November 22, 2007
Pakistan: Student Resistance
BY Joe Rubin
Students demonstrate in Lahore.
It has been a little over two weeks since Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf dismissed the country's Supreme Court and declared a state of emergency.
Musharraf has encountered resistance from lawyers, professionals, and ordinary citizens, and from an unexpected place: students at a private college in the city of Lahore. Before the government imposed martial law on November 3, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) was hardly known as a hotbed of activism. Until recently, said one student, you would be more likely to find a passionate debate about an underground Urdu rock band than about politics.
But while attending a human rights meeting, two popular LUMS professors were arrested on the first day of the state of emergency. One of those professors Bilal Munto, a law lecturer, had taught his students about the importance of an independent judiciary. The specter of Munto in a jail cell awoke the campus.
The Emergency Times, a blog started by LUMS students to protest martial law, declares: "No longer are we going to be conformist to our government's policies...no longer are we going to be scared to raise our voice because we are intimidated by the state's power."
The Emergency Times, a blog started by LUMS students to protest martial law, declares: "No longer are we going to be conformist to our government's policies, as if we have no choice, no longer are we going to be scared to question or raise our voice because we are intimidated by the state's power and what may be done to us."
The LUMS campus was the first in Pakistan to hold organized rallies against the state of emergency. Those protests are spreading to other campuses as well. Last week at Punjab University, the former cricket star turned opposition leader Imran Khan came out of hiding and joined a student protest. In a sign that campuses aren't always sanctuaries from the government crackdown, Islamist students seized Khan and with the help of the university administration turned him over to police. He remains in jail and faces charges of incitement under the "Anti-Terrorism Act."
With independent media like GEO TV off the air, the LUMS students are getting their message out by blogging, using YouTube and conducting interviews via Skype video.
I spoke via web cam with a student activist on the LUMS campus. She is disguised to protect her identity. So far, she says, the police have not dared to enter the university grounds, but rumors of a raid keep the students on edge.
From Our Files
Amina Masood Janjua was an ordinary Pakistani housewife, proud of her country and loyal to its military. But all that changed in July 2005, when her husband never came home. FRONTLINE/World correspondent David Montero reports on how her campaign to find her husband sparked national protests challenging Pakistan's feared intelligence agency, the ISI, and led to events that would severely test Musharraf's power.
Pakistan: On a Razor's Edge
Follow FRONTLINE/World reporter and producer Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy to her native Pakistan as she investigates the clashes between President Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, and the increasingly powerful Islamic fundamentalists who oppose him. Extensive background and links are included with the story, as is a series of short interviews with some of Pakistan's leading voices.
Video Photos: Hassan Ali; Asim Fayaz; Asad K.
Joe Rubin is a reporter and producer and regular correspondent for FRONTLINE/World.