Pakistan: Escaped by seconds — day four of underground life

November 7, 2007

November 7, 2007 — On the third day of my underground period, I escaped arrest by seconds. It was because of inexperience. We live in a society full of high-tech methods to find a person.

I called my partner on November 6 morning from a phone with new sim card and asked Shahnaz to send clothes for me to the place where I was staying. My family has given me a new car recently. I had been driving an 800cc Suzuki for a long time. I am one of the five brothers and we have three sisters. They decided to acknowledge my political activities by giving me a new Toyota Corolla as a gift. The car has a tracker as well. We have a driver who takes our two children to school and drops Shahnaz at her office. He came to bring my clothes.

I had to go to a new place in Lahore to work with some other comrades. I did not realise that the car had the tracker and asked the driver to drop me at a certain place from where I could take a public transport. As he was driving, he told me that he had been stopped two times yesterday by police who asked my whereabouts. I got angry with him, asking why he did not tell me earlier. So I asked him to drive fast and drop me at the first available safe place.

A police jeep was in front of us. The police slowed down so we could come up next to it. We also slowed down. While this went on for few seconds, the police jeep tried to come next to us. I asked the driver to drive fast and turn the next road. He did that. The police jeep could not follow us.

I told the driver that I must be dropped now. He stopped the car around a kilometre from the place we had this encounter. As he stopped the car, a police van stopped just next to us. Because we had already stopped the car, I jumped out while the police were still stopping their van. I rushed into a running three-wheeler and asked the driver to drive fast. He was surprised but acted accordingly. There was a lot of rush and there were a lot of three-wheelers around the place. So the police could not follow me.

The driver told me later that the police van followed him for another three kilometres and then let him go after they could not find me.

In the afternoon, two plainclothes police officers came to the place where I was staying for the night and enquired about me. I was not there. They left in disbelief.

Five of us were working together. We issued a press releases from there about the Labour Party Pakistan's participation in the movement and explained why I would not offer myself for arrest but instead organise the movement underground. We faxed the press release to all the news media, after checking the telephone number that would appear on the fax. It was the LPP number but we were not at the LPP office.

We bought some more sim cards with anonymous names. I had to arrange a new place to stay. My friends are fantastic. They are all waiting when I call them to stay the night. I am not staying at LPP comrades' houses, as they are already under surveillance. I had a good night and good sleep after I arrived at the place of my friend, travelling over one hour in a public bus.

Yesterday, the picture of one LPP comrade, Rabia Shahzadi, was on the front page of some newspapers in Lahore. She is an advocate [lawyer] and was pictured throwing stones at the police. She told me later on the telephone that at one time, she was the only one fighting the police. She saved herself [by hiding in a library] when police entered to arrest more than 700 advocates on the premises of the Lahore High Court. She went yesterday to different police stations to help the advocates who were in custody, despite her being on front page.

In Islamabad, the advocates' movement was also led by Nisar Shah, an advocate who is chairperson of the LPP. He was in forefront of the demonstration of advocates in Islamabad alongside LPP comrades. He has not been arrested yet. On November 5, he just escaped an arrest at a demonstration in Rawalpindi.

At Karachi, LPP comrade Shakeel was dragged away by police during a demonstration in front of Karachi Press Club on November 5. This led some press photographers to intervene to save Shakeel. A fight started and that led to arrest of several photographers and political activists. It was mainly LPP comrades who had started the sloganeering in front of police while others were inside the press club building.

Police have raided the house of the secretary of LPP Punjab, Afzal Soraya, three times during the last two days but he is safe.

The plainclothes police came to LPP office in Lahore and checked if I was there. They went to the Good Books bookshop and remained there for some time on the pretext of buying books. They tried to ask about the whereabouts of the different comrades, pretending that they were LPP supporters and wanted to joint the party.

The comrade in charge of Good Books is an experienced comrade, and he immediately realised who they were. He cleverly convinced them to buy Tariq Ali's book Clash of Fundamentalisms, while offering comradely hospitality, tea and a good political talk. Comrades proudly told me the story after they left the office: "They came to look for you but instead took a book that may change their minds."

Today is the morning of the fourth day underground and I am again writing this from a public internet café. I will open the email for few minutes to send this story and leave. Thanks for some comrades telling me more about information technology and how to avoid the arrest. I will try to write every two days, to share with the comrades in Pakistan and internationally the happenings of underground life.

[Farooq Tariq is the general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan.]

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