Student Action Committee-USA

PPP at Amnesty International USA: An Eye Witness Account

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Pakistan People’s Party representatives Ms. Sherry Rehman, Dr. Javaid Laghari, and Ms.K. Palwasha spoke at an event hosted by Amnesty International USA and Washington-Pakistan Forum (WPF) on Jan 24th, 2008. The agenda of the talk was to discuss the current crisis in Pakistan and its implications for human rights. However, the primary topic of the talk by the People’s party leaders turned out to be the demand for UN probe into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and more importantly the discussion of strategies that Musharraf and his government is using or will use to rig the elections. Miss Palwasha highlighted intricate details of how the election-day rigging will take place. There was also a note of threat in their message (Sherry Rehman said it in so many words at Brookings and as well as at AIUSA) that if they lose the elections, they would not be able to stop their workers from coming on the streets. In short, they talked about different scenarios except for what they will do if they win the elections.

The team had made the same speech at Brookings the day before. At Brookings, PPPs attempts to convince the audience that the elections will be rigged made sense. But at AIUSA and WPF where majority of the audience consisted of Pakistani Americans and Pakistani journalists, these kinds of arguments seemed out of place. We do not need to be convinced that Musharaf and Q-League will attempt foul play in elections. What we want to know is what PPP will do after the elections, in case they win. What alternative to military government are they providing?

So during their speech, we all patiently waited for question and answer session. The first question, of course, was about PPP’s position on reinstatement of judiciary. Sherry Rehman in response to that question explained how judiciary should be appointed rather than answering the question one way or the other. Quite understandably, the question was asked again by someone else and Sherry Rehman’s response was the complaint that the session is becoming a wrangling session. The third question was what PPP is doing to bring political leadership together against the military. Their response to that was again a completely irrelevant discussion of PPP’s recent activities. By that time, everyone in the audience had become quite hopeless. Response to every question was a stream of irrelevant ! PPP team must have realized that also, that they took leave almost 15 minutes into the question and answer session. However, quite a lot of scenes followed after that. A lot of old very ardent Bhutto supporters were present in the audience…people who felt betrayed and showed it.

As a member of SAC-US, I had talked to all the members of the PPP team the day before at Brookings and had told them about the MoU that we wanted PPP to sign with us. The MoU demanded that PPP work towards the reinstatement of the deposed judges, withdrawal of restrictions (Code of Conduct and PEMRA ordinance) on the freedom of print and electronic media, withdrawal of restrictions on the right to assembly and the right to protest. I was told to get in touch with everyone and was duly given contact information of everyone on the team. Having contacted them and not having received any reply (which I expected), I had decided to take this issue up at AIUSA meeting. So after the meeting ended I went up to Dr. Leghari and Sherry Rehman separately and showed them the MoU. They told me to email them the MoU and said that they were eager to sign it. I will email all of them a copy of the MoU. I will also ask them to communicate with us about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in the MoU but I know that we will not get any response from them.

Not just as a member of SAC but also as their constituent, I have a right to know what they will do if I vote for them.

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Written by SAC-USA

2 February 2008 at 8:00 pm

Posted in SAC

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