Live Streaming from Hunger Strike

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Result of 9 days of hunger Strike

Nine days without food finally did the trick. Parliamentarians and leaders from the two biggest political parties in the country came to assure Raja Jahangir Akhtar ( RJA) that an anti-corruption bill will be tabled by parliamentarians and that they will work to integrate the goal of making Pakistan a welfare state in their party manifestos.

Upon receiving this assurance, Akhtar broke his hunger strike with a glass of mango juice. Raja Jahangir Akhtar later vowed, “This is not the end. I am to go all over Pakistan to create awareness, so that one day, we can become a welfare state.”

The parliamentarians who gave him this assurance included PML-N MNA Anoosha Rehman, PPP’s Farah Naz Isphani, Senator Safdar Abbasi, Senator Lashkari Raeesani, National Party’s vice president Mir Hasil Bizenjo and PPP MNA Syed Akhundzada Chattan.
Earlier on Tuesday, former Supreme Court Judge Fakhruddin G Ebrahim came to show his support for Akhtar, telling him, “The people accept you as a good man. Use it to achieve long-term goals [for the betterment of the masses].”

A few weeks back, Justice (retd) Ebrahim, who in 1981 was one of just three judges to refuse to take a fresh oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order promulgated by former dictator General Ziaul Haq, made a noteworthy statement that to encourage transparency in the justice system, judges of the Supreme Court should be barred from holding any government jobs after their retirement.

Fanoos Gujjar, Dr Hassan Nasir and other members of the Awami Party, who have been managing the strike camp stayed by Akhtar’s side till the parliamentarians arrived. A crowd easily numbering in the hundreds assembled to show their support and witness the political milestone.

PPP Senator Lashkari Raisani, National Party Senator Hasil Bizenjo, PPP MNA Farahnaz Ispahani, PML-N MNA Anusha Rehman Khan, and estranged PPP leaders Aitazaz Ahsan Senator Safdar Abassi, Naheed Khan, and former PPP Senator Sardar Saleem were among the group.

Speaking before the announcement, Sarwar Bari told the crowd, “We must isolate the evil and push forward honest politicians.” He added that Pakistan cannot progress amid rampant corruption.

Farzana Bari delivered a fiery speech, saying, “We cannot accept a country where our children can’t even go to school. We cannot accept a country where our Pakistani brethren of different faiths and where our women are so abused. We have a right to live with dignity rather than humiliation.”

Sitting in the audience, Fahad Hasan, a telecom entrepreneur, called Akhtar’s protest “a great effort.”

Naheed Khan delivered a stinging point to her own party’s economic planners, saying, “The PPP of today doesn’t understand its own economic policies.” She called Akhtar “a man worthy of all our respect [for] always working for the downtrodden.”

Anusha Rehman revealed that parliament is currently mulling over an anti-corruption bill. Rehman cited an example of the level of corruption in state bodies, saying, “We are in a country where even the minutes of standing committee meetings get tampered with.” She added, “We should have been here on day one.”

Prior to Aitazaz Ahsan’s announcement of the end of the strike, a member of the crowd was so incensed by PPP MNA Akhunzada Chitan’s speech that he called him out for “spouting nonsense political rhetoric”.

The man, Mamoon Tariq Khan, an entrepreneur who at age 22 entered the Guinness Book of Records for speed-memorising abstractions, said that he was offended by the attempt to hijack a noble cause for political pandering.

Personally, RJA’s actions have given me a new kind of hope: I mean here is a 68-year-old citizen of Pakistan who has forced, through personal will and lateral solidarities, the Pakistani politicians to listen. And he accomplished this when one of the major TV networks (Geo TV) was shamelessly avoiding any mention of him in their so-called news.

A hunger strike is a performative act: it presupposes an audience of like-minded people and a means of communication to spread the message. In a way it is an act that introduces an anomaly within the discursive space of power, a sort of breakage: the kind that forces power to stop in the tracks of its normative drive. A hunger strike cannot be an end in itself but is always caught up with the future that it may unleash: Gandhi’s Satyagraha relied quite heavily on such public performances, but succeeded only because the press covered it.

What we saw in the last few weeks is unprecedented. Young people joined the movement and brought the tools of their time to fray: a Facebook page, a live stream, a blog. Countless webs of transnational solidarity woven together through techne but made possible because one man stood up and said: “enough!” This is the greatest lesson that I have learned: that one person can unleash so much power of good.

There were quite a few detractors: some venal members of a forum called The Defense Forum, some tired youth on Facebook asking silly questions without offering to do anything themselves, but then that is the nature of such actions: the nay-sayers, the fatalists, and the minions of power, when threatened, always resort to cowardly, malicious tactics or, like Geo TV, pretend to not notice at all

My thanks to Raja Jahangir Akhtar for putting his life on the line for a just cause: Thank you from our heart and may you live long and continue working for Pakistan.

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