Rumpus takes Center Stage at Pakistani Meeting in New York
By Khalid Hasan
Washington, DC: Washington was not the only venue of a Pakistani gathering where a vocal section of the audience refused to listen to those they disagreed with, since the same scene was repeated in New York on Sunday when Justice Wajiuddin Ahmed was heckled by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) supporters for his criticism of the constitutional package and the federal law minister.
The retired judge was critical of the PPP stance on the restoration of the judges at the meeting held in Brooklyn, known as “Little Pakistan”, and he questioned the abilities of Federal Law Minister Farooq Naik. He called the constitutional package introduced by the ruling party as “shameful”, adding, “I could not believe my eyes when I read it.” As he said that, party supporters rose from their seats and began to scream slogans against the judge and in favor of their party and its late leader. They also accused the judge of making a political speech. The organizers’ attempts to pacify those creating a rumpus floundered when Wajiuddin asked the protesters to sit down and listen to him. This proved to be counter-productive as rival groups got into a shouting match, creating near chaos. At this stage, Aitzaz Ahsan took the stage to lead a chorus of “jeeay Bhutto” slogans that seemed to bring about a degree of calm. Wajihuddin then resumed his speech, emphasising that the people of Pakistan were united in their demand for an independent judiciary and the return of the dismissed judges led by Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Pakistan embassy on Monday took exception to what he described as an inaccurate report of the final day of the doctors’ conference appearing in an English language Pakistani daily (not Daily Times). The report said that because of the rumpus created at the meeting, US diplomatic security guards were forced to intervene, coming to the stage to “save the Pakistani ambassador from angry Pakistanis” and taking him away.
The embassy statement said that the ambassador left for a prior engagement 40 minutes after delivering his speech and was “not forced to leave, as erroneously reported.” The ambassador sat through the speech of Aitzaz Ahsan who spoke after him and stayed for part of the question and answer session that followed, the embassy added.
The statement said, “Mr Haqqani did have an altercation with some members of the audience and a section of the audience that disrupted speeches by Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Dr Farooq Sattar and Justice (r) Wajihuddin also attempted to disrupt the ambassador’s response to a question. His speech earlier was, however, heard without interruption. Slogans were shouted against the ambassador by supporters of a religious political party and other backers of the pro-judiciary movement who refused to hear his call for tolerance towards all points of view.” According to the spokesman, Haqqani said that he would not yield on the subject of tolerance that is essential to protect Pakistan’s fledgling democracy and the lack of which was destroying the country’s image abroad. He also opposed some epithets against the president of Pakistan and PPP co-chairman, saying that as Pakistan’s representative he could not allow any Pakistani leader to be publicly abused in a foreign capital. “The organizers from the podium apologized to the ambassador for the heckling before he left, as scheduled and announced at the beginning of the event. Hotel Security - and not diplomatic security - accompanied the ambassador to the hotel’s front entrance as a courtesy as they did with Congressman Keith Ellison who was also not allowed to speak by the pro-lawyers movement segment of the crowd. Many members of the audience condemned the behavior of the trouble-makers while leaders of the religious party concerned disowned their unruly members in subsequent statements to the Pakistani media,” the embassy statement said. (Courtesy Daily Times)