Text of All Parties' Conference Declaration
July 8, 2007
The opposition’s all parties conference (APC) was held on July 7 and 8, 2007, at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London. The meeting adopted the following declaration called “The APC Declaration, 2007.”
We the political parties assembled here together declare that military dictatorship has brought Pakistan to the edge of a precipice, leading to strife, chaos and the threat of disintegration. The Musharraf regime uses brute state force against its peoples to perpetuate its illegitimate rule and suppress dissent. Innocent citizens are kidnapped by the state as militancy and sectarianism thrive. Provincial autonomy has been denied, leading to further strains in the federation. From Khyber to Karachi, the regime is unable to maintain the writ of the state, and as a consequence there is a total breakdown of law and order.
Parliament has been marginalised, and stripped of all its powers. It has no access to information, nor can it legislate or hold the regime accountable. Both houses have been reduced to a rubber stamp for the chief of army staff who unconstitutionally occupies the office of the president. The cabinet too is subject to the whims of an individual.
Instead of resolving the crisis, the regime muzzled the media to black out ground realities and block live coverage of the turbulence on the streets. Working journalists have been murdered, kidnapped, tortured, detained and harassed. Today, Pakistan has been declared the third most dangerous country for journalists. Having failed to suppress the truth, the regime on June 5, 2007, promulgated an ordinance while the senate was in session and the National Assembly was to meet the next day.
On May 12, 2007, at Karachi, an engineered massacre of opposition workers was orchestrated, unarmed political workers were at the mercy of gun-toting Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers while the police and rangers watched. The Sindh High Court was laid siege and judges had to run to save themselves. The district courts were surrounded by MQM activists and lawyers including women were beaten. While the federal and provincial regimes watched 48 innocent people lost their lives and over 200 were injured; yet General Musharraf says there is no need for an inquiry.
Today Balochistan bleeds under the heels of an army operation, where gunship helicopters are used for silencing dissenting political voices. The murder of Sardar Akbar Bugti on instructions of General Musharraf is most condemnable.
The Musharraf regime is responsible for the highest unemployment in the country. Low grade employees have been axed, trade unions banned, and anti-labour laws have been promulgated and enacted. This, coupled with the cartelisation of the economy has allowed big businesses to reap huge profits at the cost of the common man. It has resulted in unprecedented price hike. Today wealth is concentrated in a few big business houses and the market manipulators are in control of political offices
The regime continues to spend billions of rupees on a political witch-hunt against the opposition. It continues to institute concocted cases under laws that fail the test of international norms of justice or judicial review. No institution is safe. The due process of law is subverted with impunity and the violation of fundamental rights is the norm. The assault on the judiciary reflects the regime’s contempt for law, justice and institutional autonomy. The summoning of the chief justice of Pakistan to the Army House, meeting him in uniform along with heads of intelligence agencies and using coercive measures for his resignation amounts to a total desecration of the office of the chief justice of Pakistan. This is General Musharraf’s attempt at creating a pliant court in a year when his quest for the presidency is going to be riddled with inherent constitutional disqualifications. The resistance by the bar is unprecedented, it has involved members of the bench, political parties and civil society.
The Musharraf regime is in the process of rewriting the civil military equation, to the advantage of the latter. There is a deliberate attempt at militarisation of civil society which is evident from the large scale induction at all levels of serving or retired army personal in the civil bureaucracy, police, autonomous and semi autonomous corporations and bodies.
The national wealth has been plundered through the use of ministerial offices, cartels, stock exchanges, misuse of official information and non-transparent privatisation. The mega scams to mention only a few are: the Pakistan Steel Mills, oil pricing, sugar prices, cement prices, Habib Bank, Karachi Electric Supply Corporation, Pakistan Telecommunication Limited, railway engines and locomotives, sale of islands in Sindh, railway golf course, black cabs, purchase of defence lands and the Defence Housing Authority, loan write offs from the banks and not to mention the scandals that have been exposed by the public accounts committee of the National Assembly.
The APC notes that the Charter of Democracy initiative ratified by the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy is a positive step toward the restoration of the supremacy of civil society and democratic governance.
Since the unconstitutional take over on October 12, 1999, the state and its institutions have been used to perpetuate General Musharraf’s rule. After creating laws that were aimed only to serve one man, the regime now seeks to elect General Musharraf in uniform as the president of Pakistan through the existing assemblies. This act is unconstitutional, morally unjustifiable and smacks of political bankruptcy. Assemblies whose terms are to expire in one month have no moral justification to elect a person for a term of five years. This will constitute “the mother” of all pre- poll rigging.
It is clear that the Musharraf regime is incapable of holding free, fair and honest elections. The strings of bye-elections held by the regime have exposed its nefarious motives. The election commission has been reduced to a hand-maiden of the executive, the electoral rolls prepared by them are seriously flawed, wherein; the number of voters in various districts has been reduced from the rolls of 2002. The orders to the election commissioner chief are flouted and ignored by the federal and provincial functionaries. Polling stations are changed, ballot boxes stuffed, law enforcement agencies used to prevent opposition voters from coming to the poll stations, polling staff impersonated, false ID cards used, in short the opposition is contesting the election against the state apparatus. The recent bye-elections in Sindh clearly demonstrated the intent of the regime.
Robbing the people of their democratic right to bring about a peaceful change of government is fraught with dangerous consequences not only for the region, but the federation itself.
Therefore, we the parties assembled here together pledge, in order to make Pakistan a truly democratic state express our utmost joint commitment towards establishing supremacy of constitution & rule of law, independence of judiciary, ensuring fair and free election, protecting freedom of media, and depoliticising military:
1) To carry on the struggle within and outside parliament for the restoration of the 1973 Constitution as on the October 12, 1999, before the military coup with the provisions of joint electorate, minorities and women reserved seats on closed party list in parliament, the lowering of the voting age, and the increase in seats in parliament. The Legal Framework Order 2000 and the Seventeenth Constitution Amendment shall be repealed.
2) The APC demands the immediate resignation of General Musharraf to pave way for holding of fair and free elections under a neutral caretaker government in the country. The APC is of the view no fair and free election is possible under General Musharraf. If an attempt is made to hold rigged election, as is likely, it further resolves that it shall prevent the rigging of the electoral process at all costs through a coordinated democratic popular movement.
3) To strongly resist the election by the incumbent assemblies of General Musharraf for the office of the president of Pakistan through a consensus collective action including the option of resignations from parliament and the provincial assemblies.
4) To jointly struggle for:
a) The formation of a caretaker government of national consensus, in consultation with the opposition parties to hold free, fair and honest elections. Its members will not contest the elections.
b) The appointment of a neutral chief election commissioner and members of the election commission in consultation with the opposition parties.
c) The dissolution of the local governments three months prior to the holding of the general elections.
d) The caretaker government of national consensus shall appoint officers with no political affiliation in the election commission, federal, provincial, and district governments.
e) Repeal of all discriminatory election laws, to ensure even playing fields and the implementation of fair election proposals.
f) Implementation of the jointly agreed criteria for holding of fair and free elections as in the annexure.
g) To keep under review the steps being taken to ensure free, fair and honest elections and to collectively through consensus take any decision, which may include a boycott of elections in the extreme case at the appropriate time.
h) To firmly resist collectively the machinations of the regime to postpone the general elections by imposing emergency or under any other pretext.
5) To struggle collectively for the removal of dictatorship from Pakistan and confine the role of the armed forces to that prescribed in the Constitution of 1973. It demands immediate withdrawal of military personal from all civilian departments and posts. It demands closure of the political cells of all the military, security and intelligence agencies.
i) The APC demands in Balochistan are the following. That the army operation against innocent people of Balochistan is stopped immediately. That all political workers and leaders be released immediately. The construction of cantonments and the deployment of police instead of the levies are stopped. The practice of enforced abductions should be stopped immediately.
ii) The APC further resolves that the army operation against innocent people of tribal areas is stopped immediately. Tribal areas should be cleared of all outside elements, pressures, and influences.
7) To review the current quantum of provincial autonomy and to develop a national consensus on the basis of federal principle to remove grievances of smaller provinces through a consensus.
8) To ensure the return of Benazir Bhutto and Mohammed Nawaz Sharif and will resist any attempt on the part of the regime to prevent or take into custody the popular leadership on their return.
9) We demand that the state stop with immediate effect the kidnapping of its citizens, and release immediately all those kidnapped by or through the state. In case of any substantive offence to charge them before a competent court of jurisdiction, allowing defence counsel of their choice and access to family members. It should release all political prisoners including Javed Hashmi, Akhtar Mengal, Afaq Ahmad, Amir Khan, Allama Shabbir Hashmi, Mian Aslam and others.
10) We reject the construction of new GHQ in Islamabad because a country mired with poverty, unemployment and illiteracy can’t afford such mega housing and real estate project costing over $4 billion in market value.
11) We demand the immediate withdrawal of the presidential reference and the reinstatement of the chief justice of Pakistan. We further pledge to carry on the movement for the independence of the judiciary while wholeheartedly supporting the legal fraternity and civil society in its struggle for rule of law.
12) We reject the PEMRA Ordinance dated June 4, 2007, while assuring all forms of the media in Pakistan of our fullest support in their struggle for freedom of media and reaffirm our commitment to the freedom of expression.
13) The APC holds General Musharraf, the Sindh governor and the provincial government, and the MQM responsible for the carnage carried out in Karachi on May 12, 2007, and demands an independent judicial enquiry by a judge of the Supreme Court to ascertain and identify the persons involved.
14) The APC condemns recent acts of terrorism in UK. It further resolves to write a joint memorandum to the UK government for initiating necessary legal proceedings against MQM chief Altaf Hussain for his alleged role in incidents of terrorism in Pakistan.
15) The APC resolves that independent and sovereign foreign policy based on national interests should be pursued. The solution of Kashmir dispute should be found according to wishes and aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.