PAKISTAN: Women are worst hit by climate change

November 6, 2009
Bushra Khaliq
General Secretary of Women Workers Help Line

Pakistan is among the countries which will be hit hardest in near
future by effects of climate change even though it contributes only a
fraction to global warming. The country is witnessing severe pressures
on natural resources and environment. This warning has recently come
from the mouth of Pakistan’s prime minister in a recent statement.
The PM[1] has alarmed the countrymen by disclosing that Pakistan is
the 12th most vulnerable country in the world, to environmental
degradation, would cost five per cent of the GDP every year.

Very few Pakistanis took such warnings serious. There is no media
uproar, no popular movement and no political clamoring over the issue.
Sad! The majority of the Pakistani policy makers have no time to think
about the horrifying picture of the future, caused by the worsening
climatic conditions. The country is busy fighting US-led war on
terrorism and now almost trapped in a complex political quagmire where
it has found itself fighting a war with itself. Therefore, very little
time planners find to apprise the people of Pakistan on the
repercussions of adverse climatic effects.

The climate experts in the country are hinting at severe water
scarcity saying that water supply, already a serious concern in many
parts of the country, will decline dramatically, affecting food
production. Export industries such as, agriculture, textile products
and fisheries will also be affected, while coastal areas risk being
inundated, flooding the homes of millions of people living in
low-lying areas.

Pakistan’s north eastern parts already experienced droughts in 1999
and 2000 are one such example that caused sharp declines in water
tables and dried up wetlands, severely degrading ecosystems. Although
Pakistan contributes least to global warming-one 35th of the world’s
average of carbon dioxide emissions-temperatures in the country’s
coastal areas have risen since the early 1900s from 0.6 to 1 degree
centigrade. Precipitation has decreased 10 to 15 per cent in the
coastal belt and hyper arid plains over the last 40 years[2] while
there is an increase in summer and winter rains in northern Pakistan.

Although Pakistan produces minimal chlorofluorocarbons and a little
sulphur dioxide emissions, thus making a negligible contribution to
ozone depletion and acid rain, it will suffer disproportionately from
climate change and other global environmental problems. Health of
millions would also be affected with diarrhoeal diseases associated
with floods and drought becoming more prevalent. Intensifying rural
poverty is likely to increase internal migration as well as migration
to other countries. Given the enormity of the impact, adaptation and
mitigation measures are critically important.

Pakistan’s eco system has suffered greatly due to climatic change;
one such example is that of Keti Bandar; one of the richest port in
the region of the coastal belt of Pakistan that lost privileges of
being at some point in time. The former port facilities bordered both
shores of the Indus River delta but have become submerged as a result
of coastal erosion, leaving only a thin, 2km long isthmus by way of a
land bridge to the mainland.

There was a time when it was known to be an area thriving on mangroves
ecosystem, rich with agriculture and boasting a busy seaport. Now the
landscape is barren and thatched houses dotted on mudflats. Water
logging and salinity is its major problem and the intruding sea has
almost eaten up the villages. Thousands of peasant families and fisher
folk community already had to migrate to other areas in search of
livelihood.

So grave is the situation now in the same region that cyclones often
visit the coastline and their intensity has increased many times more.
Poor peasant and fisher folk communities always hit hard by these
cyclones. The blame relies on the fact that the community residing in
Keti Bandar is threatened with global climatic change. The coastal
area is said to be most vulnerable to climate change with rising sea
surface temperatures and atmospheric water vapor causing an increase
in cyclone intensity and rainfall.

When it comes to climate change population does matter, particularly
for countries like Pakistan with an annual growth rate of 2.69
percent[4], will be the sixth most populous country. As poor families
struggle to survive, environmental degradation is going to be more
pervasive. Long-term sustainable development goals are disregarded in
favor of immediate subsistence needs, leaving vulnerable communities
specially women at the mercy of climate. Increased use of wood for
fuel, abusive use of land and water resources, in the form of
overgrazing, over fishing, depletion of fresh water and
desertification- are common in rural areas of Pakistan.

There seems to be no stopping the runaway population growth here in
Pakistan because birth control is often portrayed as anti-people. The
country’s political and religious leaders who could make a difference
are to blame. They have ignored the explosive population growth
completely. Birth control is a taboo topic in Pakistan. In our
culture, the larger the number of children, the stronger the family
feels. Poverty does not seem to matter. The mullahs (clerics) may not
like it.

The rural population has been kept illiterate in Pakistan. “Instead of
building schools we built armies. The feudal landowners saw to it that
the rural population is kept away from schooling. Mullahs declare
girls’ education to be un-Islamic. The reality is that even where
women want to practice birth spacing they face difficulty in accessing
the family planning services. They meet with a non-supportive
environment at home, and encounter misconceptions and misinformation
about the use of family planning.

At regional level, according to experts, by 2050, the Indian
subcontinent will have to support 350 million Pakistanis; 1.65 billion
Indians; 40 million Nepalese; 300 million Bangladeshis and 30 million
Sri Lankan. The total will be about 2.4 billion people. This was the
total population of the whole earth around 1950[5]. The strain on
resources in the region will be tremendous, and consequences
catastrophic. By then the glaciers in the Himalayas will be gone, the
monsoons will be erratic, sometimes too much or too little rain; new
uncontrollable diseases will have emerged. It will come overnight. We
will wake up, and find that all we had yesterday (food, water,
electricity) are gone.

This horrific picture is, no doubt, a matter of concern for the entire
population living in this part of world, but matter of urgency for the
marginalized sections especially women who will obviously worst and
first hit of the climate bomb. Need of the hour is to highlight the
gravity of the issue with focus on demanding security to the rights of
the poor and marginalized sections in the future policy planning with
regard to Climate Change .

In developing countries like Pakistan, women are already suffering
disproportionately; as a consequence of climate change. Local
environmentalists estimate that 70 per cent of the poor, who are far
more vulnerable to environmental damage, are women. Therefore, women
are more likely to be the unseen victims of resource wars and violence
as a result of climate change. We witnessed this phenomenon in years
1999 and 2000 when thousands of poor families had to flee from
drought-hit areas of Balochistan, the most backward province of
Pakistan. Women and children were seen the most suffered sections.

Like other poor countries, climate change is harder on women in
Pakistan as well, where mothers have to stay in areas hit by drought,
deforestation or crop failure. Many destructive activities against the
environment disproportionately affect them, because most women in
Pakistan are dependent on primary natural resources: land, forests,
and waters. In case of droughts they are immediately affected, and
usually women and children can’t run away. Men can trek and go looking
for greener pastures in other areas and sometimes in other countries
… but for women, they’re usually left on site to face the
consequences. When there is deforestation, when there is drought, when
there is crop failure, it is the women and children who are the most
adversely affected.

While women are the main providers of food in Pakistan, they face
barriers to the ownership and access to land. 67 percent of women are
engaged in agriculture related activities but only 1 per cent own
land. When hit by the negative impact of climate change, women lose at
the same time their livelihood means and their capacity to cope after
a disaster. As a result of climate change, domestic chores such as
collecting water and firewood become more burdensome and time
consuming. As girls commonly assist their mothers in performing these
tasks, there is less time left for school or any other economic
activity.

The recent data shows that due to climate change major crops yield in
Pakistan has declined by 30% (Lead, 2008). Experts are of the opinion
that Climate Change is enhancing the susceptibility of agriculture
zones to floods, drought and storms. It is pertinent to mention that
the agriculture is the single largest sector in Pakistan’s economy,
contributing 21 per cent to the GDP and employing 43 per cent of the
workforce (Lead, 2008) of which female are in majority.

There is a common perception that ‘it is men who are the farmers’.
Contrary to this perception, women in Pakistan produce 60-80 percent
of food consumed in the house (IUCN, 2007). In Pakistan, especially in
the mountainous regions, men out-migrate for livelihood opportunities
(from 50% to 63% of the households) (WB, 2005) and it is the women who
looks after the family’s agriculture piece of land along with many
other responsibilities. It is interesting to note how much work female
household members contribute outside their homes, but their work is
generally less visible and attracts less public recognition.

The rise in temperature is going to affect the farming communities in
Pakistan as a whole, but will have severe impacts on
individuals/households specially women, who are socially, politically
and economically more vulnerable.

Important to mention here is that Pakistan was one of the first
countries to ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) in 1994 and has also endorsed other related protocols
(Kyoto and Montreal) but its Climate Change policy is still in the
making. Experts are of the opinion that not much in terms of gender
should be expected from the forthcoming national policy on Climate
change, as responsive policies can only result when they come out of
forums that have equal gender representation along with the necessary
sensitivity.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is a new mechanism of
the Government of Pakistan (GOP) which is trying to address the
disaster vulnerabilities of the communities living in hazardous
regions by keeping the gender sensitivities in mind. Since NDMA is a
new mechanism not much can be said about its programs at this point,
but if women are not involved in developing and monitoring important
policies and legislations, gender issues will go unnoticed.

In nutshell climate change could hamper the achievement of many of the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including those on poverty
eradication, child mortality, malaria, and other diseases, and
environmental sustainability. Much of this damage would come in the
form of severe economic shocks. In addition, the impacts of climate
change will exacerbate existing social and environmental problems and
lead to migration within and across national borders of Pakistan

AFGHANISTAN: A Feminist Case for War?

November 4, 2009

Women's rights activists are conflicted over a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan

Women for Afghan Women (WAW), a nongovernmental organization  that runs women’s shelters, schools, and counseling centers in three cities in Afghanistan, has watched with alarm as American opinion has turned against the occupation. An American withdrawal, its board members say, would be catastrophic for the women they work with. “Every woman who we have talked to in Afghanistan, all the Afghan women in the NGOs, in the government, say the United States and the peacekeeping troops and NATO must stay, they must not leave until the Afghan army is able to take over,” says Esther Hyneman, a WAW board member who recently returned from six months in Kabul.

In fact WAW, which has over 100 staffers in Afghanistan and four in New York, is, with some reluctance, calling for a troop increase. “Women for Afghan Women deeply regrets having a position in favor of maintaining, even increasing troops,” it said in a recent statement. “We are not advocates for war, and conditions did not have to reach this dire point, but we believe that withdrawing troops means abandoning 15 million women and children to madmen who will sacrifice them to their lust for power.”

There is a growing consensus among both progressives and a few realist-minded conservatives that the Afghan war is futile. Today’s Washington Post reports on Matthew Hoh, a State Department official who, after serving in Afghanistan, resigned to protest the continuation of the war. “I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote in a letter to the department’s head of personnel. With such sentiments spreading, one of the few remaining rationales for maintaining the occupation is that it’s the only way to protect Afghan women against the return of the Taliban. But does it make sense to perpetuate America’s presence in Afghanistan on feminist grounds?

From the United States, it’s difficult to figure out who speaks for Afghan women, or even Afghan feminists. Malalai Joya, a heroic 31-year-old Afghani activist and politician, calls for an end to the occupation in her new book, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. “I know that Obama’s election has brought great hopes to peace-loving people in the United States,” she writes. “But for Afghans, Obama’s military buildup will only bring more suffering and death to innocent civilians, while it may not even weaken the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

Joya, who spent much of her childhood in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan, ran an underground girls’ school during Taliban rule. Yet as much as she hates the former regime, she loathes her country’s current rulers just as much. In 2005, Joya was the youngest person to win a seat in her country’s legislature. She was a tireless opponent of the warlords who filled Karzai’s government — so much so that in 2007 her political opponents voted to suspend her from Parliament on the grounds that she had insulted the institution. Six female Nobel Peace Prize laureates have called for her reinstatement, comparing her to Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi as “a model for women everywhere seeking to make the world more just.”

Joya insists that contrary to mainstream American opinion, the war in Afghanistan has done little to liberate women. “As I write these words, the situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse,” she says. “And not just for women, but for all Afghans. We are caught between two enemies — the Taliban on one side and the U.S./NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. And the dark-minded forces in our country are gaining power with every allied airstrike that kills civilians, with every corrupt government official who grows fat on bribes and thievery, and with every criminal who escapes justice.”

Joya is not the only Afghan feminist making this argument. A member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, or RAWA, has been touring the United States calling for an end to the occupation. Going only by the pseudonym Zoya, she echoed Joya’s argument that U.S. troops are only compounding Afghanistan’s anguish. “Even if they throw [in] thousands and millions of other troops, the situation will be the same, because we need a change, a radical change, in the system, which is so corrupted,” she said. “And it cannot be healed by throwing [in] more troops. So we are in favor of withdrawal of the troops immediately.”

Listening to Joya and Zoya makes everything seem simple. If these astonishingly brave Afghan women want American troops out of their country, then it would seem that feminists could, with clear consciences, join their fellow progressives in calling for an end to the war.

But there are also many seconding the message of Women for Afghan Women. “As an Afghan woman who for many years lived a life deprived of the most basic human rights, I find unbearable the thought of what will happen to the women of my country if it once again falls under the control of the insurgents and militants who now threaten it,” the Afghan human-rights activist Wazhma Frogh wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed.

Earlier this month, The Christian Science Monitor ran a story about a visit that the radical anti-war group Code Pink made to Afghanistan, where they met with local women’s rights activists adamantly against a pullout. “Code Pink … is one of the more high-profile women’s anti-war groups being forced to rethink its position as Afghan women explain theirs: Without international troops, they say, armed groups could return with a vengeance — and that would leave women most vulnerable,” the Monitor reported.

“I know Malalai Joya personally, I’ve always agreed with her positions,” says Hyneman. “She’s extremely brave and courageous, but this is one time when I totally disagree with her.”

Hyneman doesn’t dispute that the last eight years have been largely disastrous for Afghanistan. “There’s no question, we, meaning the United States, have done a terrible job there,” Hyneman says. “We’ve promoted the warlords, financed the warlords. We should have demanded that the warlords be bought before a court, a trial, a reconciliation process. The Afghan people want that. America under the previous administration made a chaos, a mess of Afghanistan. We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.”

But unlike Joya, Hyneman believes that the United States can be part of the solution to the problems it has helped create. “Because we have botched up things there, that doesn’t mean we should leave; it means we should stay and try to fix it,” she says. “It seems rather obvious. We’ve made a mess, we’ve got the warlords in power, we’ve done everything wrong, killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians. So we just abandon them?”

To a large degree, the answer depends on whether one believes that the American military can be a force for humanitarianism. After the last eight years, that’s a hard faith to sustain. Staying in Afghanistan seems indefensible. The trouble is, so does leaving.

Need your help in getting signatures on Balochistan statement

November 4, 2009
Beena Sarwar

Film maker, journalist and activist

 

From AH Nayyar in Islamabad

 

Dear friends,

Balochistan is burning and needs our special and urgent attention. For the fifth time the people of Balochistan have been forced to take up arms as an expression of defiance against their continued exploitation. Each time the state of Pakistan embarked on military action to crush the resistance rather than to seek a reconciliation with the Baloch.

The state atrocities on the people of Balochistan have now reached unbearable proportions. So many have faced extrajudicial killings. Thousands of young men have disappeared at the hand of state agencies. Common people are being humiliated everyday by the Pakistani law enforcement agencies. Most young men in Balochistan have become totally alienated from Pakistan. If we continue to keep quiet we will commit a gross injustice to our Balochistani brothers and sisters. We must speak up now.

We the citizens of Pakistan must express solidarity with the people of Balochistan. The enclosed statement is meant to do just that. It also suggests steps that we the citizens feel the government must take in this regard.

We are approaching you to seek your help in this campaign.

A web-based signature portal is also being created. But we are all aware that as a vast majority of Pakistani citizens do not have access to such portals. Hence a need for signatures on a printed statement. The statement is in both English and Urdu, and we would deeply appreciate if some friends translate and print it in other languages, and get signatures.

Please join the campaign by collecting the maximum possible number of signatures on the statement, beginning with the members of your organization but also reaching out to as many others as possible. After obtaining these signatures, please mail the signed copies of the statement to the address printed at the bottom of the statement.

Please read below some facts about Balochistan that highlight the reasons underlying the intense resentment among the common people of Balochistan.

Economic Deprivation of Baloch People
· 18 out of the 20 most infrastructure-deprived districts in Pakistan are in Balochistan.

· The percentage of districts that are classified as high deprivation stands as follows: 29 per cent in Punjab, 50 per cent in Sindh, 62 per cent in the NWFP, and 92 per cent in Balochistan. If Quetta and Ziarat are excluded, all of Balochistan falls into the high deprivation category. And Quetta’s ranking would fall if the cantonment is excluded from the analysis.

· The percentage of population living in a high degree of deprivation stands at 25 per cent in Punjab, 23 per cent in urban Sindh, 49 per cent in rural Sindh, 51 per cent in the NWFP, and 88 per cent in Balochistan”.

· Province’s 48 percent of the total population lives below poverty line whereas 26 percent in Punjab, NWFP 29 percent, and 38 percent urban and 27 percent rural population in Sindh.

· The national literacy rate in Pakistan is 50 percent, the province has 23 percent literacy rate with only 7 percent female literacy rate.

· Only 4 out of total 30 districts have gas supply while the province has been a major producer of gas for the total domestic, commercial and industrial needs of the country from early 50s. The capital of the province, Quetta, was provided gas in 1986.

· 78 percent population has no electricity.

· 79 percent has no gas facility while the province has a very low gas consumption of the country especially as compared to 64 percent of Punjab.

Mega development projects

The local population remains largely deprived of the benefits of mega development projects such as Gwadar port, Mirani dam, Kachhi canal, coastal highway, cantonments, and Pasni oil refinery plant etc.
Mostly outsiders benefit from such development schemes. The province has witnessed an influx of more than 5 million people to Gwadar port and other development areas.
Non-Baloch technicians and workers are hired while Balochs are only hired as unskilled workers.
Out of 1200 employees at Saindak copper-gold project, only 50 belong to Balochistan. Similarly, 130 engineers from Balochistan were trained at Karachi to be employed at Gwadar Port but they were denied jobs.
Land developers and investors from outside Balochistan are allowed purchase of Balochistan land.

1. Conflict-generating history
The current military operation in Balochistan is the fifth in the series. The first one was in 1948, the second in 1958, the third in 1962, the fourth in 1973. All the operations were to curb resistance to interference from the Central Government.

Historically, Balochistan or Kalat has never been a part of Indian state.

After the British conquered a part of the State of Kalat in 1839, the British pledged to respect the independence of Kalat and also gave it subsidies to maintain local loyalty for protecting British interests.

Mir Ahmed Yar Khan and the people of Balochistan supported the movement for the creation of Pakistan but at the same time they envisioned Kalat as a separate, independent and sovereign state after the departure of British from India.

Quaid-I-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself was the champion of independence and sovereignty of Kalat. In 1946, Mr. Jinnah pleaded before the Cabinet Mission for complete independence and sovereignty for Kalat as it existed before the agreements and treaties of 1841, 1854 and 1876 with the British. The Marri and Bugti Tumandars also joined the plea demanding their regions to be included with the Kalat federation. Quaid-i-Azam won the case.

Thus Kalat and Pakistan signed a standstill agreement on 4th August 1947 in which Pakistan recognized Kalat as an independent sovereign state, while future relations between Kalat and Pakistan regarding defense, external affairs and communications were to be negotiated later.

While Pakistan announced its independence on 14 of August 1947, Kalat announced its independence on the very next day, 15 August 1947.

But soon after independence, Kalat was pressurized to merge itself with Pakistan in the ‘interests of both’.

The Khan of Kalat refused to agree and tabled this desire of Pakistan in the Kalat State Houses of Parliament, Dar-ul-Umra and Dar-ul-Awam, which unanimously refused to merge Kalat with Pakistan. However they partially agreed to have an agreement with Pakistan for having a joint currency, defense and external affairs while keeping Kalat an independent and sovereign state.

The members, however, pledged to strongly resist any coercive action from Pakistan even with force.

Pakistan illegally annexed Kalat’s sub-states Makran, Kharan and Lasbella.

Pakistan ordered its garrison commander to invade Kalat and keep the Khan under house arrest until he signs the document of annexation.

Khan eventually went to Karachi and signed a controversial but conditional merger document with Pakistan on 27th March 1948 in his personal capacity despite strong opposition of both Kalat legislators.

This forced annexation gave birth to this conflict erupting in a low-scale resistance in Kalat led by the younger brother of Khan, Agha Abdul Karim, who was governor of Makran that had been part of Kalat for 300 years. However, the rebellion was overcome by military as the resistant leaders were arrested over a deceptive agreement on Holy Quran but were imprisoned as well as fined. Agha Karim spent seven years in prison.

In a personal meeting in 1958, President Iskandar Mirza asked the Khan of Kalat to mobilize sardars for the restoration of the Khanate of Kalat., and then on the pretext of this activity, sent in Pakistan Army under the command of Tikka Khan. The army arrested the Khan and sent him to an internment in Lahore. As soon as Ayub Khan took charge, he sentenced Prince Karim to another 14 years of jail term. In May 1959, Nawab Nauroz Khan Zehri came down from mountains on assurance of amnesty on Quran. He was immediately arrested together with his sons and grandsons and sent to Hyderabad jail, where they were tried for treason. Seven of his associates, including his sons were sentenced to death and hanged in Hyderabad. The ninety years old Nawab Zehri died in captivity in Hyderabad.

In 1962, Ayub Khan sacked Ataullah Mengal, Nawab Khair Bukhsh Marri, and Nawab Akbar Bugti from their hereditary positions as sardars of their tribes. This led to resistance, which was again quelled with an army action, arrests, long incarcerations, etc.

From this resistance emerged a movement (1962 to 1968) which resisted the one unit regime imposed by Ayub Khan in West Pakistan to provide population parity between the two wings of the country. One unit was finally disbanded in 1969 and Balochistan gained the status of a province in 1970.

Another resistance started in 1973 when the federal government of Z. A. Bhutto sacked the elected government of Balochistan on the flimsy charge of conspiracy against the state. The Army again went in to crush the resistance, but this time with the help of the Shah of Iran, and using most sophisticated equipment including helicopter gunships. It was the bloodiest conflict. The resistance ended when General Zia ul Haq’s military dictatorship announced a general amnesty in 1978.

The current resistance and military action started during the military dictatorship of General Musharraf in response to the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Honduras: Deal signed for Zelaya’s return, but struggle continues

November 2, 2009
  1. Farooq Tariq

    Posted by Farooq Tariq

  2. By Stuart Munckton

 October 31, 2009 — After more than 120 days of mass resistance by the poor majority of Honduras, against a coup regime that overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya, the regime has finally signed an agreement for Zelaya’s reinstatement.

On October 30, Zelaya and the coup regime signed an agreement opening the way for the elected president to take office once more. However, the key demand of the mass resistance for a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution is excluded by the deal until Zelaya leaves office in late January.

The National Resistance Front against the Coup (FNRG) is pledging to continue its campaign of protests around this demand (see statement following this article) and it is unclear whether it will continue with a planned boycott of the November 29 elections.

Only one month away, preparations and campaigning for these presidential and congressional elections have occurred in the context of brutal repression and the silencing of anti-coup media. This makes a free and fair vote almost certainly impossible.

Although the victory is only partial and involves significant compromises, it is an example of people’s power forcing its will on one of the most extreme right-wing oligarchies in the region. Mass resistance has stopped plans to consolidate a savage dictatorship that gives free reign to the rich.

The agreement still needs to be ratified by the Honduran congress. Zelaya and his supporters appear confident this will happen, although nothing can be guaranteed.

Coup regime may drag feet
However, aides to coup regime leader Roberto Micheletti have said congress may not vote until after the November 19 poll and cast doubt on whether congress would vote for Zelaya’s return. The regime can be expected to drag its feet on implementing the agreement for as long as possible – and continue using repression against Zelaya supporters.

The continuing street protests, road blockades, occupations and strikes led by the FNRG since the military kidnapped and exiled Zelaya on June 28 have brought the country, and its fragile economy, to a standstill.

The poor view Zelaya as “their” president for introducing some pro-people reforms and trying to organise a democratic process to create a new constitution. The Honduran oligarchy and US corporate interests hate Zelaya for the same reason.

Zelaya had also sided with the anti-imperialist alliance led by the revolutionary governments of Venezuela and Cuba, joining the solidarity-based Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) trading bloc.

The inability of the coup regime to crush the resistance and stabilise the country appears to have led to US pressure on the regime to accept a negotiated solution as the only way out of the crisis. The mass resistance was able to prevent the regime consolidating, but its inability to overthrow the dictatorship was in no small part due to the refusal of the US government to cut all aid and military ties. The regime was otherwise totally isolated internationally.

The agreement signed reflects the relationship of forces. It represents significant compromises by both sides, neither of which was able to decisively defeat the other.

By signing the agreement, the regime is forced to acknowledge Zelaya’s removal was not constitutionally valid, as it claimed, but a coup. It held off on agreeing to Zelaya’s return until the very last minute.
The agreement also commits Zelaya to form a government of “national reconciliation” involving the coup plotters. It remains unclear what the make-up of such a government will be, and how much power will rest with Zelaya.

The agreement places a referendum on a constituent assembly off the table until Zelaya leaves office.

The agreement also leaves open the question of bringing those responsible for crimes during the coup to justice. Thousands of people have been illegally detained by the coup regime, and dozens have been disappeared or killed.

The FNRG said death squads linked to the regime are targeting coup opponents. The agreement specifically does not grant amnesty for crimes committed. However, it only promises to establish a “truth commission”.
Now that an agreement has been reached, the Honduran elite are hoping to ease the nation’s international isolation by having the November 29 poll recognised as legitimate. Given the conditions under which it has been prepared, the poll is likely to be a victory for right-wing forces.

A different country

However, regardless of the poll outcome, Honduras is a different country from that before the coup. A powerful mass movement with deep roots among the oppressed has been built. This movement has given no indication it intends to stop.

On October 30, the FNRG released a statement declaring: “We celebrate the upcoming restoration of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales as a popular victory over the narrow interests of the coup oligarchy. This victory has been obtained through four months of struggle and sacrifice by the people who, in spite of the savage repression unleashed by the repressive forces of the state in the hands of the dominant class, have been able to resist and grow in their levels of consciousness and organisation and turn themselves into an irrepressible social force.”

It said the agreement represents “the explicit acceptance that in Honduras there was a coup d’etat that should be dismantled … to guarantee a democratic framework in which the people can exercise their right to transform society”.
Pledging to continue the push for a constituent assembly, it said: “We will continue struggling in the streets, until we achieve the re-founding of our society to convert it into one that is just, egalitarian and truly democratic.”

[This article first appeared in Green Left Weekly issue #816 <http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2009/816> , November 4, 2009.]
 
Honduran National Resistance Front Against the Coup celebrates restoration of Zelaya! Vows continued struggle for a just society!

Comuniqué No. 32

The National Resistance Front Against the Coup d’Etát, facing the imminent signing of a negotiated agreement between the commission representing the legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and the representatives of the de facto regime, communicates the following to the Honduran people and the international community:

1. We celebrate the upcoming restoration of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales as a popular victory over the narrow interests of the coup oligarchy. This victory has been obtained through four months of struggle and sacrifice by the people who, in spite of the savage repression unleashed by the repressive forces of the state in the hands of the dominant class, have been able to resist and grow in their levels of consciousness and organisation and turn themselves into an irrepressible social force.

2. The signing on the part of the dictatorship of the document which mandates “returning the holder of executive power to its pre June 28 state” represents the explicit acceptance that in Honduras there was a coup d’état that should be dismantled in order to return to institutional order and guarantee a democratic framework in which the people can exercise their right to transform society.

3. We demand that the accords signed at the negotiating table be processed in an expedited fashion by the National Congress. We alert all our comrades at the national level so that they can join the actions to pressure for the immediate compliance with the contents of the final document from the negotiating table.

4. We reiterate that a National Constituent Assembly is an unrenounceable aspiration of the Honduran people and a non-negotiable right for which we will continue struggling in the streets, until we achieve the re-founding of our society to convert it into one that is just, egalitarian and truly democratic.

“At 125 days of struggle, nobody here surrenders!”

[ NSF ] Interesting Article

November 1, 2009

NSFThe nature of the beast
By Ayesha Siddiqa
Friday, 30 Oct, 2009

 

Soldiers keep guard on top of Kund mountain near Kotkai village. The state has buried its head in the sand by arguing that while there is a problem in Waziristan, there is hardly anything to worry about in Punjab. –Photo by Reuters/Faisal Mahmood
The series of recent terrorist attacks call for a close analysis of the militant threat and the formulation of a strategy to ward off such tragedies. At the moment, we seem to be jumping from one target to another, fighting some enemies and denying the existence of others. Hence the plan lacks strategic depth as the state appears to pursue one type of enemy leaving out others.
It will help to explain that the state of Pakistan is confronted with three enemies that are closely intertwined. Firstly, there is Al Qaeda, which comprises Arabs, Uzbeks and a select group of Pakistanis. Then there is the Taliban who consist of different branches including the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. The latter are ideologically connected to the group known as the Pakistani Taliban who, although they consider Mullah Omar their ameer-ul-momineen, are engaged in fighting a battle inside Pakistan to capture the state.
This is considered essential to establish a system that could then be taken to the rest of the world. A glance through Farzana Sheikh’s recent book Making Sense of Pakistan demonstrates that some modern Muslim thinkers such as Abul Ala Maududi and Allama Iqbal also considered the state as a forum. However, this is not to suggest that these two thinkers advocated using violence in the same way as the Taliban.
Then there are the Punjab-based Salafi-jihadi groups wrongly termed as the Punjabi Taliban. Actually, Taliban is a term that has a certain historical context and can only be used in the case of the Afghan Taliban. Nevertheless, the Punjabi jihadis are ideologically- driven and keen to take on the state.
The various Punjab-based groups or those connected with Punjab assist others in Waziristan and Swat. They even use the tribal areas as a hideout. For example `Commander’ Ilyas Kashmiri, who heads the 313 Brigade of the Harkat-ul-Jihad- ul-Islami (Huji), took refuge in Waziristan in 2005 after he developed problems with Pakistan’s military. Then there is the Amjad Farooqi group, which was also involved in the assassination attempt on Pervez Musharraf.
The above description is meant to demonstrate that since the enemy is diverse, it cannot just be seen through the single lens of the Taliban. Unfortunately, the state has buried its head in the sand by arguing that while there is a problem in Waziristan, there is hardly anything to worry about in Punjab. The Punjab government in particular seems to deny the fact that there are Punjabis involved in religious militancy. The Punjabi jihadis, in fact, are crucial because they mingle easily with the crowd in places where the attack is to be carried out.
The attackers must reconnoitre the target in advance before chalking out a plan. An outsider can be spotted easily. Thus the dependence on Punjab-based militants to carry out attacks in the capital or Lahore. Recently, it was claimed that the mastermind of the Marriott bombing and the GHQ attack was caught from Bahawalpur.
Reading such reports one wonders why the Punjab government is going on the defensive, withholding information about the presence of militants in Punjab, especially southern Punjab. Naming southern Punjab as a possible place for jihadi recruitment does not mean that youth from other places such as Faisalabad, Gujranwala or Lahore are not involved. However, the concentration of religious militants is in this region.
This fact is logical because of the link between three major militant outfits in southern Punjab. One could argue that the government might not want people to concentrate on this region because of the presence of outfits which do not fight the state, such as Jaish-i-Mohammad or Lashkar-i-Taiba, and that the problem is only with the breakaway factions, as ISPR spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas recently argued. But the fact is that no one can control individuals or groups breaking away from the mother organisation and linking up with the Taliban or Al Qaeda.
It is amazing the extent to which the government can go to withhold information about the seemingly `friendly’ groups. For instance, recently during a television programme Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah went out of his way to suggest that the Jaish-controlled madressah, which is also the outfit’s headquarters, is not a no-go area. He even tried to make a lame excuse when informed that a team from a local channel was attacked when they tried to take shots of the area from the outside.
More interestingly, the minister immediately accused me of using a western lens to look at the situation, an accusation also made by Jaish-i-Mohammad in its weekly magazine Al Qalam. The article was written with the specific purpose to incite people against me. The writer had twisted words and facts from one of my previous articles and presented them in a way that made me appear as an enemy. This was immediately brought to the knowledge of the interior ministry, which promised to provide help. Intriguingly, it took the Bahawalpur DPO more than three hours to make the first contact. The lapse might have been at either end but considering that I could survive for three hours I declined their help.
In any case, one does not expect sympathy from a district administration that has lately been going out of its way to hide the activities of an outfit. The game is that you are not allowed an opportunity to prove anything because the evidence suddenly disappears once you raise a hue and cry.
The Punjab government’s attitude reflects political expediency. A lot of big traders in southern Punjab and other parts of the province who are constituents of the different factions of the Muslim League are believed to finance the outfits both directly and indirectly. This is not to suggest that other political parties are any better.
However, the bottom line is that while as an individual one feels unprotected by the state, it is sad to think that the authorities believe they can deal with religious militancy on a piecemeal basis. A holistic strategy is necessary, not to protect western interests but to safeguard the state and its citizens

BANGLADESH: Police prevent a journalist from filing torture allegations against paramilitary soldiers

October 31, 2009

 

                                                                     We have Former President of National Students Federationlearned that a team from
the Rapid Action Battalion-10, a paramilitary force involved in
maintaining law and order in Bangladesh, tortured a journalist at his
house while in their custody, and detained him for more than ten
hours. The soldiers made a fabricated video at his house and in their
office involving drugs, in an attempt to discredit him. The police
would not allow him to register a torture complaint against his
perpetrators and the authorities have not yet taken any lawful action
into this matter.

CASE DETAILS:

On 22 October 2009, according to the victim and other eyewitnesses, a
(Rapid Action Battalion) RAB-10 team, in plain cloth, raided a house
under the jurisdiction of the Jatrabari police, in Dhaka. One
resident, Mr. F. M. Masum is a crime reporter for the New Age – a national daily newspaper based in Dhaka, and lives on the second
floor.

At about 10:30am, Masum saw some plain clothed people beating the wife
of the owner of the house in front of the building’s gate. They asked
him to open the gate and he refused, but when the men identified
themselves as RAB personnel he obeyed. However the men then started to
beat him.

The battalion personnel, led by Fight Lieutenant Anis, took him inside
and started to torture him with iron rods, wooden stick and with the
blunt backside of machetes. According to the victim they hit him on
the knees and other joints, then applied salt to the bleeding wounds.
After about an hour they took him inside his apartment where they
reportedly produced six bottles of Phensidyl (codeine) syrup, placed
them on his bed and videoed the display.

The battalion took him to the RAB 10 headquarters at Dhalpur, while
handcuffed. Masum begged to be allowed his inhaler; the officer swore
at him and refused. The torture then continued at the RAB-10 office,
where he was told that he may be arranged to die in a ‘crossfire’
killing. The team stuck a label on Masum’s t-shirt that read ‘Drug
peddler’ and shot more video with another batch of drugs at the
office.

In the meantime we are told that senior journalists of the New Age
contacted the battalion’s director general, home secretary and the
home minister, telling them that the arrest was mistaken. The
journalists were given different reasons for his detention by
different battalions; some claimed Masum had been found in possession
of Pethedine, some said with Phensidyl syrup, while some others said
they found him with prostitutes. They promised his release.
After these assurances from the battalion’s director general, home
secretary and home minister, it took four more hours for Masum to be
released at 10:30pm. The colleagues he was released to had to sign a
paper that alleged that he had been picked up for not cooperating with
law-enforcers, but was being released ‘in good health’. Masum reportedly was covered in torture wounds; his body and his feet were swollen, his eyes bloodshot. After being admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), physicians advised that he have a CT scan and X-ray, with the tests run early Friday. Masum was then discharged earlyfrom the DMCH, at about 2:30pm although his condition was still serious. He admitted himself to the Dhaka Community Hospital, a private hospital, on the same day where he is being treated.

Masum told that he is experiencing hearing problems in his left ear and has serious pain in his knees, elbows, shoulders, soles and in the back of the head. Quoting his physicians he said that his full physical recovery may
take many months, if medical treatment is adequately provided.

On 23 October, the RAB Headquarters released a statement
<http://www.rab.gov.bd/news_dtls.php?nid=3060>
which said” “RAB sincerely expresses regret for the unwarranted
incident that has taken place between RAB personnel and journalist FM
Masum of the largely-circulated daily New Age. RAB is looking into the
matter with importance. The RAB headquarters has formed an inquiry
team and the matter is being investigated. Punitive action will be
taken against anyone of RAB found guilty.”

However Mr. Shahiduzzaman, the Chief Reporter at the paper, told the
AHRC that the Jatrabari police rejected their attempts to register a
complaint at the station on 24 October.

On 25 October the Home Minister Ms. Sahara Khatun along with her
deputy Mr. Shamsul Haque Tuku, state minister, visited Masum at the
Dhaka Community Hospital. The Home Minister assured him that his
torture allegations will be registered, yet the Jatrabari police have
still not acted.

The only action that appears to have been taken inside the RAB is for
one man, Flight Lieutenant Anis, to have been transferred to the
Bangladesh Air Force, where he used to serve.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Masum and his family have accused the staff of the Dhaka Medical
College Hospital (DMCH) of misconduct, regarding his hasty treatment
and discharge, and suspect that they were influenced by the military
connection of the case.

The New Age, as a national daily, constantly highlights the issues
surrounding human rights abuses in Bangladesh., with the editor, Mr.
Nurul Kabir known for his independent views, expressed in writing,
televised talk-shows and civil society meetings on the rule of law and
human rights issues. Before his torture F. M. Masum reportedly
published several articles on extrajudicial killings conducted by the
RAB.
We strongly urge Mrs. Sheikh Hasina Prime Minister to take an immedate action as not only the compensation, but also the justice is required by the people of our region.

BANGLADESH: Police pressure a female victim of an acid attack to withdraw her case and marry her attacker

October 31, 2009
Faheem Aamer

Former President of National Students Federation

Name of the victim:
1. Ms. Reshma, age 18; daughter of Mr. Md. Habibullah Morol; residing in Horinkhola village under the Koyra police station in Khulna district..

Names of the alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Md. Abdul Hashem, Sub Inspector of Police; attached to Koyra Police Station in Khulna district at the time of the incident.
2. Mr. Kazi Daud Hossain, Inspector of Police and Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Koyra Police Station in Khulna district at the time of the incident.
3. Mr. Md. Ayub Mollah, age 20; son of Mr. Eakub Mollah; living in Ghatakhali under Koyra Police Station in Khulna district.

Date of incident: 7 May 2009
Place of incident: The victim’s home, Horinkhola village, Khulna district

I am writing to express my deepest concern over the acid attack of a teenage girl, who has since been repeatedly intimidated by the alleged attacker and police while fighting her case. I am appalled to hear that Koyra police are reportedly working to support the attacker rather than the vulnerable victim, and have pressured her to marry him. The final investigation report cleared and discharged the accused despite strong evidence linking him to the crime, and I demand to know why no action has been taken against the officer responsible.

According to the case information I have received, Mr. Ayub Mollah took to harassing and threatening Ms. Reshma (whose parents work out of the country) after a marriage refusal. The victim moved away to escape the threat, but on a brief trip back home she reports that Mr. Mollah entered the house, sexually propositioned her and threw acid at her face. She suffered burns to her face, ear and left shoulder; neighbours admitted her to the Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH).

However I am disturbed to hear that the complaint – drafted by the One-Stop Crisis Centre (OCC) at the KMCH on 13 Oct was not recorded. I hear that it was only lodged after a full month of pressure from civilians (FIR No. 10/09), and that officers illegally changed the date of the signed complaint.

Eyewitnesses then report that the Investigating Officer (IO), Sub Inspector (SI) Mr. Md. Abdul Hashem, went to the area of the crime-scene and accepted refreshment from Mr. Mollah, along with various other members of the ruling political party, the Bangladesh Awami League, before visiting the victim at home to insist that she withdraw her case. The SI suggested that she settle for a cash payment and, I am outraged to hear, marry Mr. Mollah for her own safety and benefit.

I hear that Mr. Mollah and his political associates have given death threats to Reshma and warned other witnesses not to testify. While she has lodged a General Diary with the Koyra police seeking protection and has been given none, the perpetrator has been granted his own form of police protection: despite strong evidence to the contrary, SI Hashem’s overdue final report in September discharged him.

I strongly urge the Bangladeshi authorities to rescue the reputation of law enforcement in this area, and give the crime the investigation it is due by law; taking particular note of the age and vulnerability of the victim. Such acid attacks against women must only be met with strong criminal sanctions if they are to be discouraged. The alleged illegal actions of the Koyra police, particularly SI Md. Abdul Hashem, must be probed and those proved guilty brought before the law and removed from their positions. As is evident from this case, the Bangladesh police require thorough reforms for the sake of the rule of law in the country.

I strongly urge  Mrs. Sheikh Hasina , Prime Minister  – Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Mr. M. M. Ruhul Amin, Chief Justice Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Barrister Shafique Ahmed, Minister
of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs, Ms. Sahara Khatun MP, Home Minister, Mr. Mahbubey Alam, Attorney General of Bangladesh, Justice Amirul Kabir Chowdhury, Chairman National Human Rights Commission and Mr. Nur Mohammad Inspector General of Police to take an immediate action against this crime.

Friends, if anybody wants to make a direct appeal to the athorities, please feel free to contact us.

Communist Party of Pakistan criticizes visit of Hillary Clinton to Pakistan

October 30, 2009
National Studets Federation

Communist Party of Pakistan

The press statement on the subject “CPP criticizes visit of Hillary Clinton to Pakistan.” as issued by the Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) for the information of public and press is as under:-

Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) has planned for a warm welcome to the former first lady and US Foreign Minister Hillary on her first visit to Pakistan by hoisting black flags as a token of protest but could not do so, as all the roads and cities where she is visiting are being closed.

Hillary visit here could not achieve anything in positive direction. Neither she can pacify and decrease the hatred feelings of Pakistani nation about America nor can her visit save the defeat of America and NATO forces in Afghanistan in the coming times.

All the problems which our nation is facing today are due to American policies in Pakistan. America is enemy of Muslims and Communists, whereas, we communists, wherever, they are, are not the enemies of Muslims. The Communists believes in class struggle and are fighting for Socialist system only.

These views are expressed in a policy statement by Engineer Jameel Ahmad Malik, the Chairman of CPP, here today.

In the opinion of CPP, all the terrorism in our motherland is the outcome of the policies of America and our Government since the existence of Pakistan till date; is supporting and party to the aggression of America.

Engineer Jameel stressed that our Government and Pak Army has not learnt any lesson from history and both are committing severe mistakes again and again.

The first blunder, which they committed under the direction of America, was, when our Government, Pak Army, ISI and MI promoted the philosophy of Jihad and supported Al-Queda and Taliban with all moderns and sophisticated weapons for fighting against the pro-communist regime of Afghanistan and the Communists of Russia.

But surprisingly, when these Al-Queda and Taliban are fighting against the aggression of America and NATO forces, they are now termed as a terrorist, which while fighting with the Communists were given the name of Mujahideen, which means freedom fighter.

If they were Mujahideen while fighting with the Communists of Afghanistan than how suddenly they now become terrorists while fighting against the American, who itself is the biggest known terrorist in the known history of world.

If the philosophy of Jihad against Communists were right in Afghanistan than how that philosophy of Jihad now converted into terrorism, when the same Al-Queda and Taliban are fighting for the liberation of their mother land from the clutches of American Imperialism and its NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The CPP Chairman stressed and said that in the hidden agenda, America is enemy of Muslims and Communists whereas the Communists and Communist countries are not the enemies of the Muslim Umahh.

The Communist Russia given us Steel Mill free of cost and Communist China has installed and aided a numerous projects on free aid without imposing any restrictions as was done by US in Kerry-Lugar Bill.

America is killing two birds with one stone. On one hand, she is using our Government and Pak Army and pushing them into war with their own citizens and on the other hand using them to influence its impact on the ongoing liberation war of Afghani people in Afghanistan and surprisingly this our Government and Pak Army are both doing on a very pretty price under the Kerry-Lugar Bill, which, of course is a regrettable and sad affairs on the part of our ruling elite and army.

Our Parliament unanimously passed the resolution against Drone attacks in Tribal belt but the American Imperialism and Hillary don’t cares the sanctity of our Parliament and by Drone attacks; they have killed a numerous innocent citizens of Pakistan. If this is not aggression what else is the aggression then?

The notorious Blackwater and the American bases are operating openly in Pakistan with the permission of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Government but surprisingly the Marxist Group led by Dr. Lal and Manzoor Chaudhry, who are working under the official name of Mazdoor Jeddojahd Tabqati on its Interism policy in ruling PPP are silent till date on these sensitive issues, which, otherwise are against the integrity and sovereignty of our motherland.

All the evils and problems which we are facing as a nation are the direct outcome of the policies of American Imperialism and as our all rulers till dates were and are the watch dog of American policies and so our Party don’t expect from the present Government that they will give a cold shoulder and shift its policies from the America.

The only way left for us is that we as a nation has to come out openly on streets and roads and has to protest against the aggression of American Imperialism for leaving Pakistan, otherwise, the America will not leave our motherland, these are the concluding remarks by the Chairman of CPP.

From:-

(Press Media of CPP)

UNITY IS OUR WEAPON an article from Student’s Herald

October 29, 2009
Beena Sarwar
Film maker, journalist and activist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contributed by : Beena Sarwar

By MOHAMMAD SARWAR
President, Democratic Students’ Federation

As I sit to write about our glorious struggle for a better ducation and for a better future my mind is flooded with scenes – inspiring and poignant – which I will never forget. For how can I forget the mighty demonstrations of January 7 and 8, by thousands of disciplined students. How can I erase from my memory the tear-gassing, lathi-charging and firing during the three days that shook not only Karachi but the whole of Pakistan?  I can never forget the spontaneous support of the people and press of Pakistan for the right and just cause of students of Karachi.

I am writing this article with the mingled feelings of joy and grief. Joy for our great victory and grief for those who gave their lives during this painful struggle. When some day the history of the student movement will be written, as I am sure it will be, the names of those who fell martyrs will be printed in letters of gold. They will live in our memories as no one else has lived so far. Their sacrifices will always remain enshrined in our hearts.

And now when a settlement has been reached between the Prime Minister and the students I trust and hope that the authorities will do nothing which will affect the goodwill created. On our part we can assure the Prime Minister that it was never our intention to create any trouble. It is proved by the fact that despite grave provocations the students throughout the fortnight acted with restraint and showed better understanding than some of the officials of the Karachi Administration. The students appreciate that the Prime Minister eventually accepted their demands and saved the situation from taking a bad shape. However, I wish the Prime Minister could have taken personal interest in the matter before January 8 and if he had done so many precious lives would have been saved.

My idea in writing this article is to assess the situation as it stands today. For it is imperative to let you know in brief the background of the ‘Demands Day’. Since the inception of the Democratic Students’ Federation about two years ago, the DSF started drawing the attention of the authorities towards the deplorable educational condition that existed in Karachi. The DSF passed resolutions, held meetings and asked the Government to reduce the exorbitant tuition and examination fees. We asked the authorities to build more hostels and more than anything we appealed to the students to unite for fighting for their elementary rights and demands. While the authorities refused to pay any heed to what we said the students slowly and gradually started realizing their responsibility. A definite consciousness grew among them.

They started thinking as to how to get their demands conceded. They wanted to fight for their just demands but too many students’ organisations bewildered them. The official College unions were monopolised mostly by persons who just did not bother about the students’ welfare. They belonged to a class which was busy grinding its own axe.

Such was the situation till the last session. But this year things changed. Realising the fact that if their lot had to be bettered they must elect office-bearers to the unions who were their genuine representatives, they elected many honest and sincere students as office-bearers of different college unions. This was the first step in the right direction.

These elected representatives had to justify the trust reposed in them. An Inter-Collegiate Body consisting of all Vice-Presidents and General Secretaries of the Karachi College Unions was formed. It started its work and made it very clear to the Vice-Chancellor, who was all the time trying to disrupt it, that the ICB meant business.

As the days went by our campaign for better education caught momentum. In the meantime, the disruptive forces were not sitting idle. They were busy in planning and intriguing. The Vice-Presidents of Urdu and Law Colleges betrayed the students and succeeded though for a little while in misleading some other members.

In order to focus the attention of the authorities on the sorry state of affairs existing in Karachi colleges the DSF decided to observe ‘Demands Day’. Then the ICB took up this matter and in co-operation with the DSF made preparations for the day. We made repeated attempts to meet the Education Minister but on somebody’s advice he gave us a cold shoulder. Our intention was to observe  ‘Demands Day’ in the beginning of December but as the Education Minister was going to London to attend the Commonwealth Conference the ICB postponed it. What happened on January 7 and how the ICB frantically tried to meet the Education Minister is a matter of recent happening and all of us know it very well. Hence there is no need to mention in detail the events that took place during those days.

In fairness to the General Secretaries of Law College Union and Commerce College Union I must say that though they were not with us on January 7, they realised their mistake after the lathi-charge and tear-gassing of students’ procession and since then they have worked tirelessly and fearlessly for the common cause. By their work after January 7, they made amends for their past attitude which had helped only the enemies of the student movement.

However, there are some lessons that we have learnt from this struggle. The first and foremost thing is that discipline and unity in our ranks is indispensable. Never before was such unity achieved among the students as this time. The reason for this united action was that while drawing up the demands we kept one thing in view. That was the general welfare of the students. Let us always remember that if we are united and strong nothing can stop us from winning our demands. The students deserve congratulations for standing united. Attempts were made to disrupt the unity of the students by raising the communist bodey but the students saw through this oft-repeated and stale game and refused to fall a prey to it. Let us guard our unity and I may tell the students here that such vile attempts will be made in future also but they should refuse to succumb to any such move whether it comes from the Chief Commissioner of Karachi or from some so-called student leaders who after lying low for some time have already reverted to their old game.

The second lesson that we have learnt is that if our demands are just and right we will have the co-operation of the public as well as the press. In fact in addition to unity in our ranks what enabled us to win most of our demands was this support from the general public and the press.

Another important thing which emerged out of this struggle was the great role played by the High School Students’ Federation in mobilising the school students in our favour. Had it not been for the active and close co-operation of this organisation it would have been somewhat difficult for the ICB to enlist the support of school students. I am confident that the school student wil organise and strengthen this organisation which will play a great role in their own sphere. To the college students I would say, “help and encourage the school boys and they will prove great allies”.

This struggle also brought out the fact that our sisters do not lag behind. The students of Women’s College and St. Joseph’s Convent did not cooperate with us in the beginning but they came out in open support after January 7. What held them back probably was their shyness, fear and apprehension. However, the artificial wall of seclusion was swept away as the student movement marched forward. And to the surprise of many the students of Women’s College and St. Joseph’s Convent went on strike and fought against their foreign principals of both the colleges whose behaviour was anything but dignified. I request the girl students through these columns that they should not allow themselves to be rusted in the four walls of their college compounds and participate in every sphere of student life. Without them no student movement can be complete and I am confident that they will not allow their principals to stand in their way.

This struggle has also brought into the forefront the dire need of an all-Pakistan students’ organisation. The student movement is quite strong in East Pakistan and by organising a students’ organisation on an all-Pakistan basis the students of both wings can come closer, learn from each other’s experiences. The Inter-Collegiate Body has already given a call for a convention to be held very soon. We must work earnestly to make the proposed convention a success for in it lies our future welfare.

I must again congratulate the students on their great victory. Let not the lesson be forgotten that it was due to unity in our ranks that we succeeded. However, even after this victory there is no room for complacency. We have to work hard and organise the students. We have to raise our standards both mentally and materially. And for this we have to work ceaselessly. We have to keep in mind our studies also. Let no one raise his finger and say that the students of today are not very qualified. Our struggle for better studies means that we have to register an all round progress.

Last but not least we have to continue the word started by the ICB Relief Committee. We must provide financial and legal aid to the members of the public who suffered for our cause. We cannot and will not forget them.

Long Live Student Unity!

Q&A: “We Refuse to Be Held to Ransom By Terrorism”

October 29, 2009

 

Beena Sarwar

Film Maker, Journalist and Activist

Beena Sarwar interviews VEENA MASUD, Pakistan Women’s Swimming Association

KARACHI, Oct 29 (IPS) – Karachi-based, Trinidad-born and educated Veena Masud is a school principal who wants to see Pakistani women shine in the international sports arena.

Honorary Secretary of the Pakistan Women’s Swimming Association, president of the Sindh Women’s Swimming Association, and executive committee member of the Pakistan Olympic Association, she has cheered Pakistani swimmers as they returned to the Olympics after 40 years.

In 2004, Rubab Raza was just 13 when she won a wild card entry to Athens along with a male swimmer (Mumtaz Ahmed). She was the first female swimmer to represent Pakistan at the Olympics. Four years later at the Beijing Olympics, Kiran Khan – another wild card entrant, from Lahore – swam for her country.

Pakistani female swimmers are making a splash despite the hurdles, which include “little government support” and social conservatism, Masud tells IPS. Excerpts from an interview.

IPS: Last weekend, after schools countrywide were closed following the suicide bombing at the Islamic University in Islamabad (Oct. 20) there was a major swimming competition in Karachi. How does the ongoing violence affect sport?

VEENA MASUD: Yes, that was the 18th Sindh Women’s Swimming Championship organised by the Karachi Women’s Swimming Association. The club where the event was being held told us categorically to cancel. But our sponsor said it’s up to us. We decided to go ahead. We are not afraid, we refuse to be held to ransom by this terrorism.

The club management then said if we could arrange our own security, we could go ahead. We had a massive turnout – 280 swimmers representing 22 institutions. They bettered 30 provincial records. See, 90 percent of Pakistanis want to go forward, get on with our lives. We can’t allow this (disruption) to happen.

IPS: You were born and educated in the West Indies. How did you come to Pakistan?

VM: I came back to my roots – my grandfather (in Trinidad) told me that one of my forefathers was from Sindh; he went on a ship to the West Indies as indentured labour.

My husband (a Pakistani) and I were in London when our son was born in 1979. We moved back to Pakistan because we wanted to bring him up here. I love it; the culture is so rich, and there is so much to offer.

IPS: You are not a swimmer, how did you get involved?

A. You don’t have to be a swimmer to be a coach, or a technical official. I coached my son (Kamal Salman Masud, now 30) in swimming. Until then, the army, navy and air force swimmers won all the competitions. My son set several national records. We’d be at the pool and his (girl) friends wanted to swim competitively too. That’s how it started.

Four of us (mothers) started the Karachi Women’s Swimming Association in 1991, mindful of the confines of Islamic culture. We had great difficulty getting sponsors for the First Sindh Women’s Swimming Championship – but 75 girl swimmers competed, representing local clubs and schools.

In 1994, the then Benazir Bhutto government agreed to host the Second Islamic Women’s Solidarity Games. Iran, the initiators of these games, insisted that swimming be included. The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Pakistan Swimming Federation (PSF) asked us to form the Pakistan Women’s Swimming Association.

The games went back to Iran when Pakistan couldn’t conform to standards but we encouraged the formation of women’s swimming associations. Sindh and Punjab (provinces) did that.

Before long women swimmers from the Pakistan Navy, Pakistan Army, Wapda (Water and Power Development Authority) and NWFP (North West Frontier Province) began participating. The Balochistan Women’s Swimming Association was recently formed.

Now, we have over 300 swimmers from 30 schools and clubs around the country.

IPS: How have Pakistan’s women swimmers fared internationally?

VM: They’re improving all the time. Now a lot of our swimmers are doing ‘American A’ timings (coached by my daughter-in-law Melanie Masud, herself an ‘American A’ swimmer). They’re very tenacious and they have their parents’ support.

Fourteen of our swimmers at the Fourth Islamic Women’s Games (Tehran, September 2005), won 10 of Pakistan’s 19 medals. They came second in the swimming events and seventh among the 45 participating countries.

The introduction of the longer “fast-skin” swimming costumes made it possible for our girl swimmers to participate in international competitions. For the first time, Pakistan sent two women swimmers (Sana Wahid and Kiran Khan) to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, July 2001.

When we convinced the Pakistan government to include women’s swimming in the 9th SAF (South Asian Federation) Games in Islamabad 2004, our girls took 14 medals, competing in the open arena on home ground for the first time.

Our swimmers returned to the Olympics after 40 years in 2004.

IPS: What about technical officials?

VM: This was initially one of our biggest drawbacks, not having any female technical officials. We have now trained up to 60 female technical officials to international standards and they are lauded everywhere. I’m really proud of our female technical officials.

Pakistan is the only South Asian country to have two female technical officials on the Asian list, and one on the international list.

All over the world women get the rough end of the stick, but we have four women out of 10 members in the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). I was in fact the first woman inducted into the POA when the International Olympic Committee in 1992 stipulated that all national committees must have women.

IPS: What hurdles do Pakistan’s women swimmers face?

VM: First of all, there is little government support or funding. Also, swimming is still an elite sport for women, because you have to be a member of a private club to participate.

We need to push for the government to build infrastructure for swimming all over the country and take women’s swimming to the corners of Pakistan, so that Pakistani women have the opportunity to be at par with women all over the world. Then there’s the conservative mindset – many people don’t want their daughters participating in sports, or in public events.

Still, I believe that being determined and strong and tenacious will in the end bring you medals