Karachi yesterday: Details and clarifications
First off, the funny part: All the journalists arrested (and later released) in Karachi yesterday have been charged with “rioting, creating [a] law and order situation, encounter, kidnapping and attempt to murder.” ATTEMPT TO MURDER!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Attempt to murder what? Musharraf’s hegemony? HELL yeah, baby! :-P
Okay, here’s what happened yesterday:
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) had called for a peaceful demonstration at 03:00 Tuesday (yesterday) outside the Karachi Press Club. The purpose was to demand the freedom of the Press, etc. Please note, all of us were totally unarmed, while the police surrounding the area were in complete riot gear with shields and motey dandey and bulletproof vests, helmets, knee pads, and whatnot. The entire area around the press club had been cordoned off.
The moment the rally got out of the Press Club, we were attacked (yes, “attacked”) by the policemen. There was a LOAD of brutal baton-charging, and one policeman hit ARY’s Aajiz Jamali so hard on his back with the shield, that the shield broke in two. :-S Women and men were hit indiscriminately and very VERY brutally — yes I can emphasize that enough. I’m skinny — I crawled around and got out unhurt, but a lot of other people were seriously injured. Everyone ran back towards the press club. Some of our office bearers and senior people had been picked up.
The demands and the negotiations
We all got out again and demanded that everyone be released. The policemen said they’d let everyone go if we went back inside the press club. We refused, and said we’d go in ONLY after our people were released. Negotiations followed, and it turned out that our people could not be released. We said fine, if you can arrest 10, you can arrest all the rest of us too. :-P We gave in “ba-jamaa’at” giriftaariaN. The policemen tried to stop the women but we said we were standing by our male colleagues. They said there were no female police officials and we could therefore not be arrested. We reminded them that the people who had baton charged us were not female police officials, and if the male police waalahs could hit us, they could pretty darn well arrest us too. Khair, female police waaliaN were brought in, but we insisted that we will go in the same vans as our male colleagues.
In the van
Now this is the fun part! :-D There were 27 of us in this van — seven women and 20 men. And boy did we raise hell!!! The van took us on a tour of the entire city, and we kept naarafying all the way. Passersby stopped to gape at us and then joined in the naareybaazi. In short, we conducted a State-sponsored anti-Musharraf rally. AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Yes, I can’t get over this — this IS funny!!! :-D They took us to the Boat Basin police station, only to realise that it was full. Ditto for Gizri and Darakhshan. They were then told to take us to the Docks police station, but the driver did not know the way (YUP!!! :-D). He took us to the Jackson police station instead, where his bum was kicked, and the correct raasta explained to him by officials concerned. LOL! All this while, we weren’t making life easier for him by continuously naarafying, jeering and heckling. Yes we’re mean. :-P
At the Docks Police Station
We were “offloaded” and the women were told to go separately. We refused and decided to stick with our male colleagues. “We’re here as journalists, not men or women,” we told the police waalahs there. Since the Docks Police Station does not have a female lockup, they had to put all 26 of us in the interrogation room where we continued to party. :-P
At around 05:30 p.m. they came to the women — Husna Ali (Dawn News), Sabin Agha (Geo English), Xari Jalil (The News), Afshan Pasha (Geo English), Bilquis Jahan (freelance) and myself — and said that we were free to go. We asked if EVERYONE was free to go and we were told, “No, only the ‘laddiss’.” We told them to sod off — either EVERYONE leaves, or no one does. [Note: Two other female journalists were held at the Clifton police station. I don’t have their names.]
They tried to confiscate our cellphones, and we refused en masse. So while cellphones at the rest of the police stations were taken away, us “Docks waalahs” still had ours on us. :-D
We also took over the SHO’s rest room, because the “prisoners’ restrooms” were filthy and the doors wouldn’t lock. We made them bring water for us, etc etc, didn’t tell them our home addresses for the FIR, bugged them every way we could. :-P Faiz saheb’s kalaam was sung, nareybaazi huee. Some PPP waalahs brought us food, tea, diet coke and jaali ciggies, for which we’re thankful to them. :-P
A lot of people visited us, and we are sincerely grateful for their support. Special thanks to Ayesha Siddiqi from the People’s Resistance for staying with us for a whole bunch of hours together. A majority of the CMKP Karachi DC camped out outside the gates of the police station, as did Nasir Mansoor and Sherbaz Khan from the LPP, and Dr Riaz and all. The HRCP visited us too, as did members of Peoples Resistance, including Dr Awab Alvi and Sophia (I’m sorry I’m missing out names here). From what I heard from the other police stations (people were spread out — some were held at the Clifton police station, some at the Artillery Maidan police station, Frere police station, Darakhshan too, I think), journos there were having as much fun as we were having at the Docks Police Station.
Ten people who had been taken to the Shershah police station were brought over to Docks, bringing the total at our camp to 36 — the more, the merrier! :-P
At around 09:30 p.m. they said all of us were free to go. We came to know, however, that four of our senior office bearers could not be traced. It was mutually decided that no one would leave any police station, until those four people were released with us. The police waalahs threatened to physically throw everyone out, and they were told to “try.” :-P The missing people were then “miraculously” traced out within 15 minutes, and everyone rejoiced. We left the Docks police station the way we’d entered it — naarafying and partying. :-D
All of us “criminals” from all the police stations then congregated outside the Clifton police station, where we raised hell again. We then proceeded to the Karachi Press Club, where we partied again — yes, that’s what us Karachi’ites do best — and we do things with a bang! : )
Lesson learnt yesterday: Unity = Victory.
Also, from what we were told by the new information minister, Nesar Memon, the decision to arrest journos was taken independently by the Sindh government — no such orders had come forth from the provincial level. Now I’m wondering how or why a caretaker government would take such a major step.
Moreover, there are people who’re going around saying that the police resorted to violence only after journos hurled stones at them. This is WRONG. Stones were hurled, yes, but only AFTER the police started beating us up like cattle. A friend of mine rolled up her placard and started hitting a police waalah on the head with it — after his lathi hit her really hard. Serves them right, I’d say. But let the records show that the stone-throwing was a REACTION. Anyone would do it if you saw your friends being beaten up this way for no reason — and we’re all friends here. No matter how cut-throat the competition between publications and channels, no matter how hard we try to outdo each other professionally, but when push comes to shove, we journos are all friends and we stand united!!!
Oh and naaras that journos came up with yesterday:
Mukk gya tera show Musharraf — Go Musharraf, Go Musharraf!
Kalla baetha ro Musharraf — Go Musharraf, Go Musharraf!!!