I attended a public meeting at teh Shaheed Udham Singh Centre in Handsworth last Wednesday 21st Nov 2007 “Pakistan In Crisis”. It demanded an end to the state of emergency,
the release the political prisoners and the reinstatement of the constitution. Speakers were Sukhdev Bhomra, President Birmingham Law Society, Cllr Hassan Ahmed, President Pakistan Peoples Party UK who had just returned from Pakistan, Avtar Jouhl, General Secretary of the Indian Workers Association (GB) and Michael Lavalette, a Preston Respect Councillor. The meeting was chaired by Raghib Ahsan.
The meeting began by congratulating Raghib on his victory in the House of Lords declaration that New Labour was guilty of racism in denying an opportunity to stand for re-election as a Birmingham councillor. Avtar Jouhl then recalled the broad front campaign when the Indian government had declared as state of emergency in 1976 suspending democratic processes. The resulting demonstrations made their point.
Michael Lavalette said that American imperialism under the “war on terror” banner was responsible for the predicament that Pakistan faced. This has followed on from British imperial rule under which Pakistan had been created. He couldn’t see a difference in others contending for power who were similarly linked in with the U.S.
Councillor Ahmed has been on the plane with Benazir Bhutto on her recent return to Pakistan. While he had been handling security up to the arrival, he had handed over responsibility prior to the devastating bombing which had narrowly missed killing her. He disagreed with Michael Lavalette but said that this was a meeting to inform people of the current situation rather than a political rally.
The Pakistan army had always held power in Pakistan, and early on British officers were involved. This is something India had avoided. Throughout its history there had been assassinations of leaders which had never been solved. It was still unclear who was responsible for the attempt on Benazir Bhutto’s life. While the finger was pointed at Al Quaeda it was felt that suspicion could fall elsewhere, including General Musharaf himself.
Sukhdev Bomra described how the Birmingham Law Society stood by the
judiciary in Pakistan who have taken a stand against the imposition of martial law. While Musharaf’s act had been described as a declaration of a state of emergency the constitution had been suspended and the country was under military rule entirely. While lawyers were frequently accused of fleecing the people, in this case they were acting on their behalf.
In the following debate a speaker from the Kashmiri Workers’ pointed out that Kashmir had been under Pakistan military rule for 60 years.