Student Action Committee-USA

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SAC-US forming Advisory Group

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                      SAC would greatly appreciate, if Pakistani intellectuals living in US would join SAC-US advisory group.  The purpose of the SACUS advisory group will be to bring Pakistani academics and professionals currently working in the US to a common platform and initiate a discussion on the development of democratic process in Pakistan. The discussion will not only inform the media and other organizations in the US and Pakistan but will also inform the direction of our (and other similar civil society groups’) efforts.

                For more questions and to join SAC-US advisory group, kindly, contact  at studentactioncommitteeusa@gmail.com .

Written by SAC-USA

1 March 2008 at 2:30 pm

Posted in SAC

Civil Society’s struggle is sending across the right message, however

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Pakistani Civil society’s efforts to send across the message to US regarding Musharaf seem to be working.  The News reported:

“The United States’ second-ranking diplomat on Thursday signalled that the Bush administration was distancing itself from President Pervez Musharraf after opposition victories in last week’s elections.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told senators that the United States was supporting Pakistan’s people as they choose their leaders after the parliamentary elections. But he made scant mention of President Musharraf during his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senior Bush administration officials, including Negroponte, have previously underlined their view that Musharraf has been “indispensable” to the US-led fight against extremists along Pakistan’s rugged border with Afghanistan.

Negroponte testified that “Pakistan has been indispensable” to that fight and said the US looked “forward to working with the leaders who emerge” from the formation of a new government.

When pressed by a lawmaker about whether the US would continue to back Musharraf, Negroponte acknowledged that “Musharraf is still the president of his country, and we look for to continuing to work with him.”

Republican Sen Dick Lugar said the United States should make it clear to Pakistan’s people that US interests “lay not in supporting a particular leader or party, but in democracy, pluralism, stability and the fight against violence.”

Negroponte said Pakistan’s recent elections were a “big step” toward civilian democracy and reflected the will of the voters, despite the deaths of more than 70 people on the election day. “The violence could have been worse,’’ Negroponte said, adding “The Pakistani people refused to be intimidated by a wave of murderous terrorist attacks prior to the election day.”

Democratic Sen Joe Biden also urged the administration to move from “a policy focused on a personality, Musharraf, to one based on an entire country.” Biden proposed that the United States triple non-military aid for schools, roads and clinics and demand accountability in the military aid the US was giving to Pakistan.”

              Nevertheless,  we also need to realize that US is not the only country involved in “negotiations.” Recently, it was also pointed out that a group of Arab diplomats have also been trying to broker deal between Musharaf and Zardari. We need to realize that it would considerably easier to lobby in US because of democracy; however, regarding Arab Countries, where democracy is non-existent and where democracy doesnt seem to impress any one, it would hard to avert Arab from Musharaf.

              Therefore, we should continue to press the political parties for pursing the judiciary agenda. Our relax attitude might tax us because of our “Arab brothers.”

Written by SAC-USA

1 March 2008 at 1:59 pm

Posted in SAC

A new course for the US and Pakistan

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A new course for the US and Pakistan
Frederick Barton | 12.02.2008 | The Boston Globe
[link]

AS PAKISTAN faces two near-term crises, parliamentary elections on Feb. 18 and increasing extremist violence, the United States has an opportunity to build a new and constructive relationship with the country. In the past, America has been reactive, driven by fear and uncertainty, with the end-result a military dominated policy. Now, there is a chance to forge a more values-centered partnership.

Pakistan’s champions of democracy are warning that the election will not be free or fair. They cite recent violence, a biased elections commission, intelligence community meddling, and the absence of an independent judiciary. While the major democratic parties are expected to win, the rewriting of the rules by President Pervez Musharraf will probably produce a political stalemate or a public rejection.

Before any US administration or Congress takes further action in Pakistan, there must be a greater confidence in answers to the following questions: How can the political ownership of Pakistan’s people be maximized in the coming days and months? What is the best model for a peaceful and democratic transition in a post-Musharraf Pakistan? What are the sources of extremist violence within Pakistan and how can the United States be of greatest help?

There are three steps that the United States could pursue to set its relationship with Pakistan on a more promising course.

First, the United States should champion the rule of law. For too long, Pakistan’s ruling elites have shaped justice to their own service. It is hard to imagine a successful Pakistani election without the reinstatement of the suspended judges, at all levels of the system.

Reforms of the police, prisons, prosecutors, and corrupt officials will only progress if the judiciary is insulated from political pressures. The recent demonstrations by Pakistan’s lawyers are precisely the kind of opening that America should champion. Once the deposed judges are returned to the bench, an independent review of the judiciary and how it stood up to prior Constitutional violations and corruption should be a top priority. This is consistent with America’s deepest held beliefs and a clear way to align ourselves with Pakistan’s public and its civil society.

Second, the United States must improve its knowledge of Pakistan. At a time when Pakistan is growing and 50 percent of its 160 million people are under 20, the United States has been too dependent on singular leaders, the military and a few designated friends. Washington is more bravado than brilliance and has failed to tap into a huge diaspora of Pakistani-Americans (the largest single group of Muslim immigrants), and others who will extend the official reach.

Accelerated learning should be our concern. This will not happen with more high level, two-day visits – mostly to Islamabad – from top Washington officials, from a bunkered down and overstretched Embassy, or from multiple military scenarios that the Pentagon is designing. The deployment by the National Security Council of several small, integrated, interagency, and interdisciplinary teams, to travel throughout Pakistan for conversations with all levels of society would help develop a strategic and more grounded sense in the coming two months.

Finally, we must develop a trusted partnership with the people of Pakistan. The relationship of the past two decades has been built on events and issues rather than a joint commitment to the long-term well-being of Pakistan’s people. Of the $10 billion of US involvement in the last five years, little has touched the hearts of Pakistanis, such as America’s effective response to the devastating earthquakes of 2005.

Pakistan’s tribal belt may be the place to start. Because of the challenges of the region, from well-armed insurgents to the destruction of maliks, any American approach must complement participatory tribal structures and a freshly engaged Pakistani government. The dangers will require more self-directed projects that combine catalytic US transfers and significant local inputs. Such a combination could speed delivery and capture the public’s imagination.

The benefits of such a fast-flowing initiative would be felt well beyond the 20 million people of the Northwest. Emigration from the frontier areas has made Karachi the largest Pashtun city in the world and others have found gainful employment in Dubai, England, and the United States. The economic center of the region is thousands of miles away and yet there is a strong connection home. If the global Pashtun people see that there is a genuine effort to invest and better the lives of their long neglected native area, a lasting alliance can be started.

Pakistan’s people must be at the center of any national resurgence. By building an informed relationship with Pakistan’s citizens that is anchored by the rule of law, America can be a constructive ally.

// Frederick Barton is codirector of the Center for Strategic & International Studies Post Conflict Reconstruction Program.

Written by SAC-USA

12 February 2008 at 1:03 pm

Posted in SAC

Pakistan’s questionable election

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Pakistan’s questionable election
Editorial | 11.02.2008 | The Boston Globe
[here]

PAKISTAN IS preparing for parliamentary elections Feb. 18, and the auguries for a fair vote could hardly be worse. Given Pakistan’s nuclear capability and its role (willing or not) as sanctuary for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the United States and many other countries share an interest in pressing President Pervez Musharraf for concrete protections against election fraud and voter intimidation.

Recent suicide attacks and assassinations have provoked fears about public safety, eliminating the mass rallies that are a staple of political campaigns in Pakistan. Although Musharraf has lifted a ban on most private TV channels, his subsequent imposition of a restrictive code of conduct has stifled criticism of his government and outlawed nearly all live coverage of events.

Perhaps most discouraging is the pervasive expectation that Musharraf’s allies will rig the election results, particularly in rural areas controlled by his loyalists. This anticipation of government cheating has led to warnings from the major opposition parties that their followers are prepared to take to the streets to protest any falsification of the vote tallies.

Were this to happen, Pakistan would be saddled with the worst possible outcome from its parliamentary election. The balloting would not produce the democratic legitimacy the country needs, and instead of resolving conflicts by peaceful means, the voting could usher in a violent contest for power.

Although there are limits to the influence outsiders can have on Musharraf, the United States and its European allies ought to be pushing for practical measures that might improve the chances both for an honest process and for post-election stability. The most useful, and perhaps the most feasible, action would be to insist on widespread, credible monitoring of the voting and the counting of votes.

At present, the insecurity induced by jihadist bombings and murders is intimidating voters and activists. It has caused a US observer mission to change its plans and withdraw. At the same time, the Pakistani Army has denied requests from political parties to dispatch their own observers to polling places on election day.

Musharraf, a retired army chief, commonly boasts that his military colleagues can be counted on to guarantee order and stability in Pakistan. President Bush ought to remind Musharraf of that boast and tell him this is the time to show that the Pakistani Army can protect voters and election monitors throughout the country.

A team of monitors from the European Union is in Pakistan now, and independent Pakistani civic groups are hoping to station observers at polls in all the country’s 272 voting districts. If the army protects monitors and the monitors verify an honest election, the struggle for power in Pakistan can be decided in the voting booth, not in the streets.

Written by SAC-USA

11 February 2008 at 7:52 am

Posted in SAC

75% of Pakistanis want Musharraf to leave

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Survey shows 75 pct Pakistanis want Musharraf out
11.02.2008 | Dawn – The Internet Edition
[here]

ISLAMABAD, Feb 11 (Reuters) Seventy-five percent of Pakistanis want President Musharraf to quit, according to a survey released by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute Monday. The IRI survey also said Musharraf’s job approval rating had dropped to a new low of 15 percent. IRI said the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto on December 27 had “greatly impacted the political landscape”, and her Pakistan People’s Party(PPP) was “benefiting from both a wave of sympathy as well as a backlash against the government”. Conducted in late January, the survey showed 50 percent of respondents said they would vote for the PPP, while 22 percent favoured the party of Nawaz Sharif, and only 14 percent backed the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid). Only 33 percent of respondents to the IRI survey supported the Pakistan army “fighting extremists in North West Frontier Province and the tribal areas”. Just nine percent thought Pakistan should be cooperating with the United States in the war on terrorism, though 65 percent recognised that Taliban and al Qaeda’s operations in the country were of serious concern. The survey showed only 13 percent of respondents blamed al Qaeda for Benazir Bhutto’s killing. Sixty-two percent said the government was responsible. The survey polled 3,485 men and women from urban and rural constituencies. Nearly 77 percent of respondents said economic issues would be the main factors determining how they would vote. Asked if there was one leader who was the best person to handle the country’s problems only eight percent named Musharraf.

Written by SAC-USA

11 February 2008 at 7:50 am

Posted in SAC

Harvard-MIT Student Debate on Pakistan this Friday (2/8)

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Please join us for a panel discussion on Pakistan’s current state and future prospects. The format will be highly interactive, so active audience participation is encouraged.

— February 8th
— 6:00pm to 7:30pm
— MIT room 4-270 [map]

There will be four panelists:
— Samad Khurram (Harvard student and member of the Student Action Committee)
— Aqil Sajjad (Harvard student and member of the Student Action Committee)
— Ali Wyne (MIT student)
— Saad Zaheer (MIT student)

NOTE: This event is being organized privately by a group of students at Harvard and MIT. PaksMIT is not a cosponsor and bears no responsibility for any of the comments that are made during the discussion.

Written by SAC-USA

6 February 2008 at 11:36 pm

Posted in SAC

British Gay Activist Confronts Pervez Musharraf

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London’s OutRage! Leader Blocks Pakistani Strongman’s Limo
Doug Ireland | 01.31.2008 | GayCityNews
[full article here and here]

Britain’s best-known gay activist, Peter Tatchell, confronted Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf this past weekend when the dictator arrived in London on the last leg of his European tour, blocking the general’s car with his body repeatedly to protest “the suppression of democracy and human rights” by the military strongman.

Tatchell, who this year marks the 40th anniversary of his start as an activist, undertook the protest against Musharraf even though he is still suffering the physical after-effects of the severe beating he received last year in Moscow when a crowd of fascist thugs, egged on by the police, violently broke up an attempted Gay Pride demonstration in front of Moscow’s City Hall that Tatchell had gone to Russia to support (see this reporter’s May 31-Jun. 5, 2007 article, “The Agony of Moscow Pride”).

“I’ve still got cognition and physical cordination problems, loss of vision, and memory holes” as a result of the Moscow beating, Tatchell, head of the militant UK queer rights group OutRage!, told Gay City News by telephone from London. He added, “First my doctors told me I’d be alright in a month, then they said three months, and now they’re telling me these problems may never go away.”

The ambush of Musharraf happened outside London’s Hilton Hotel Park Lane on January 25, as the Pakistani president’s motorcade drew close to the hotel, where he was scheduled to speak.

“To avert police attention, I stood inconspicuously at a bus stop reading a newspaper, waiting for Musharraf’s motorcade to arrive,” said Tatchell. “When the police motorcycle escorts drew level, I ran out into Park Lane and straight in front of the president’s car. It screeched to a halt. I unfurled a placard protesting against Musharraf’s massacre of civilians in occupied Baluchistan. The placard read: ‘Stop Pakistan Massacre of Baluch people.'”

Tatchell got his message across to the Pakistani dictator.

“Musharraf could clearly see the placard, and he did not look pleased,” he said. “His driver tried to back up and drive around me, but I ran in front of the limousine again, forcing it to halt once more. I could see Musharraf shouting something at his driver. Perhaps he feared that I was an assassin or a suicide bomber.”

Then, said Tatchell, “The limo reversed again and tried to swerve past me. I blocked it for the third time. Musharraf and his colleagues looked very agitated. Eventually, police motorcycle escorts ran over and dragged me away from the bonnet of Musharraf’s vehicle.”

Pulled across the road by police, Tatchell was pinned against a railing. He was soon released by police, allowing him to join the main anti-Musharraf demonstration outside the Hilton, organized by lawyers protesting the arrest of their colleagues and of Supreme Court judges in Pakistan.

Written by SAC-USA

4 February 2008 at 11:19 pm

Posted in SAC