a platform for protests
RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S
Protector or tyrant
Police is flogging criminals publicly which has aroused great resentment and horror among citizens
By Suhail Akhter
Some police constables have embarked on an anti-vice campaign. They have been seen flogging petty criminals publicly, mostly on busy roads, thus replicating Taliban-style administration in the metropolis.
Torture and ill-treatment is common in detention cells but police assuming judicial powers for punishing criminals in public, indicates an alarming tendency of Talibanisation of the institution.
CCPO Pervaiz Rathore claimed improvement in performance of the department and said there has been tangible positive output from the officers.
"I have made an honest team of SHOs with the view to accommodate general public," he said.
In a shocking example of torture in public, Gulshan-e-Ravi police conducted a raid at a marriage hall on July 11 (Friday) and arrested Akram, Najam, Arif, Nadeem, Khalid, Waseem, Ashraf and seven girls for drinking alcohol and merry-making.
The arrested men were publicly flogged on busy crossings and a police official supervising the act forced the men to show repentance in public.
The practice is not limited to one police station as Shafiqabad police station has been employing similar tactics to "quell crimes and purge the society of wrongdoers."
Asif was arrested by Shafiqabad police on the night of July 3 (Thursday) on charge of match-fixing. He was subjected to public thrashing by some cops including Riaz, Naveed and others.
Talking to The News on Sunday, constable Riaz said Asif was a gambler so he was flogged in public to discourage this practice.
The victims have another story to tell which is more disturbing for a civil society.
"It was very humiliating for me when cops holding whip asked me to remove shalwar on a busy road near my house so that they could punish me for match-fixing. I told them that I should be shot dead in the police station for the crime but not be punished in public," said Asif alias Chand who buried his face in his hands and started sobbing while telling me about the humiliation the police inflicted on him.
On the other hand, authorities have taken no clear action to halt this rising practice and it is an established fact that cops and officers who cross their limit don't suffer any consequence for their crimes. In some cases, they are often promoted for purging the society of bad elements. Police high officials claim that arrested accused are treated humanely and term the public thrashing of criminals as acts of lower rank officers.
Awash with cases of horrific torture on criminals and innocent people the police department has become impervious to criticism. Public flogging is bound to ruin lives of the criminals but the biggest casualty is that it badly affects hundreds of people who are unfortunately family members of the petty criminals.
Criticising the practice, a human rights activist and lawyer Muhammad Umer said members of civil society and lawyers have formed different organisations to check the abuse of powers by police but infrastructure of the force is plagued with different problems and some individuals are more powerful and influential than the institution itself.
He said such powerful elements are responsible for the abuses. Absence of accountability procedure in the department further emboldens the individuals to take law into their hands.
Penetration of religious elements has made the situation worse as most police officials think it appropriate to punish criminals in public. "I think punishment of criminals in public is justified the way they do it in Saudi Arabia," said a senior police official requesting anonymity.
Third degree punishment is supposed to be the first and last technique available with our bumbling police force but public flogging is unbearable, said Hamid Khan, a lawyer leader.
He said major reforms and reallocation of resources are required to create an effective and accountable police service.
Suggesting the solution, he said implementation of Police Ordinance, depoliticisation of the force and steps to inculcate discipline into cops will address the problem of abuse of power by police force.
A long patch of broken road affects commutation, business and quality of life in general. Its time to set a fresh deadline
By Kiran Ashfaq
The road from Daroghawala to Wagha is under construction for more than three years now. The mega project was supposed to be completed in 24 months.
Work on the 17.5 kilometre road was approved on March 3, 2005 at a total cost of Rs. 1341.222 million. The responsibility for the construction of the four lane road lies with the Communication and Works (C&W) department. It Is 2008 and the road is still under-construction.
People living here are facing a lot of problems. Abdul Majeed working at a PSO petrol pump says, "People don't come to our petrol pump because of the road here which is under construction for more than three years now. This has badly affected our business."
A shopkeeper at a paint shop on the same road fears his business will collapse if work on the road goes on at the same pace as it has been going so far. "There are things we want to display in sunlight but we can't do so because the road is under construction and anything in the open collects so much dust that one better not keep anything in the open. This has badly affected the business.
Everybody travelling on this road faces bumpy drive which slows down travel time and does considerable damage to vehicles which ply on it.
A labourer working on the road says, "Labourers don't get their daily wages on time, the reason why they don't want to work." The houses here are below road level so drainage of water is one major problem.
Communication & Works Additional Secretary Nasir Hussain Jami says Khalid Rauf Construction Company is doing the construction work here. There are many logical and contractive problems due to which the road couldn't be completed on time, he says. "The main problem is that there are three army Yadgars which come in the way of this road. They have to be shifted from where they are. Then there are poles and 23,000 feet long gas pipelines which have to be taken care of because they fall in the way of the road under construction. Three thousand trees and water supply system also come in the way. There are many other local problems which are land oriented. We have to see all these things and are seriously thinking on it. We care for the labourers and the residents and businesses along the road but we need cooperation of local people in order to successfully carry out construction of this road," says the C&W official.
A major road like G.T. Road cannot be left in bad shape for this long. Heavy traffic plies on it. People's businesses have been ruined. It's time the government gave a deadline to the contractors and some hope to the people who are suffering because of using this road because they don't have any choice.
Usually this space is assumed to provide the TNS reader a breather from the general furore of hot headlines and investigative reports. However, of late, one is so deeply disturbed by the myriad crises crawling out of the woodwork that merriment is found few and far between. Nonetheless, there is an amusing irony that has become an underlying trait in the messy state of affairs.
For one, the sweltering summers of Lahore have always been a dreaded time for its populace. Many a troupe of family members flock to the cooler environs of Murree, Nathiagali, Kaghan, Naraan or Kalaam or go south to Karachi to enjoy the watery embrace of the Arabian Sea. Of course, for the have-plenty-ofs, exotic places abroad such as Malaysia, Thailand or Singapore have always been popular vacationing spots. Now it seems that even the domestic escape locales appear to be off limits, what with the explosive situation that has unfolded. Bomb blasts across the length and breadth of the country appear to serve as deadly warning shots, keeping the Lahorites herded in their torrid town.
The rat race for making more and more money has always been on. Media has always been perpetrating various consumerist schemes and luring people towards them. Now more than ever, the advertising campaigns coupled with unprecedented inflation have driven common folk towards seeking out ways of making a quick buck. The stock market appeared to be the 'genie in the bottle' to many get-rich-quick hopefuls. The start of the year of 2008 appeared to bode well for the Karachi Stock exchange and by April the index had gone well above fifteen thousand points. Though the nation was facing the brunt of skyrocketing prices, the investors were having a ball by making millions overnight. However, in the past three months, the bottom seems to have just fallen out and the gift-bearing genie has escaped, again.
So, left to their own designs of coping with the summer drudgery, Lahorites presumed that at least they would be able to resort to their first love, that of dining out. Yet alas, even basic sustenance such as wheat, rice and pulses are not just costly but often hard to come by. And even if some do manage to scrap together enough money to afford eating out, the going out part poses its own dilemma. Even if a family does pack itself into a car and set out, they'll either find themselves either charting their way in high waters or a traffic gridlock. All this while, they shall be constantly reminded of how much of the costly fuel (petrol since always and now even diesel and CNG) is being guzzled up by their thirsty rides.
The 'Zinda Dilanay Lahore' now seem to be losing their steam as truly the very life is being slowly sucked out of them. Any form of recreation such as fitness and sports clubs have now become exclusive retreats for the high society. Physically or mentally uplifting activities such as swimming, going to the cinema or watching a live performance demand the purse strings to be loosened and its contents emptied. The mood street has become a one-way lane and you can pass 'Go' every time, but you may not collect 200.
• Qawwali Night every Friday at Alhamra, The Mall at 7pm.
• Talent Hunt Show (singing) every Saturday at 7pm at Alhamra, The Mall.
• Panjabi Sangat is a weekly gathering every Friday and Sunday at Najam Hussain Sayed's house at 7pm where Punjabi classical poetry is read, interpreted and sung. The Sangat has been going on for the last 30-40 years. Any person who chooses to visit the Sangat can freely and actively participate in the above mentioned activities.
• Each Thursday there is a music and dance performance at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal. The music usually starts around 11 O'clock upstairs with Gonga and Mitou Saeen (picture) and "round midnight downstairs with the performance of Pappoo Saeen and Joora Saeen. The dancing usually takes place around 1:30 am.
• Sufi Night every Thursday at Peeru's Cafe at 9pm.
• Ghazal Night every Friday
at the theatre adjacent to the Peeru's cafe building.
• Jazz Night with Jazz Moods every Saturday at Peeru's Cafe at 9pm. Rock music sessions are also being organised on alternative weekends where underground rock music band perform live.
• Puppet Show at Alhamra,
The Mall every Sunday at 11am.
Towards a vibrant society
A group of people gets together every Sunday to discuss issues of national import and beyond
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
In a dimly-lit room on the second floor of an artistically designed building, a bunch of serious-looking people sit around a conference table and on sofas and chairs studded all over. The table is placed next to a giant glass wall that offers the room occupants a clear view of the main road that flanks this place.
Totally oblivious to what is going outside this room they are listening keenly to a speaker reading passages out of a book and analysing its contents. Some of them are reclining in their seats and acknowledging the speaker's assertions with frequent nods whereas a few others are taking notes on small pieces of paper. The speaker will soon be finished with his lecture and inviting questions from the listeners in a bid to further clarify whatever he has been trying to say during his speech. Those taking notes seem to be very clear about what they are going to ask during the Question and Answer (Q&A) session. While some are getting impatient and changing their postures endlessly, in a bid to overcome their instant urge to interrupt the speaker and fire a volley of questions at him.
All this is happening on a lean Sunday evening when most of the city is half asleep and its inhabitants are relaxing within the cosy confines of their houses. The venue is Nairang Art Gallery right there on the busy Jail Road where members of the Sunday Group -- named after the day of the week the event is held -- have gathered to speak their hearts out.
The state-of-the-art gallery provides space for these interactions free of cost and all those who join them have to spend from their own pocket on whatever they consume -- whether it be tea, coffee or snacks taken to make up for energy losses if any.
At the moment the group is discussing the 'future of revolutions' in the face of the modern day challenges confronting those trying to bring about a positive change in the system. Every week since March this year, the group meets here and takes up a different issue for discussion. In fact the need to have regular discussions on different issues was felt in the meetings of the Book Club, a forum set up primarily by students from Lahore's elitist institutions. The members of this club who would gather here to review and share contents of selected books, realised that there was a dire need for more frequent meetings to discuss progressive ideas and thoughts while maintaining pace with the changing social and political realities.
Since the gallery has been a regular host to activists, journalists, students, writers, artists and so on it was the first choice of the organisers of the group to select it as a venue for Sunday Group's interactive sessions, says Umer Chaudhry who coordinates regularly with the group. He explains the philosophy of the group to TNS: "Sunday Group is a weekly study-circle/discussion forum with the under-lying idea that any firm movement for the change of society requires guidance from a deep and clear understanding of the continuously changing social and political facts. Such understanding can only evolve with collective effort where a variety of perspectives can be entertained. The need for a thorough comprehension of events around us is also necessary to raise awareness in other sections of the society and to mobilise them in the struggle for their rights."
Umer says the group has made noticeable progress over the months as can be seen from the increasing number of participants engaging themselves in constructive debates and discussions held here. There is no formal membership requirement to become part of the group and any citizen from all walks of life and across all ages can join it.
He says it were the members of the group who decided that the discussions should usually highlight and analyse the current political affairs. "However, they may also follow the presentation style to bring up a specified issue, provided there is a volunteer to present. Topics other than politics like arts and literature can also be discussed, provided, again, there is a volunteer for presentation," Umer adds.
The topics of Sunday Group's discussions have been diverse and very timely. For example it has already deliberated on the Constitutional Package 2008, reviewed the recent struggle for democracy in Pakistan, with particular emphasis on the lawyers' movement, learned from the experiences of young activists who have recently visited Balochistan and had an interactive session with Asad Rahman who participated in the Baloch resistance movement during 1970s. Besides, the group also discussed modern fascist trends in Pakistan in a session titled 'Fascism and MQM' in April this year after a short presentation of Prabhat Patnaik's article: Fascism of Our Times. Another well attended presentation was the one made by Younas Chaudhry, a student, on US Imperialism and its effects on the Third World. With US delegates holding meeting with the elected politicians of Pakistan and, more importantly, with the wars being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the group thought it was very important to analyse the role of US in the modern world in one of is sessions.
Ammar Ali Jan, a vibrant member of the group, tells TNS that the activity is revival of the decaying culture of coffee shops and tea houses where people would engage in constructive debates on various issues. He says the strength of these discussions is that they are regularly attended by accomplished veterans hailing from different walks of life. For example, he says, the sessions have been attended by the types of Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, Nighat Saeed Khan, Rashid Rehman, Roohi Bano, Dr Mubarak Ali and others.
Ammar says presently the invitations to attend Sunday Group sessions are sent via email or text messages on mobile phones. But very soon the group will have a website of its own and it will also launch a magazine. This way a much larger audience will have access to the proceedings of these highly informative and useful sessions, he adds.
Bradlaugh Hall is being plundered because of utter neglect on the part of government
By Atif Suhail
Bradlaugh Hall, situated on Rattigan Road, was an abode of freedom fighters who were striving for freedom all over the world. Unfortunately, this national heritage is being demolished by those who are oblivious of its significance. It could not be ascertained which department is supposed to take care of this historic hall.
Ironically, the Archaeology department does not know which department is responsible for protecting this cultural heritage. They infer that through a Special Premises Act 1985 some of these historical buildings were privatised with the liability falling upon the local owners. They cannot carry out any renovation or construction without prior approval of the Punjab Archaeology department. On the other hand they also confer that the proposal of protection of this hall has been sent to the Education Department of the provincial government. It remains to be seen who actually owns and looks after the dilapidated property of Bradlaugh Hall.
Some illiterate people, negligent of this historical building, claiming to be part of an NGO that existed at one time and freedom movements associated with this hall, have occupied the hall illegally. They are destroying the building by demolishing its internal structure and are reconstructing it.
They have stolen heavy wooden planks, metal and iron supports to the roof for petty amount of money. The offices where political leaders used to sit are now serving as rooms to the people living in this locality. They are deforming the original structure of the building. These illegitimate occupants threaten those who try to stop them from plundering. The place looks like an ancient high rise building discarded by the authorities and standing in the hall fills up your senses. It feels like a haunted place now. The rusted, corroded iron supports, faded wooden doors and windows leave us wondering how people can destroy their national heritage.
After Independence a communist leader comrade Ghulam Muhammad who was a trustee member of Bradlaugh Hall, visited the courts appealing to preserve the hall. He sent mails to intimate the Irish owners of the hall but in vain.
The foundation stone on the building of the hall says the hall was constructed on October 30, year 1900. The hall is named after Bradlaugh, an Irish railway engineer who came to this region on a five-year contract. It was in 1850 that the British built a small railway station in Lahore.
Bradlaugh also bought a vast area of land around the hall where crops were kept. Apart from the railway service he struggled to unite the labour majority to protest against the opponent industrialists.
Bradlaugh Hall was a place where eminent scholars and political leaders met for memorial programmes, national seminars and rallies. Revolutionaries, freedom fighters, prominent leaders and their families would come to this hall. It was a shelter for them all. The sole purpose of meetings held here was to motivate the nationalistic fervour to revolt and protest against the atrocities being perpetrated by the industrialists. It was an honour for most leaders to express their views in this hall. There were a number of trade unions, farmers and other political offices in this hall.
In the 19th century, imperialist system was the order of the day. Industrial labourers were not being given their wages and were compelled to work strenuously for the benefit of industrialists. The industrial labour revolted against this injustice. In Europe, America and India industrial labour was undergoing the same inhumanity. 'Trade unions' were made to enforce industrial labour rights.
Many freedom movements are associated with the hall. Freedom and Socialist Revolutionary movements were elementary among them. When the British came to know that Bradlaugh was organising workers to raise their voice against authority, his contract was terminated. He had only served for only one year. Bradlaugh was asked to leave India before 24 hours.
He sold out his property in Ireland to build Bradlaugh Hall. A national heritage after a century becomes the property of the masses. The people who care for the hall appeal to the government to do the needful to preserve Bradlaugh Hall. The hall asks for renovation from both inside and outside. Bradlaugh's contribution to giving the workers a place to get together against imperialists, must be appreciated. It ought to be preserved for generations to come.
When The News on Sunday photographer went to get picture of Bradlaugh Hall he was confronted by a man who said he was employed by some Chishti Saheb.
1. Get drenched in the rain
2. Run and splash rainwater
3. Watch the children around you having fun
4. Sit and watch rain from your verandah
5. See and hear rain fall
6. Lie in your verandah and read fiction
7. Make Pura and Pakoray
8. Make Karhi or Baisani roti
9. Have Kichri, aaloo ka bhurta and mirch ka achar for lunch
10. Go out for Falooda
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