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Democracy and Human Rights in Post-Coup Pakistan

Asma Jahangir (frontlinedefenders.org)

Asma Jahangir (frontlinedefenders.org)

In this judgement, there are two pages, which say that these judges who resigned actually left a vacuum in Pakistan, and they behaved in a very unpatriotic manner, because there would have been no judiciary, then. I mean, I can imagine the judges trying to justify themselves. But to kind of blacken the faces of those who stood by the constitution, who stood in the face of adversity to uphold some kind of rule of law, were actually castigated in this very judgement of the Supreme Court. Then, we are told that this military government came in because the government of Mr. Nawaz Sharif was poor. But what about the government of Balochistan? What about the government of Frontier? What about the government of Punjab? What about the government of Karachi? I mean, were they all to be gone and sent home? What about every member of the Parliament, to be sent home? Then, we are told, no they didn't come in because of that. They had no choice, because the Chief Executive was being hijacked. Well, he didn't get hijacked. You've come into power. So if you came in because you were being hijacked, you can hold elections and go back, now.

But obviously, that is not the reason. There are agendas within the military itself. When I talk about agendas, that's what I want to talk about. The whole tension between India and Pakistan; the tension has escalated. There has been no initiative by Indian or Pakistani government officials, to lessen these tensions. The only initiative has been taken by the people themselves. That has been people-to-people dialogues, and there have been people-to-people missions.

At the last mission that we took, there were 64 women that went to India. I just want to share with you the kind of things that we were told. We were told it was a pant-diplomacy; the shalwar-diplomacy. It was written in the Urdu newspapers that 64 prostitutes went to India. It was written that there should be a case of treason against me, because I gave sweetmeat to an Indian soldier, and I should have in fact given him Viagra, so that he could go and rape more Kashmiri women. It was said that I and some of my colleagues met Mr. Khushwant Singh, who is a sex-starved person, and we, as Muslim women, had no business to meet him because all Mr. Khushwant Singh can think about is taking women to bed, whether they are Ghazalas or whatevers or Hinas or Asmas.

And then we had taken some pigeons with us, which we released on arrival in New Delhi. There was one article which actually made me think that the discourse had gone to a point where there's no return. It said that those pigeons could not stay in Hindu India and have actually come back to Pakistan.

[laughter]

Asma Jahangir: And I have those press clippings with me if some of you would like to see it with Mr. Masood Haider here.

This kind of oratory does not remain confined to Pakistan. It travels to India. So when we were in India, we met people there, as well. They said, "if Kashmiri women get raped, so what? Women in the United States also get raped. You know?" I said, "So, they should get raped because women in Belgium get raped. So let all women get raped. So we can all sit quietly." So then they said, "There is no problem in Kashmir. It's the same problem as in Bihar."

"Okay. There's no problem in Kashmir. Then why are we fighting across the Line of Control? Why can't we stop it?" "But that's you." "Okay, fine. It's us. It's our Jihadis who are coming. But then if it is only our Jihadis, surely there must be some local people there protecting them. Surely they must be upset. Surely, you have an army there. What is the army doing there?" And they begin to close their eyes like an ostrich, and not look at it. Those Indians, in India, who want to make amends, their hands are as much tied as ours are in Pakistan.

One of the questions I asked of my colleagues there was, "Why is it that we can bring buses to each others' countries? Why can't we take two buses to Kashmir? After all, the people are hurt there." And she said, "Would you believe that we cannot do it here?" So there is hawkism in Pakistan. That gives rise to hawkism in India. Then further in Pakistan, it has a kind of a snowball effect. But, however, much worse in our country, because we don't have something called democracy, which works as a shock absorber. We don't have political parties that can actually fill in the vacuum.

Today, we are seeing the same judiciary, which is patting the army on the back. The same army is patting the judiciary on the back. The two of them use the orthodoxy very well. We are being told time and again that yes, Pakistan is directionless. We hear these words. We hear the words that Pakistan is a basket case. But what is unfortunate is what we don't hear, though. That is that Pakistan also has very strong movements they have had for years and years. In Pakistan, there have been people who have been -- people like Habib Jalib -- who sang the songs of revolution and died a poor man. In Pakistan, you also have people like Mr. Nusar Usmani, who stood up to a military dictator, died in a two-room flat, writing with his pen and speaking against everything that was wrong. We also have a civil society in Pakistan.

On the one hand, we may have corruption, but on the other hand we also have hundreds and thousands and millions of honest people who do not have their next-day meal, but go through meals and meals of the rich without touching a morsel of it. Yes, this is true. We do have, for example, people in Pakistan who have that kind of a discourse. Like the "pant-diplomacy." But then we have had people in Pakistan, not one or two, but in scores, who have ultra-progressive views with a vision. People like Faiz Ahmed Faiz who talked about the globalization in his poetry, when none was talking about it. We have hundreds of people like that. Those are the people who are the "threat" to the establishment of Pakistan. Today, what I see is this troika that uses that threat against the civil society of Pakistan.