To “support the Pakistani civil society.” two Americans Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry landed in Pakistan on November 25th. They attended various events, held a vigil to protest the arrest of Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan and for their efforts received a lot of media and internet attention. However, December 4th evening saw them being “arrested.” According to reports, “ Armed policemen jumped out of cars and motorcycles and surrounded their car, guns drawn. They forced the driver and journalists out, beat passers-by who were looking at the scene, and hijacked the car with Benjamin and Barry inside. They raced recklessly through the crowded streets of Lahore, endangering the lives of those in the car and outside. They took the two activists to the Race Course Police Station. Benjamin was roughed up by a woman police officer who was given orders to take away their cell phone.
Benjamin and Barry were never charged with anything and no reason was given for their brutal arrest. After four hours, a representative of the US Embassy appeared. The activists were allowed to leave in his custody, but are being forced to leave the country.” They will arrive on Thursday, December 6th 2007 at 8 am at New York’s JFK airport and are said to be available for interviews.
Everyone has been condemning the arrest and the deportation of the two activists. Certainly condemnation is in order. However, we fail to understand as to how the two activists came up with this strategy of “supporting the Pakistani civil society.” They travelled from America to Pakistan to take part in the protests and hold a vigil outside Aitzaz’s residence thus getting a lot of media attention. If their sole purpose was to render support to the Pakistani civil society, then couldn’t they have lobbied the US government since nothing moves in Pakistan without Uncle Sam’s permission?
Both of them are from Code Pink. Code Pink has become well known for it’s lobbying against the Iraq war using unconventional methods. Could’nt Code Pink think of other more effective ways of supporting Pakistani civil society given their rich experience?
This compels one to ask did the activists really work out their strategy of helping the Pakistani civil society. What purpose did they achieve? Won’t they have been more effective by building the pressure on the US media and the US congressmen to ask the right questions as to why the US is mum over the situation?