The Musharraf power grab continues although 3,416 detainees were finally released from jail. It is estimated at least over 2,000 others are still being detained. The ousted Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry’s house is still surrounded by over a 100 police making it difficult for anyone to see him. But, amidst these signs of control by the Musharraf government, a new vigorous student movement is beginning to demonstrate its power. Students at Punjab University are demanding the removal of favored Islamic student groups which are allowed to function while other student organizations are banned. The Islamic Jamaat-e-Islam bully boys have been using physical force to intimidate opposition students, but the entire student body is demanding they be compelled to end their intimidation tactics.
The editors of The Lahore Times put it eloquently: “It is time to listen to the growing dissent in civil society. These are not acolytes of the seminaries ordered y their clerical leaders to destroy property to protest cartoons published in Denmark, this is a movement still in its embryo, that can overwhelm the undemocratic, illiberal and intolerant state in time to come. These are the ‘enlightened’ and ‘liberal’ scions of those sections of society that don’t dabble in politics but want democratic norms to be upheld.”
Perhaps, the times they are a’ changing in Pakistan as students and other liberal components of society demand an end to authoritarian rule and an end to clerical domination of daily life.