Holding his ground
Bit by bit, details of that fateful meeting between the real PM and the “suspended” Chief Adjudicator are emerging. Our mole reports that the day the Chief went to the camp office, he was greeted by quite a gathering of the top brass. Apparently, there were five senior khakis lined up in the room to eyeball the Chief Adjudicator, besides Shortcut and the real PM in his military fatigues, and he still held his ground.
And Wajahat Latif writes an interesting summation of the situation in today’s Nation
When a private TV channel was attacked in the afternoon of 16th March in Islamabad, everyone understood the government was losing patience with the media. The attackers were policemen in uniform acting like hoodlums. Every move they made – breaking glass, equipment, furniture, harassing staff was put on film and telecast as it happened. The myth of media freedom under this regime was exposed.
A few days later, the opposition parties gave a call for peaceful protests on the 21st. The regime panicked and went about arresting opposition workers days before the event in hundreds from various parts of the country in spite of the parties’ assurance to remain peaceful at all times. Nevertheless, the protest was countrywide and the boycott of courts complete. Over-reacting, the jittery regime sat on a slippery slope.
The protest continued. The ARD gave a call for a nationwide protest on the 26th. In a knee-jerk reaction, the police picked up political activists in different places 48 hours before the event. Islamabad was again blockaded by the local administration but the arrests and all other tricks once again failed to halt protests.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chowdhry was to address the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Rawalpindi, on the 28th. It was anticipated to be a major event since the regime had eased restrictions on CJ’s movements, albeit on public pressure. Lawyers took him to Rawalpindi in a procession. The cavalcade of vehicles escorting him became so large that it took them several hours to get there from Islamabad, a distance of no more than half an hour.
But private TV channels could not cover the event as the government jammed their transmissions as explained by anchorpersons later in the afternoon. This was in addition to the scrambling they have been subjected to in the recent weeks.
On 3rd of April, the CJ was to appear before the Supreme Judicial Council in connection with the presidential reference against him. As expected, the regime made advance arrests in hundreds, placing Qazi Husain Ahmad, the head of a major political party, under house arrest. Islamabad was blockaded again, seriously restricting movement of thousands of road users.
Once again, nothing worked for the administration. In spite of the barricades, lawyers, opposition parties, members of the civil society and ordinary citizens collected in front of the Supreme Court by the thousands. Charged with emotion, they chanted anti government and anti Musharraf slogans. The CJ’s car driven by his lawyer Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, had difficulty reaching the SJC because of the sheer enthusiasm of the crowds. Emotion was spilling over, palpable, spontaneous and real.
Early part of the afternoon was sunny and hot, but the crowds stayed, the lawyers inside on the green lawns and the rest of the people outside as the hearing proceeded. Angry slogans rang through the air constantly; there was no let up of emotion. I have seen angry crowds in my time and know that this was one. People seemed to have had enough of this regime. Some pro-government idiots from Gujrat who risked impersonating as lawyers in black coats were immediately identified and nearly lynched.
Later in the afternoon when the CJ came out after the hearing, people simply overwhelmed his car: they wanted to touch him, kiss him. Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry had become an iconic figure, a symbol of defiance. The crowd became a charged procession, proceeding slowly, stopping in front of the President’s House to shout loud anti Musharraf slogans, hoping that he was watching them from a terrace of his palace (as usual). For once behaving sensibly, the police did not try to stop them, or there could have been serious blood shed.
With reference to his Reference against the Chief Justice of Pakistan, those in authority, parroted by their courtiers, say two things. In the tone of a bully pretending a concession they say it will be decided according to law, which is a joke. Who does not know that they exhausted the contrary option as soon as the CJ refused to resign?
The other thing is their boast of a free media policy. No more than a cliché, this is a popular slogan of their parrots in all talk shows. The fact of the matter is that the media is far from free in this country. People who are at the receiving end of government’s stick know better: they know that they have had to pay with midnight knocks on their doors, disappearances and sometimes death for reporting the truth. In international press freedom indices, Pakistan today is rated as “unfree”. Reporters Sans Frontiers, a prestigious Paris-based press freedom watch body, mentions Pakistan at 157 in 168 countries in its 2006 press freedom index!
Chief Justice of Pakistan