Pakistan arrests human rights leaders
Thursday, October 25, 2007
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: As Pakistan descends deeper into crisis, is the country moving toward democracy or martial law? Aijaz Ahmad, the Real News Network’s senior news analyst, speaks with Asma Jahangir, chair and founder of the human rights commission in Pakistan.
AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: The Human Rights Commission took a very strong position on his qualification to run for the presidency and so on.
ASMA JAHANGIR, CHAIR OF HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, PAKISTAN: Well, let me tell you that the Human Rights Commission was the only organization that actually denounced the takeover of the military when Musharraf came in. And that had nothing to do with Musharraf—it had everything to do with the principle. And what has bothered me—and not myself but many people, particularly in our country—is that post-September 11 there is so much lip service to democracy, but where the West is concerned, they have supported tin-pot dictators like Musharraf and even built them up as though they’re great Einsteins and, you know, democrats of this world, having forgotten of the number of people who have been tortured, number of people, hundreds, who have disappeared and now reappear after being tortured, people who have been killed, extra-judicial killings, political parties decimated, space for civil society shrinking, role of intelligence agencies every day harassing people, every day terrorizing people. And yet they define that regime to be a liberal regime.
AHMAD: And now it appears—and in fact the parties concerned themselves have at times said—that it is the United States which has arbitrated an understanding and something of a deal between President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. What do you think of this whole process?
JAHANGIR: I don’t think anybody’s denying that anymore. Only time will tell whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. In my own view, I believe that the United States possibly now has to look ahead. Certainly, bringing Benazir back to Pakistan was a very welcome thing. We do need her back. We do need all political leadership back. But I do not think that there can be a reconciliation in Pakistan with Musharraf in the midst. And I do not think that Musharraf is going to play it clean. And one of the indications of it is the recent bomb blast at the arrival of Benazir Bhutto, and himself saying that you should postpone it, and then his ministers going on record saying that there can’t be a suicide bombing, there can’t be a suicide bombing. Whenever there was a chief justice demonstration or a rally, we were always told there would be a suicide bombing. But when they have a rent-a-crowd of their own, when Musharraf addresses them, there’s no question of a suicide bombing. I mean, for example, when he won the sham election of the president, there were celebrations and everybody was dancing around. So I am very skeptical. Why are the suicide bombers only conveniently waiting to target those people that are so anti the government? So, there is something to think about there.
AHMAD: I was very struck by the fact that when Benazir Bhutto came to Karachi upon her arrival, in her very first speech, actually, she said that we know that there are senior retired officers of the Pakistan army who are trying to kill us.
JAHANGIR: But she knows like all of us. It’s an open secret in Pakistan.
AHMAD: What do you think are the prospects that Musharraf will take refuge in a state of emergency or a martial law?
JAHANGIR: Well, I think that Musharraf will do exactly as the Americans have told him to do. And what emergency? There is already an emergency for all purposes. I mean, you can formally have emergency declared, but it’s not going to make any difference. In a way, people have said in our country, well, let them bring in martial law, because in any event when [crosstalk]
AHMAD: [crosstalk] You are already living under something like martial law–
JAHANGIR: [crosstalk] Yeah. I mean, now we are not arrested under martial law orders, but people are being picked up and disappear, and nobody’s there to answer. They say, “We are not accountable.” So he will bring in martial law, he can bring in whatever he wants. The bottom line is he has no respect of the people, he has lost moral authority, he never has legitimacy.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.