Tuesday, June 05, 2007

On the Road to Abbotabad

While live TV coverage was banned, the truth remains inescapable - the CJ's trip to Abbotabad attracted larger crowds than even his 26 hour marathon to Lahore.

A reliable journalist accompanying the CJ informed me that there was an overwhelming presence of thousands of ordinary people who simply turned up to catch a glimpse of Iftikhar Chaudhry.

If Musharraf thinks that by switching the TV coverage off he will get some sort of respite, he has read the situation wrong yet again.

Rather than write about it at third hand, here is a piece from Ayesha Tammy Haq in today's News.



By Ayesha Tammy Haq

When I set out on Saturday morning at eight am to join the Chief Justice of Pakistan's journey to Abbottabad to address the bar association, I had some idea of what to expect but let me say in no uncertain terms that all I witnessed exceeded all imagination. I have made the trip to Abbottabad on numerous occasions, particularly in the days following the devastating earthquake of 2005. Comfortably it's a two hour journey and I figured given the long drives the CJP has been going on it would take eight to 10 hours as there are large sections of the road with small populations. In my wildest dreams I would not have imagined that it would take us close to 16 hours to get there. It must be said that being fond of creature comforts I would have been happier sitting in front of a television set watching the journey unfold live via satellite. However, as the government in its wisdom had taken it upon themselves to impose strict censorship on reporting extremely important current events, I and, as I discovered, hundreds more like me got up, donned our trainers and set out for what turned out to be the trip of a life time.

I had interviewed Aitzaz Ahsan for television after the epic drive from Islamabad to Lahore; he was emotive and passionate as he described the journey, the energy, the enthusiasm, the love. The adrenaline that kept them going, kept them awake and kept leg cramps away. He is an incredibly articulate man telling an incredible story. But as I discovered to really feel it you need to be there as mere words cannot even begin to convey the outpouring of sentiment, the energy, the enthusiasm and the pure love of the tens of thousands of ordinary people who came out on the street to show their support for the CJP. It was hot, around 45 degrees Celsius, it was dusty, and because of the huge crowds the procession moved very slowly, so people waited in the sun for hours. Amazingly no one complained. They just waited patiently. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, overwhelmed by this outpouring of love, waved and smiled. It was exactly as Aitzaz Ahsan had said in his interview; the CJP does not say anything. The window pane on his side of the car does not come down. He does not do politics. He only addresses bar associations and when he speaks it is only on matters of law.

The convoy that left the CJP's house in the morning started with fifty cars or so and as it moved out of Islamabad it started to grow. All along the route there were three sets of people. There were the lawyers in their black coats which have now become a symbol of defiance and which they wear with pride even in this uncomfortable heat. The ordinary citizens who came out of his shop, workplace, home or field to show support and the political parties who organized rallies at every small town along the way. It must have gratified those in the Pakistan People's Party to see their top leadership, led by Naheed Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, out on the G T Road in numbers. In all this the CJP never left the car nor spoke to anyone. He shook hands with bar association representatives and ordinary citizens who managed to put their hands in from the driver's side. Political flags were abundant but not allowed to be placed on the car. There was a well-represented press corps, both international and domestic. I met the journalist who had been issued an externment order from Karachi on May 12.

The only planned stop was Haripur where the CJP inaugurated the district bar's website and had lunch, albeit at 5.30 pm. There were hundreds of lawyers, the crowds outside were huge, they all wanted to hear what Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmed Khurd, Hamid Khan and Muneer Malik had to say. The CJP was inside the Harripur Court Complex well out of earshot. The journey from Haripur to Abbottabad took forever; the crowds grew and grew and grew. At places you did not know where the road was. Prayers for the CJP's success and sadqua for his safety were offered all along the route and the Karakoram Highway was a carpet of rose petals. This was not rent-a-crowd, it was popular sentiment, something President Musharraf would give anything for to have as his presidential campaign. Sadly for him and his managers this is not something you can buy.

As we inched our way into Abbottabad the crowd swell was so huge, conservative estimates are that around 60,000 people were on the road between the bus terminal and the High Court. It took almost two hours to get to the Court where the CJP was to address the bar association. It is here that one must salute the stamina and commitment of the CJP's team. These are not young men in their 30s, yet driven by the conviction of what they are doing they individually have the stamina of a hundred young men. When they spoke the crowd of over 8,000 lawyers listened in silence before re-pledging their commitment and support to each one of the speakers.

Much had been made of the lawyers politicizing this issue. I am a lawyer and say unequivocally and unapologetically that this is a political issue. The removal of the Chief Justice of Pakistan by an army chief is political. The assault on the person of the CJP is political. The assault on the media is political. The attack on Muneer Malik's home is political. The violence in Karachi on the May 12 was political. The blocking of television channels is political. The arm twisting of cable operators is political. The attacks on Ali Ahmed Kurd and Hamid Khan are political. The attempts to impose censorship on the press in particular the electronic media is political. Official denial of actual events is political. As Muneer Malik says everything in life is political, the choices you make are political so why does one need to apologize or pretend that this is not political. Being political does not mean towing a party line. It means believing irrespective of what that belief is. And those who say the lawyers are politicizing the issue are also making a political statement.

Everyone I meet says this is a defining moment. And it is moments like this that changes a person forever. I can say with certainty that the journey to Abbottabad ended with many a changed person.

The writer is a corporate lawyer, host of a weekly talk show on satellite television and a freelance columnist. Email: ayeshatammy@gmail.com

Those interested should also read the piece ‘On the Road with Pakistan's New Hero’which appears in the latest issue of Time magazine



Ahsan said...

just to run an informal poll and see what people think in general (no pun intended)...by a show of hands, who thinks musharraf will be in power at the beginning of 2008? who thinks the army will be in power at the beginning of 2008?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe, the utmost Vaunerable and illitrate "AWAAM" of Pakistan want to bring back Nawaz Shareef or Benazir Bhutto????. My honest opnion, Benazir just wants "REVENGE" for her father's death, and Shareef! I can't believe he had the guts to show his face to the "JAHIL" people, I had heard that every thing sells in Pakistan... but this much and this far? I had never imagined it... I think Musharaf's done a good job, so what if he's USA's puppet, pure Pakistanis are always going to be "SLAVES" of some one, as they haven't been able to take it out of their system even 60 years after separation from India, and say about 65-70 years after sucking up to the British... so my comments are Dha.. Dha.. Dha... let Musharaf stay, and he takes off the "UNIFORM" that's been itching Nawaz's and Bhutto's sucked up puppets, only if these people sucked up like this to Allah s.w.t. the Pakistani Awaam actually would be some where to deserve respect from other countries, for example IRAN... people can talk all they want; but they can't bend or break Ahmedinejad, the Iranian President.. YA ALI for Iran, and shame, shame for Pakistan, who changes Priminsters more often then we change the model of our car.. Only Allah can help this greedy and usless, self loving nation... Feel sorry for Qaid-e-Azam though, this wasn't the Pakistan Him and Ilama Iqbal had dreamed of...