Farooq Tariq is the General Secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan. He explains how he has been caught up in the government’s suppression of opposition parties.
I avoided another arrest on 23 September. I had just returned home at 11pm from Toba Tek Singh, a five hour drive from Lahore. I am planning to contest the general election for national parliament from Toba Tek Singh, my home city. When the bell rang, I was sure it was the police again. My partner Shahnaz asked me who it could be at this time of the night. Our children had just gone to sleep, but our daughter Mashal (14) got up as well, because the bell was ringing constantly.
I asked Shahnaz to check who they are and if it was the police to tell that I am not at home. We had decided that I will not be easily arrested this time [Farooq was arrested in June this year]. If I am at home and the police come, they will have to break the doors to get me out. I was also sick and tired of the police knocking my door again and again.
Shahnaz went out and she was tricked by the police into open the door. They said they were friends of Farooq. But when she opened the door, she found dozens of policemen in uniform and they asked where I am. Shahnaz who has now become used to police arrivals at our door step, told them courageously that he is not here, he is in Toba Tek Singh. My daughter Mashal was with her watching the drama.
They did not insist on entering our home instead they asked for my mobile number, which was given to them. The police officer phoned my number. It started ringing at home. Mashal immediately felt the danger and ran inside to stop the phone. This could have convinced the police officer that I was at home but he did not force himself inside the door and said thanks to Shahnaz.
Shahnaz closed the door but the police remained there for some time. I was afraid the police would climb the walls and break in. But it seems the police officer was just doing his duty and not really interested in going any further. It was the same police officer with his team who had arrested me last time.
I then sent news to friends and them press informing that I had just avoided an arrest. Police are arresting most of the activists from the opposition parties, including the main leadership of the opposition parties. This is to avoid more demonstrations against General Musharraf, who wants to be reelected for the next five years from a parliament which elected him with the help of the religious fundamentalists in 2002. But this time the religious parties do not want him to be elected and have decided with other political parties to resign from the parliament instead of electing him.
The regime has arrested dozens of activists and leaders of different political parties and is raiding houses of more activists like me.
Going to jail again and again is no good. Comrades and friends have made jokes — whenever, I meet a friend, he asks me when have you come out (of jail) or when are you going in?
My son Abdullah, who is seven, told me this morning that it now my turn to play the “find and hide” game with police. When he was only one year old, the police came to arrest me at my home. Shahnaz and myself were not at home. When Razia, the woman who was taking care of Abdullah, told the policeman that Farooq was not at home, he said okay, where is his son? I will take him with me and then Farooq will definitely come to be arrested — a normal practice by many police in Pakistan. He did not know that my son was only one year old.
Razia brought Abdullah outside and told the police officer in anger, “Yes, you can arrest him, he is son of Farooq”. Looking at Abdullah, the police officer was ashamed, said sorry, went back and did not come again for some time.
When I was living in a rented place, my house boss was arrested and my office boss was arrested instead of me when police were unable to find me at home and at the office. I went to one friend who was the editor of Daily Jang to help get the release of my home and office bosses. When he heard, he advised me to leave the buggers with police because at least I do not have to pay rent anymore.
I will attend the demonstration on 27 September and till then will try to stop the police getting hold of me.
So be ready for a new possible solidarity campaign please.