For the second time in the new Sindh Assembly, outgoing Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim was pelted with shoes, stones and abuses, and had to be escorted by security guards even while seated in the house pending his oath as a new MPA.

As soon as he took the oath amid intense slogans, he was made to sign the members’ roll while seated and then left in a hush, with angry Sindhi men and women chasing him in the PA corridors, some with shoes in hands. The pictures on TV screens were stunning as his car was stoned when speeding out of the PA premises. Sanity returned to the house when he was gone except for the MQM walkout on the issue. The PA galleries were again full of uninvited guests and the outgoing speaker was helpless. Even PPP leaders could not control the shouting crowds, full of anger and emotions, especially when a red rag like Arbab Ghulam Rahim was sitting.

While it is highly deplorable that the sanctity of the house was
violated and Arbab Rahim was subjected to undesirable abuse and
harassment, regretted later sensibly by the new Speaker Nisar Khuhro,
the episode reflects the mood of the Sindhis after eight years of
autocratic rule by people like Arbab Rahim and other collaborators of
the military regime. It reaffirms the extreme hatred, anger and
vengeance ordinary Sindhis have for people under whose rule the PPP
lost many of its workers, was subjected to endless persecution, its
leaders were hounded, harassed and tortured, and finally the ultimate
leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. The PPP leadership has played
a mature and pacifying role ever since Benazir’s death and has led the
party to a resounding election victory, yet the emotions of the people
have not cooled down. The slogan of democracy being the best revenge
may be good for the literate and the intellectually elevated, but the
common folks still want to get even, some even physically, for
whatever they had to endure for 12 long years. It is almost certain
that whenever people like Arbab Rahim come into contact with a PPP
crowd or a mob, whether on the streets or inside the assembly, it
would be difficult to control them, unless some kind of political,
behavioural and psychological healing is done to bring their
sentiments down. Probably till then, life for all the Arbab Rahims in
Sindh will remain rough.

But the more serious message this recurring episode carries is for the
PPP leadership. The mood of Sindh is not to appease, collaborate with,
support, tolerate or provide a safe passage to dictators, past or
present. The military regime or its collaborators, especially after
Benazir Bhutto’s death, are symbols of oppression for the common
Sindhis and any tacit or even discreet cooperation or collaboration,
even under the high-sounding umbrella of national reconciliation, will
be looked at with deep suspicion and anger. When the PPP leadership
goes out of its way, in the name of reconciliation, the supporters
want to see what they are getting in return. The universal sentiment
demands that the state, or the establishment, apologize for the
judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and that the UN be called in to
probe Benazir’s murder. This only reflects an urgent need for a quid
pro quo. So far the PPP is the only political entity extending olive
branches, exchanging Sindhi caps, declaring known enemies as brothers
and showing readiness to share power with past tormenters and
persecutors. Reciprocity from the state, the establishment and past
foes has yet to be seen in the same form and substance as offered by
the PPP. Sindh will not easily forget the agony and distress it has
been subjected to for years until they tangibly see what they are
offered in return for the reconciliation. This will remain a major
challenge for the PPP leadership to achieve.

 — [Tuesday, 8 April 2008]

Nowhere To Hide

(DAWN – Editorial) – There is little to refute that Dr. Arbab Ghulam
Rahim, former Chief Minister of Sindh, has always lived by venom. He
has clocked in an array of unsavoury incidents, which range from
spouting highly derogatory remarks against female members of the
Assembly, violent behaviour towards journalists and reportedly against
his office staff, to allegations of massive rigging in the recent
polls. Rahim’s infamous pursuit of the politics of vengeance against
the opposition was blamed for keeping the Sindh Assembly from adopting
a single law that tackled the growing menace of unemployment. The PPP
also claims that during his tenure in the province’s top slot, the
party submitted close to 6,000 queries which went unanswered. However,
regardless of his in-your-face dogma of revenge, the extent of
violence perpetrated against the PML-Q leader by maddened PPP
loyalists at the oath-taking session of the Sindh Assembly can hardly
be condoned. He was jeered upon entrance, the door of the lobby was
torn down, security was summoned from Governor House and he eventually
left without taking oath. Monday too saw a near replay of the same
ruckus when irate party workers manhandled the former Chief Minister
in an assembly gallery just as he was leaving the premises after
taking oath.

Although the MQM expressed its displeasure by staging a walkout,
unfortunately it took the PPP leadership a long while to realise the
ramifications of the incident and Speaker Nisar Khuhro condemned it
much later. While the new Speaker said he wouldn’t allow such
incidents in future, an attempt was made by some in the party to shift
the blame elsewhere. But the fact is that it is the responsibility of
the party leadership to inculcate decorum and reverence for the
sanctity of the house. It must also devise a policy that slams violent
behaviour and decrees more civilised forms of protest – armbands,
placards, sit-ins, vigils and written statements of disapproval. After
all, there is much to be said for the powers of tacit manoeuvres. They
achieve far more than the strike of a baton. — [Tuesday, 8 April

Pro-Afgan Protesters Torch Mianwali Bar

April 9/ 2008  – Around 30 to 40 miscreants attacked the district bar offices of Mianwali, and torched it completely in protest against thrashing of Dr. Sher Afgan Niazi.

The miscreants blocked Sargodha Road for several hours immediately
after they learnt about the incident of torture upon former
Parliamentary Minister Dr. Sher Afgan Niazi. Later, they attacked the
district court and targeted the bar room and chambers of pro-[Chief]
Justice Iftikhar [Muhammad] Chaudhry’s lawyers.

Talking with The News, Mianwali District Bar Association Secretary
Manzoor Khan alleged that the attackers were led by Maulana Amir
Abdullah London who belongs to Dr. Sher Afgan’s clan of Watta Khel.

He said he had informed the local DPO and DSPs about the threats from
Maulana Amir but no action was taken. He alleged that police remained
a silent spectator when the miscreants were ransacking the district
bar while City Police Station was only a few yards away from the place
of incident.