American-Pakistani Physicians for Justice and Democracy
By Dr. Mahjabeen Islam


L to R: Aitazaz Ahsan, Dr. Mohammad Taqi, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Dr. Amna Buttar and Dr. Ashraf Toor

Toledo, Ohio: Everything changed for Pakistan after March 9, 2007, when Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was made non-functional. It even created a transcontinental ripple effect, right to the shores of the United States.
What is more wondrous is how the love for Pakistan carves a special little niche in our hearts, and any event of importance in Pakistan and suddenly that niche enlarges and seems to take over our lives.
After that fateful day the complacence of a group of American-Pakistani physicians seemed to metamorphose almost overnight to not only a passion for Pakistan, but a burning desire to right this travesty of justice in Pakistan, and most importantly to institute democracy there. And thus was born APPJD, American-Pakistani Physicians for Justice and Democracy.
Talk was to place an ad in the major newspapers in Pakistan, but someone suggested apprising the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was to meet on March 16th to confirm Zalmai Khalilzad as the US representative to the United Nations.
We went on overdrive on March 14th; a three-page letter detailing our perspective under the headings of events, issues and resolution was sent to all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It detailed the summons of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, his manhandling at the hands of police, his virtual house arrest, and treatment as though he was a common criminal. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s tenure and the clearing of a large backlog of cases, his rulings in favor of women’s and human rights, his inquiry of the missing persons, reversal of the privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mills and speech at a graduation expressing the opinion that the continued rule of President Musharraf in uniform was unconstitutional, were all explained.
The use of the mullah as the bogey man for the consumption of the West was explained as well as the military-mullah nexus and most importantly, that should the current regime be removed, it is not the mullah that will gain control of the nuclear bomb but power would flow to the Vice Chief of Army Staff and the President of the senate, Muhammadmian Soomro.
The thrust of the faxed letter was that the non-functionality of the Chief Justice was an attack on the judiciary and resolution of the issue was reinstatement of the Chief Justice and holding of free and fair elections in Pakistan.
Perhaps the detail of the faxes helped in the understanding of the situation for the next day, Sean McCormack the State Department spokesman used much of the same verbiage and in the following week a four man US senatorial delegation met with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto and went on to Pakistan, urging the government to uphold Pakistan’s constitution and return the country to a true democracy. Perhaps the perseverance of being hunched over a fax machine till 3a.m. commanded success.
Across the world Pakistan was suddenly in greater turmoil, with protests from lawyers across the land as well as indignation about the attack on the offices of GEO television. Members of APPJD held teleconferences and four members got ready to go to Pakistan. Drs. Mohammad Taqi, Ashraf Toor, Omar Atiq landed on April 1st. Dr. Amna Buttar was already there. Within hours of landing they met with the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Scintillating conversation ensued for the next hour, with nary a moment of pause.
Thereafter the delegation divided labor and held press conferences, met with political leaders and members of the various Bar Councils and High Court Bar Associations, and conducted several interviews with the media.
Their visit was marred by the brazen attack by male government security forces on Dr. Amna Buttar during the protest outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 3rd. 2007. Dr. Buttar is also president of ANAA, Asian-American Network against Abuse of Human Rights. She has worked tirelessly to bring the Mukhtaran Mai and other abuse cases to world consciousness. The mechanism of her injury speaks eerily of the message the attackers aimed to convey. She remains intrepid; while the others have returned to the US, she remains in Pakistan, protesting daily outside the Supreme Court. I could not pay her tribute enough.
“I have never felt so welcomed in all my visits to Pakistan ” said Dr. Toor. Dr Taqi joined in with “we were able to show solidarity with the people of Pakistan and to convey that there are American-Pakistani physicians that care greatly for their homeland and are willing to sacrifice for it”.
American-Pakistani physicians are fortunate to be sitting in the highest echelon of potential power: a very educated and wealthy minority in the sole super power of the world. Human frailty has taken its toll on this group in the past. An organization that claims to be a political action committee has, through all the years, consistently aligned itself with the government of Pakistan. Historically it’s been seen that the more dictatorial the government, the cozier the connection.

APPJD members address a press conference in Pakistan

The pathogenesis of this anomaly is really simple. A dictatorial regime is personality based and these individuals get publicity perks and ego strokes.
And here comes in my pet peeve of the lack of processes and institution building in anything Pakistani. Ours is a personality cult oriented system. Whether it is a company, a mosque or a nation, processes should be so carefully placed, so template-like and so assiduously protected, that the show must go on regardless of the individuals that fill the positions. Until the day we learn this and go to bat for it, we will stumble and suffer.
Now that the constitutional crisis in Pakistan has given birth to our movement, we have shot up rather quickly. Being proud citizens of a nation that is proud of its democratic tradition, it is our mission to enjoin and promote democracy the world over. It is disingenuous of America to chest-thump about invading Iraq to bring in democracy, and then coddle the dictatorships and monarchies across the world.
Delegations of APPJD members will continue to travel to Pakistan to provide hope and help to those that look to us to nudge this democratic movement forward. In a day on Capitol Hill, we plan to educate members of the US congress and stage demonstrations in Washington and other cities decrying the attack on the independence of the Pakistan judiciary and the absence of democracy in Pakistan.
Our future generations will live and work in the United States and lobbying efforts for all relevant causes within the US will continue as well. But it is that heart within our hearts that will always tip the balance; our soul, our democracy, our Pakistan.
(Dr. Mahjabeen Islam is a freelance columnist and physician practicing in Toledo Ohio. Her email is mahjabeenislam@hotmail.com)

 

 

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