Musharraf and democracy are like fire and water

November 17, 2007

"These are the worst days in Pakistan's history", Ali Khan, a student from Pakistan, told a rally in Burke Street Mall on November 15. The rally was called by Australia Asia Worker Links and the Socialist Alliance to protest the state of emergency imposed by Pakistan's Army Chief of Staff and president, Pervez Musharraf.

Civil liberties lawyer Rob Stary spoke in support of Pakistani lawyers who were tear gassed and baton charged for protesting the removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar by the regime because "he was apolitical and refused to sanction Musharraf's corruption". Stary called for the immediate release of all judges, lawyers and human rights activists who have been arrested.

Victorian state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Steve Dargavel payed tribute to the courageous protesters, saying "wherever we see the unchecked abuse of executive power we see working people representing the aspirations of justice and freedom".

Usman Nasir, a student from Pakistan, said: "Musharraf and democracy are like fire and water — they do not go together! How can fair elections be held under martial law?"

Margarita Windisch, lead Victorian Senate candidate for the Socialist Alliance, called on the Australian government to stop supporting the military dictatorship. Windisch recalled being on the waterfront in 1998 with Pakistani activist Farooq Tariq, who is currently underground after attempts to arrest him. Tariq, a leader of the Labour Party Pakistan, gave his support to picketing Maritime Union of Australia workers in the 1998 dispute. "It is now time for Australian workers to return the solidarity", Windisch said.

Two touring activists from Latin America also addressed the rally highlighting the need for international solidarity: Eduardo Yssa from the National Coalition for the Defence of Water, Basic Services, the Environment and Life of Bolivia and Christian Quechupan Huenunir from Xeg-Xeg Development and Communication Mapuche Coalition in Chile.

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