MQM :Musharraf's Goons and Pakistan's Nazis and Lawyer Killers
Twenty Three Lawyers May have been killed by MQM on April 9
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Twenty Three Lawyers May Have Been Killed by MQM on April 9
14 04 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAHRC-STM-094- 2008April 11, 2008
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Immediate actions required to prevent a possible civil war in Pakistan
The brutal attacks on April 9, 2008, in Karachi claimed the lives of 14 persons including a child.
Six persons were burned alive of which four persons were lawyers and the other two their two women clients. 19 lawyers are reportedly missing who are feared to be abducted, tortured and killed. More than 70 offices were ransacked and burned, including the office, house and the vehicle of the General Secretary of the Karachi Bar Association. The offices of the Malir Bar Association, 20 kilometer away from Karachi city courts, were burnt to ashes. Five journalists were severely beaten. Of them, one was a female journalist working for a local television channel. Her arm was fractured in the incident. More than 50 vehicles were burned and smashed; mostly cars owned by lawyers. Two private bus drivers were shot dead.
The media and sources close to the bar associations reported that these attacks on the lawyers, looting, killing, burning and abductions were carried out by the members of the political group, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). The MQM is very close to President Pervez Musharraf and was a coalition partner of the previous dictatorship led by Musharraf.
It was also reported by the lawyers’ associations that the MQM was involved in the incidents of May 12, 2007, when Justice Iftekhar Choudhry, the then deposed Chief Justice, was not allowed to enter Karachi city and was stopped at the Karachi Air Port. On May 12, more than 40 persons were killed. The lawyers reported to the media that the attackers were in possession of incendiary weapons that exploded when thrown at a target.
Some lawyers who witnessed the incidents said that the rioting mob had brought two bags full of such weapons and were hurling them at targets, instructed to them over mobile telephones. The attackers started setting fire to a building which housed the office of Mr. Naeem Querashi, the General Secretary of Karachi Bar Association. Mr. Querashi’s car was also destroyed in the attack.
After the April 9 incident, five charred bodies were found from room number 616 at Tahir Plaza. The room was occupied Mr. Haji Aftab Abbasi. Abbasi was a local lawyer. It is reported that when the lawyer was with his junior colleagues briefing two women clients, Ms. Razia Batool and Ms. Sobia, some persons came into his office by force and threw chemicals inside the room, ran out and locked the door from outside. Those inside the room, the lawyers and their clients were not allowed to go out. Then a fire suddenly blew up the whole room. One newspaper reported that two beheaded bodies were also found from the building. The charred bodies were recognised only from their belongings. A DNA test is scheduled to confirm the identity of the bodies.
The Karachi Bar Association claims that 19 lawyers were missing after the attacks. It is feared that many of them might have been tortured and/or killed. Mr. Choudhry Shujaat Hussain, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) — the ruling party during Musharraf’s dictatorship — issued a public statement on April 8, a day before the carnage, that a situation will be created that “no ‘black coat’ wearing person will be able to come on the streets” (Daily Jang). Mr. Hussain was addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the capital of the country.
The Bar Associations of Sindh High Court, Karachi city courts and even other bar associations of the country in their resolutions have accused MQM as being responsible for the carnage of May 12, 2007 and April 9, 2008. But the local media is under so much pressure from MQM hooliganism that it is forced to avoid naming the real culprits, which were pointed out consistently by the lawyers and their associations.
The MQM claims that their lawyers were holding a demonstration outside the city courts buildings and that they were attacked by the lawyers who were protesting in favour of the deposed Chief Justice. The MQM claims that six of their workers were killed and several lawyers were injured. The MQM accused the leadership of the bar associations for the attack on its lawyers, whereas the entire bar associations in the country are denying that there was any clash between the two groups of lawyers.
The Karachi Bar Association said in a press statement that they (the lawyers) were holding a lawyers’ general meeting protesting the attack on a former minister in Musharraf’s ousted cabinet. Suddenly some people came and started demonstrating, chanting slogans against the lawyers and against the former Chief Justice. As the general body was over, more than two hundred people came around the building and started damaging the building, hurling fire bombs and also burning the nearby buildings that housed law firms. Cars that were parked outside the court building were also burned.
The lawyers and their bar associations have mentioned in press conferences and their resolutions that the attacks on the lawyers, their property, incidents of firing and burning alive of the lawyers were ‘pre-planned actions’ of President Musharraf’s political groups who enjoyed power for about five years during Musharraf’s dictatorship. The bar associations are arguing that the incidents of April 9, were actually part of a malicious campaign sponsored by Musharaf and his allies.
To divert the whole issue of restoration of deposed judges the cronies of the former military government resorted to attack the lawyers and their institutions. The lawyers argue that when the lawyers all over the country are protesting against the attacks on the former ministers and when there is no dispute over the issue, why then they are attacked and burned alive?
It is expected, that the newly elected government will restore the deposed judiciary, as the parties now sharing power in Pakistan have entered into an agreement concerning this. The parties have agreed to restore all deposed judges within one month of the formation of the government. The decision was made in March 2008. This is widely known as the Marri Declaration. The period of one month declared earlier to restore the judges will end in the coming weeks.
The leadership of the bar associations were pointing out that President Musharraf is creating hurdles for the implementation of the Marri declaration. It is reported that the President fears that once the judges are restored, his already lost moral grounds to continue as the president will receive its last blow, forcing him out from the president’s office.
If his criminal involvement in these attacks by promoting the above incidents and conspiring with the criminals are proved, it would be one more addition to his illegitimacy to remain in office and he could face a shameful impeachment. Such proofs regarding the President’s involvement in criminal acts will further confirm that Musharraf has no intention to serve Pakistan as its legitimate President, but that he is only one more hurdle towards Pakistan’s fresh move towards democracy.
The assault upon the former Chief Minister of Sindh province was on April 7, when the newly elected Sindh provincial assembly was holding a session for electing its speaker and deputy speaker. The attack was condemned by newly elected members. Two days before the incident, the MQM announced an alliance with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and declared that it will remain in alliance with the PPP for generations and this group also announced its disassociation with the parties of President Musharraf. Apart from these promises, on the day when former chief minister was attacked, suddenly and unexpectedly, the MQM announced a boycott of the session and the next day announced an indefinite boycott of assembly sessions. This backpedaling is MQM’s unique character.
In the follow up, on April 8, a delegation from Islamabad under the leadership of Mr. Choudhry Shujaat Hussain, the president of PML-Q, with two former chief ministers of the previous regime, visited the MQM head quarters and reportedly discussed in detail the future line of action. The MQM which had a public commitment with the PPP has quickly shifted its loyalty towards their former partners. On the same day and time, Mr. Sher Afgan, a former minister in Musharraf’s dictatorship, was beaten severely by a mob. The mob reportedly comprised of persons in plain cloths and some lawyers. The incident was condemned by everyone.
Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, had to save the former minister from the mob since the law enforcement officers had conspicuously disappeared from the scene by then. But in the evening on April 8, Mr. Altaf Hussain, the chief of MQM, residing in self-exile in London for the past 15 years, accused that the lawyers and their leadership as “vandals, nefarious ‘goonda’ (hoodlums) and street dwellers”. These words were broadcasted throughout the night by the electronic media and later in print the next day.
On September 10, 2007, when a full bench of the Sindh High Court was conducting a judicial enquiry about the incidents of May 12, the MQM attacked the Sindh High Court building. This compelled the bench to postpone the hearing. During the attack, a senior lawyer and former Vice President of the Karachi Bar Association, Mr. Raja Riaz was shot dead. He was on his way to the Court to give evidence in the hearing.
On the same day another senior lawyer, Mr.Mohammad Ali Abbassi, the former President of Karachi Bar Association, was attacked by the cadres of MQM. He was told not to give evidence against the carnage in Karachi at the hearing.
This is not the first time that Mr. Altaf Hussain is using filthy language against the lawyers and the peoples’ movement for establishing the supremacy of judiciary and rule of law in Pakistan. On May 12, 2007, the MQM had not allowed the former Chief Justice to visit Karachi on the invitation of Sindh High Court Bar Association. The former judge was to participate in the swearing in ceremony of the newly elected office bearers of the Bar Association. The MQM had total control of the province and its city government then.
It was evident from the media reports that courts including the High Court were taken over by the MQM, and, all judges who went to the court were detained till the late evening and some judges and their staff were assaulted. Throughout the day, armed bandits were patrolling the cities and killed more than 40 persons. In the evening the MQM held its own public meeting in which Mr. Altaf Hussain, the chief of MQM, used abusive language against lawyers and the former Chief Justice.
On May 12, 2007, the MQM raised slogans in favouring Hussain throughout the day. Hussain, in a telephonic address from London on the same evening, threatened the journalists, who had written about the involvement of the MQM in the attack on the Sindh High Court building and that their (journalists’ ) hands would be broken if they did not write the “truth”. Hussain also termed the journalists as prostitutes. Hussain also used derogatory remarks against the Sindh High Court judges who were conducting the inquiry against the violence of May 12.
With regard to the violent incidents of April 9, 2008, Musharraf blamed the leadership of the bar associations and lawyers before proceeding to China for a five-day visit. The same statements were repeated by the allied political parties of his ousted dictatorship. These political groups also announced an indefinite boycott of the national assemblies.
These incidents and the very redundant attitudes against the legal community and judiciary emanating from the president’s house and its benefactors strongly suggests that as long as Musharraf remains in office his cronies from the previous dictatorship will not allow the deposed judiciary to be restored and the movement for the rule of law to succeed. The militancy is likely to prevail while Musharraf retains the highest constitutional post of the country.
The newly formed elected government must at least now realise that it will be a difficult task to run the state until and unless the issue of restoration of judiciary is not solved. To ignore or to delay in solving this issue, as decided in the Marri Declaration, will question the sustainability and legitimacy of the new set up. More importantly, the forces of tyranny will take advantage of the weakness of the government. The restoration of deposed judges is the only way to constitutionally guarantee democracy in Pakistan. The new government must also start an independent probe into the incidents of May 12 and April 9 and the culprits must be brought before the law with out any political expediency or compromises. Until this is done the people of Pakistan will soon loose faith in the new government.
The events of the April 9, 2008 and May 12, 2007 are directed to destabilise all norms of rule of law, individual freedom and the supremacy of civil laws in the country. It is an attempt to backpedal the democratic movement in Pakistan. This will only favour the return of military rule in Pakistan.
The history of the world stands proof to reasons for a civil war. Thoughtless political actions for petty personal benefits and unjustifiable political compromises triggering the loss of peoples’ faith in their government are all mistakes that lead to civil unrest. Persons within and outside Pakistan, wielding direct or indirect command over power must not be allowed to act as malicious catalysts who work overtime to crush the dreams for democracy and rule of law of the ordinary Pakistani citizen.
When lawyers and their associations, the civil society including the journalists are clear about the identities of those who were responsible for the killing and burning alive of so many people, it is the duty of the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief Minister of Sindh province to hear them and to take legal actions against these criminals. Any delay in such an initiative will promote the use of violence as a crude political instrument to suppress the peoples’ movement in the country and is so evil and powerful to push Pakistan into a civil war.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.