a few bad eggs like people who insisted on carrying a black flag; the communists and Tehreek-e-insaaf also should have carried the Pakistani flag in solidarity.

We started at Nehar Ghar in Zaman Park at 7 am. Before leaving, we issued media statements etc. Then, a procession of about 20 cars and 2 buses left for Islamabad via the Grand Trunk road. Every car had stickers of the Pakistani flag, as well as a small flag. On the way we stopped at Gujranwala where many lawyers joined us. The reception we received was very warm and tons of people gathered on the streets to hear Bushra Aitzaz speak. Everyone was shouting “Go Musharraf go!” There was a lot of energy and solidarity. We were off to a great start.

Our next stop was Gujrat where we had lunch. More lawyers joined us and we went straight to Islamabad. On the way, people were waving and flashing victory signs. The Islamabad organiser, Kamil Hamid, was calling me frantically since we were pretty late! We had aimed to reach there by 2:30, but we got there at 4 instead. On the way to Aitzaz Ahsan’s house, we noticed that the police had set up barricades all over the Supreme Court. We were originally supposed to go there, but we had to change our venue and decided to go to the Chief Justice’s house instead. When we got to the gathering point, I was stunned by the amount people who kept pouring out from all over- from inside the house, from the street. I only realised just how many people there were once we started the rally. Again, the energy and solidarity was incredible and I salute all the brave people who came to this event.

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As soon as we got close, they started spraying us with water. We all thought it was tear gas, so I started taking videos before running. Then we discovered it was water. They were hosing us down. The fire department- I repeat- the fire department was not attending to actual and real fires; they were being used to fend off protestors. This in a country where water is scarce- very scarce. Because it was just water, people kept going. They kept marching. One man stood right in front of the water with his arms extended. That’s when they started pelting us with stones. But people kept going.

Water

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Within a few minutes, they gassed us with some poison. It definitely wasn’t tear gas. I was retching and couldn’t breathe. My skin was stinging for a whole day afterwards. My mouth still feels like someone has scraped it with a knife.

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The gas didn’t deter many people though. Some people were picking it up and throwing it right back at the police. People just kept going. They urged everyone to keep going, but I was just not ready to face that poison again.

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And the police were brutal. After watering us, throwing stones at us, and gassing us with poison, they started firing rubber bullets. They baton charged and beat the crap out of people. They arrested people who were receiving treatment in hospitals. Details of an eye witness account are available here and here.

And lastly, the blog is now white. I can finally put pictures up here so it’s here to stay!

Protests: 2nd and 3rd Feb

First of all, this blog is now black because well… I got tired of the narrow columns of the green one. It’s also appropriate. It just is.

The rally on the second at Nasir Bagh was a mega-event! Thousand of people united to demand the restoration of the judiciary. The parties and groups put aside their petty difference and united to voice their dissent. Aitzaz Ahsan came and spoke before leaving for the airport where he was re-arrested. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay very long, but I managed to take a few pictures and a video. This blog is refusing to cooperate with me, so those who want to see the pictures, they are on facebook here. And the video is here.

Yesterday, on the third of February, there was a protest outside Aitzaz Ahsan’s house. It was also a very interesting event. The pictures are here.

This is a video of a lawyer. It’s really, really good. I will write the transcript and then translate it soon.

And this is just adorable. Here’s a child appealing for freedom.

I apologise to those who aren’t on facebook. I’m not sure, but I think you may be able to see them without having an account since I’ve made them visible to everyone. I will put up pictures on this blog as soon I can figure out how to fit them!

With extreme prejudice?

On two consecutive days, 1st and 2nd February, the staff (security personnel as well as faculty members) of Punjab College, Muslim Town have tried to deny the rights of free speech and of free association of pro-democracy activists, and members of the Student Action Committee (SAC) Lahore – even going to the extent of brutal, un-restrained physical assault. In the face of this practical demonstration of the fascist attitudes nurtured in the so-called institutes of higher education that constitute the Punjab Group of Colleges, owned and run by the Nazim (Mayor) of Lahore, Mian Amir Mehmood, the activists have shown a remarkable degree of calm and fortitude, refusing to be provoked, and yet refusing to bow down to the dictates of the civilian collaborators of Army rule.

As already reported in some newspapers (e.g. Dawn), on Friday 1st February, Raheem-ul-Haque (adjunct faculty at Punjab University, former Project Manager at Techlogix) and Saeeda Diep (a veteran political, and not merely social, activist) were distributing flyers on the public side-lane in front of the two sections of the segregated Punjab College. The flyers, published by the Students Action Committee, laid out the basic demands of the Committee and also urged students to join hands with other sections of the public in a protest demonstration in Nasser Bagh on Saturday, the 2nd. The two activists were handing out flyers to all the students, boys and girls, consistent with their belief that information and debate are as much the right of women as of men. While Raheem was distributing some flyers outside the girls’ section of the college, he leaned over the chain at the exit and handed a few to some students standing there. He then continued distributing the pamphlets to other students as they left for home or arrived for class. It is important to note two things here: at no point did either Raheem or Diep trespass on the private property of the college, unless, of course, in his extraordinary legislative zeal, the President decides to declare into existence a new law against aerial trespassing, “Thou shalt not lean into, or otherwise violate the airspace of, another’s property”; not a single student had actually complained against the actions of the pro-democracy campaigners.

Soon thereafter, one of the security guards employed by the College told Raheem to stop handing out the flyers. Raheem defended his acts, saying that he was well within his rights to do as he pleased in a public space and that he was distributing flyers to the girls in the same way that he was distributing them to the boys. The guard slapped Raheem. Instead of hitting back, Raheem asked him why he’d hit him. He got two more punches for his trouble – this time the guard broke his spectacles. Again Raheem tried to reason with the guard, protesting that he was not doing anything wrong. He then walked over to consult with Diep. The guard followed, and the ensuing discussion quickly heated up with the guard pushing Diep and insulting both activists in abusive language. People gathered around them, which prevented the guard from following up his verbal threats with further physical aggression. Realizing that the situation could spiral out of control, some staff members from the College extricated the guard from the crowd.

Incensed and humiliated, the two activists decided to bring this action to the notice of the larger public. Some friends and one reporter arrived on the spot in short order. At this point, the group decided to report the matter to the police. At the nearby Muslim Town police station, which is also the office of the Superintendant Police Saddar Division, the police hummed and hawed for two hours before finally announcing that they needed a medico-legal report from the nearest government hospital. The physician at Jinnah Hospital diagnosed a perforated left ear drum and prescribed some antibiotics. Armed with the report, the group headed back to the police station, where they were informed that such an injury, not visible to the naked eye, was not serious enough to be the subject of their hallowed “First Investigation Report” (FIR)!

That evening, members of the Students Action Committee gathered outside Aitezaz Ahsan’s house to celebrate his release, prepared a press release and vowed to go back the following day to the same college to concretely demonstrate the strength of their resolve.

The next day, Hassan Rehman (FAST-NU graduate student) and Umayr Hassan (FAST-NU faculty member) accompanied Raheem-ul-Haque and Saeeda Diep to Punjab College. They arrived at 11.30 AM and started handing out the flyers urging students to attend the protest demonstration that would start in a few hours time. It seemed that they had proven their point and were about to disperse (in fact, Hassan Rehman had already left) when the Principal of the College arrived in his black Mercedes. Some of the security guards (there were at least ten of them in total) called Raheem to meet the Principal. Raheem and Diep – infuriated – argued with him that their guards had no right to tell them what to do on public property and that, in fact, they (the College) was illegally encroaching upon public property (the green belt between the service lane and the main road serves as a parking lot for the College). Raheem mentioned that he had taken several photographs of the encroachment. Another SAC member, Shehryar (software engineer by profession) arrived while the argument was going on.

At some point, as he leaned either to say or after having said something to the Principal, the Principal grabbed Shehryar by his collar and then told the guards to thrash him. All of the guards fell upon Shehryar, punching, slapping, and then picking him up to be taken inside the College premises. Diep and Raheem went to save Shehryar and were similarly assaulted. Diep was dragged along with Shehryar while Raheem and Umayr were slapped and pushed into the premises through another gate.

Inside their offices, the four were forced to sit on the sofa and not allowed to go out. Raheem, infuriated, railed against the teachers present, who either remained silent spectators or told the activists to shut up or taunted their professionalism or called them Indian agents/NGO people. They claimed they were puncturing car tires and instigating students inside the campus. A female teacher suggested that Diep (being a female) could accompany her elsewhere – Diep angrily refused. Shehryar struggled against the goon squad and was beaten again. The other three tried to protect him as Raheem was punched and his nose started bleeding profusely. Diep tried calling Usman Gill (SAC activist and recent graduate from FAST-NU) and while she was talking to him, the guards tried to confiscate her cell phone – Diep refused but could not complete the call. This and more went on for more than an hour, with the College personnel alternating between beating up the activists and apologizing to them. There were twenty or thirty of them in all, some staff, some faculty and some who looked like hired thugs in plain clothes, who attacked and tormented the trapped pro-democracy campaigners.

Suddenly, Shehryar fell on all fours, gasping and indicating that he had difficulty breathing. It was a clever hoax, but no one including friends realised it then and started to panic. They clamoured for an ambulance to be called, warning the administration of the trouble they would bring upon themselves were one of them to die on the premises. As Shehryar lay limp on the floor, Umayr went outside to tell someone to call an ambulance. Usman Gill was outside and Umayr shouted to him telling him to call the ambulance. As he came nearer to the College boundary wall, someone behind Umayr told the guards outside to bring Usman inside. A guard grabbed Usman by the collar and tried to push him toward the gate – Usman resisted and was released just outside the gate as the police had arrived by that time. Usman, Umayr, Raheem and Diep’s driver carried Sheryar outside and laid him in Umayr’s car as Shehryar and Diep were driven away to safety.

The rest of the SAC members waited for the senior police officer (already aware of the incident the previous day) to arrive while the activist and College administration argued the case with the officer present. In particular, the activists demanded that the College return Shehryar’s cell phone and Raheem’s camera (used to photograph the College façade as well as the encroachment – hence the reason the guards to grab it from Raheem’s car, as witnessed by Umayr’s driver. The camera cost approx. $1000.) When the senior police officer arrived, the same argument persisted: the students demanded the retrieval of their property while the college personnel complained that the SAC members had been interfering inside their College. They now also claimed that the activists had damaged their property – a door glass was broken when the guards were scuffling inside with Shehryar. It was not clear who broke it. All parties now went inside the offices and the officer then had a word in private with the Principal. Outside, Umayr narrated their tale to a plainclothes Special Branch (police intelligence) representative. Outside, again, the officer had managed to recover the cell phone and asked the administrators to look for the missing camera asked the activists to come to the police station to lodge a complaint while his junior stayed back to look for the camera. Raheem and Usman went with him in the police mobile car.

By this time, Diep had managed to inform the SAC members attending the big rally at Nasser Bagh. However, once the activists had managed to free themselves, they sent messages to the SAC members to attend the rally which was the more important event, and to come over to the Muslim Town police station afterwards.

Shehryar and Raheem got medical treatment. Shehryar had a broken finger and Raheem had a bloody nose swollen as after a boxing match.

Around 20 – 25 SAC members had gathered at the Muslim Town police station by 4:30 PM. The SP allowed some SAC members to enter his office to take part in the discussion as the SAC lawyers presented their case and pressed for an FIR to be lodged against the staff of Punjab College. After much prevarication, during which he must have realised that SAC had a solid case and that he would have to file a report, he invited the group to go over to the College with him to talk to the College administration. Here a comic twist presented itself: the SP never showed up. He climbed into his official brand new 2.4D Toyota Hilux and disappeared. While the SAC members waited outside the College, they started raising slogans against the military dictatorship, against the Nazim and against oppression. About the same time, students started leaving for home and were quite surprised to encounter the SAC group in full cry. Some of them stopped to ask what had happened – they either knew nothing at all, or had been fed lies by the administration to the effect that the people beaten up earlier that day had been teasing female students. The SAC members disabused them of this fiction and even handed them their new flyers.

Eventually a DSP arrived and started negotiations with the SAC lawyers. At first, it seemed that he merely wanted SAC to leave the College and move to a less “disturbing” location, such as the police station. But the SAC members flatly refused and demanded that some resolution be arrived at, otherwise they were willing to stake out the premises for as long as it took. Eventually, the DSP asked that Diep and Raheem tell him exactly what happened. At this point, Diep started narrating how they were dragged into the premises and beaten by College personnel. As she was showing him the path, the College personnel got infuriated. Banking on the fact that they were employed by Mian Amir Mehmood, they took an aggressive attitude towards the DSP and virtually ordered him off the premises, daring him to challenge their authority. Humbled and humiliated,, the officer left the premises. Some SAC members were enraged at this concrete proof of the adage “he who has the stick, has the buffalo”. After a brief verbal altercation with the College personnel, other SAC members intervened and defused the situation. At this point, the SAC and the lawyers conferred and it was decided that while the lawyers negotiated with the police, the SAC members would head to the Lahore Press Club.

At the Press Club, the Students Action Committee staged a small demonstration, prepared a new press release, and informed various media channels (newspapers and television) of the events of the day.

The SAC held a protest demonstration at the Press Club in support of their injured colleagues on Sunday, 3rd February.

(Written by Amanullah Kariapper , based on narratives by Raheem, Diep and Umayr)

Protest Rally: Nasir Bagh to Regal Chowk. Saturday, 2nd Feb, 08.

Protest rally starting from Nasir Bagh to Regal Chowk at 1:30 pm. This is a mega event involving all civil society organisations, lawyers, students, NGOs, as well as like minded political parties.

Please try your best to come to all the events and bring along friends and like minded people.

Nasir Bagh is opposite Town Hall on the Mall. Further down from NCA.

Update: Aitzaz Ahsan will be leading the rally.

So, what do we do?

At the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan’s convention in LUMS on Tuesday (22/1/08), Talat Hussain, from Aaj TV, concluded that the energetic, and unabashedly embarrassing Lahori audience, had contradicted his belief that emotions and rationality are completely separate from one another. The overwhelming display of emotion that was flagrantly displayed by the audience was grounded in a rational thought process. People were unwilling to hold in what they felt because most have reached a point where they really want to see some change. Instead, nothing seems to be happening. The judiciary has not been restored, elections will probably be postponed again, and Musharraf is still clinging to power. The country is facing a wheat and flour crisis. People line up for hours just to buy a staple commodity that should be easily available, especially since we grow it! The electricity and gas supply is sporadic at best and the country has never seen as much violence as we were seeing today. Terrorists are loose and seem to be free to wreak havoc. Musharraf’s handpicked caretaker government refuses to accept any responsibility and doesn’t seem to be doing enough. People have had enough.

Just about everyone in this country would like to see Musharraf leave. Don’t believe me? Look up the numbers on his popularity ratings. People do want free and fair elections, but they are not at all possible without an independent judiciary. The elections will almost certainly be rigged in favour of the King’s party- the notorious mafia called the qatil league- unless the PML-N strikes a deal with Musharraf similar to the power sharing one that was planned with BB, in which case they will be rigged in favour of PML-N. Either way, they will be rigged, and Musharraf will probably rig an inflated percentage for the religious parties, like he did in the last “elections”, just to show that Pakistani society is under threat. He will try to prove himself to be invincible now more than ever, and by doing so, he may end up tearing apart the federation. And the biggest problem is that even if we do have free and elections, what are our options? And are they good enough? Are they worth the change and upheaval they will bring? Can we trust the very parties that looted and plundered the country in the 90s? Can we trust parties that are now saying that they are willing to work with an illegal dictator? And, most importantly, what on Earth can we do?

These were some of the questions that were on people’s minds at the CCP convention. The panel included representatives of Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Imran Khan’s party), PML-N, and PPP. Hameed Khan and Pervez Hassan were also present. Diep and Asim Sajjad (of UWC fame) were part of the panel. The turnout was huge. However, because of the camera crew, people were not able to come and sit all over the floors, and many stood outside the door peering in. Even my boss showed up late; he was left standing and being pushed around until he got frustrated and left. It was wonderful to be in a place where there were young people and not just lawyers and the same old ancient activists. (No offence ladies, but you guys have been at this an awfully long time. Some of you are grandmothers!) For me, personally, it was great to see LUMS students in a regular crowd. They tend to live in a bubble and protest only on campus. More than anything else, it was great to see a diverse crowd.

The convention started with Hamid Zaman reading out the list of demands. They were the usual ones regarding Musharraf’s resignations, the restoration of the constitution and judiciary etc. Then Talat Hussain started his discussion and Pervez Hassan was the first to speak on the current judiciary crisis. What was interesting for me the response of the party representatives.

TI: We are great… Musharraf must go… judiciary should be restored… we will never work with a dictator…. we have boycotted this sham election…

PML: We are great…. Musharraf must go… judiciary should be restored… we must participate in the elections…. Too much violence… country needs to be saved….

PPP: We are great…. Musharraf must go… judiciary should be restored… we must participate in the elections…. Too much violence… country needs to be saved…. BB was killed….

No one stated the obvious: what do we do? And when asked, no one had an answer that could satisfy. In fact, people felt that the political parties were not acting ethically and working towards the removal of Musharraf by courting him. Hameed Khan made an excellent point, which was that by not joining in the citizens’ and lawyers’ protests, the political parties had stood idly by and didn’t supported the masses. He also stated that if they had joined in, Musharraf would have left by now. When the PPP representative said that Aitzaz Ahsan was leading the lawyers’ movement, no one really bought this lofty excuse. So what if some of the participants are affiliated with political parties? Where are the civilian supporters and why don’t the parties join in the protests in large numbers. The PML-N candidate was grilled about the current talks being held between Shahbaz Sharif and Musharraf, and the PPP candidate was reminded that their party did the same. What I wanted to ask the PPP candidate was why they were not supporting and promoting their most prominent candidate: Aitzan Ahsan, who they had used as a example. Why aren’t demanding that he be freed? Why are so few of them present when there is a rally outside his house? And why haven’t they set up a hunger strike camp or something outside his house. Why aren’t they raising a hue and cry over this? Frankly, in my opinion, he is he best candidate for Prime Minister, and if he were to run, I would campaign for him tirelessly.

Anyway, back to what do we do? Diep testified that no political party in the country was truly democratic. In her opinion they are not at all democratic. How can one work with these parties then? The crowd, meanwhile, was getting more and more restless and rowdy. People were hoarding the mike and making all sorts of elaborate statement instead of asking questions. What amused me the most was people’s long-winded and entirely narcissistic introduction of themselves. We had to shout: “ask the question!” on more than one occasion. The President of the Pakistan Medical Association was the most painful audience member because he absolutely refused to stop talking and ask a question, despite the fact that he was being reminded that we were running out of time. He said that he had gotten the mike after great difficulty and needed a few minutes to speak his mind. I was the one who let out the loud snort when he didn’t stop and asked him if he wanted me to vote for him. I just couldn’t resist. But basically, he just didn’t ask a question and Talat had to cut him off. One man got up and started reading a poem he had just written. A few of the Punjab University students got up and started shouting “Go Musharraf go!” The audience joined in because the audience refused to shut up. Refused. No matter what Talat said, people kept shouting and booing the political representatives, and contradicted what they were saying. Some people didn’t wait for the mike and just said what they wanted to. It was terribly embarrassing, yet, in a twisted way, fun.

Despite the atmosphere, many pertinent questions were asked. What people really wanted to know was what the political parties would do. Many reminded the PPP and PML-N candidates that their treatment of the judiciary- and media- left much to be desired. Their tenures in office didn’t achieve much. When the PPP candidate was asked why her party didn’t amend certain laws, her excuse was that they didn’t have a 2/3 majority in parliament. The PML-N candidate also came up with similar excuses when asked about the judicial scandal during their time, when people felt that unfair promotions were being given. And the very, very sorry fact of the matter is that they are not our best choice, but they are, unfortunately, our only choice.

So, what do we do? We fight. We support the right people, like Aitzaz Ahsan, as well as the ordinary citizens who want to run for election. They are our best bet because the political parties are proliferated with feudals, and the army is, at the moment, the only other option. We need to continue with our non-violent protests, despite the fact that they haven’t achieved much, because we have to make our voice heard. We need the media to cover our dissent so that people the world over know how desperately we need Musharraf removed. His support from the West certainly isn’t helping, and the blind and irrational belief that he is the best bet for Pakistan at the moment is delusional at best. He has gone to Europe to salvage his decreasing popularity over there. But he has, as usual, put his foot in his mouth and shown his true colours. He has now stated that Pakistan isn’t as evolved as Europe and isn’t ready for a transition into democracy. That really insulted me. When your own president declares to the world that you are indeed the third world citizen you are treated as, then he is not your leader anymore. He is doing you the biggest disservice. He cannot be trusted to represent you in any way, shape, or form.

Not giving up should be our most important priority. If we do, then we are injuring our nation. I know it’s hard not to get disheartened. I know how emotion and frustrating it can be. I too sometimes think that the best thing to do would be to just leave. But, I also know that this is my only home. I love this country, and especially my incestuous city, despite all its faults. No matter where I go, this is the one place I return to. This is one place where I belong. This is the one place I cannot be judged by the colour of my skin or my religion. I am not a third class citizen here. I belong. I am Pakistan.