Massive protests by Leftwing activists across Pakistan against Israeli atrocities

Activists of the Leftwing AWP, WDF, PrSF, PSC and media persons condemn the complicity of Muslim states, imperialist powers in killings of Palestinians, including children; demand international community’s intervention to stop the continued attacks and genocide of Palestinians by Israel

HAH Special

People take part in a rally in support of Palestinians organised by Leftwing Awami Workers Party and its sister organisations WDF and PrSF as well as civil society organisations, in Islamabad on Monday. — AP

Islamabad: Thousands of Pakistanis took to the streets in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi on Monday to express outrage at the atrocities and destruction the Israeli forces have unleashed on Palestinian people and continued attacks on Gaza.

The protesters demanded the Pakistani government and the world powers to intervene to stop the Israeli savagery and violence that has now claimed over 192 Palestinian lives and injuring many more, destroying their houses.

 A massive crowd mostly young people, women and students gathered outside National Press Club in Islamabad on the call given by the Left-wing Awami Workers Party (AWP) and its sister organisations – the Women Democratic Front (WDF) and the Progressive Students Federation (PrSF) — and other civil society organizations to protest the killings of Palestinians.

Holding placards, Palestinian flag and scarf, they chanted slogans against the Israeli atrocities demanding freedom for Palestine.

They condemned the way the world was watching horrific scenes of killings of Palestinian civilians, especially women and children; bombing residential and commercial property.

In their speeches, the organisers condemned Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians and said that the West, especially the United States and Britain had “sponsored Israeli settler colonialism”.

They said the unification of progressive forces on a global scale could help them fight Israeli “fascism” and support the Palestinians.

Flags of AWP and Palestine raised at the protest march outside NPC, Islamabad on Monday. Ibrahim/AWP

The participants called for an immediate action by the Pakistani government and international community to act to end the continued massacre of Palestinians, to halt the attacks in Gaza and forced evictions in East Jerusalem.

At least 200 people, including 58 children and 34 women, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the latest violence began a week ago.

They said that the only solution to the long-running conflict lies in a complete end to the Israeli occupation and the granting of full freedom and equal citizenship of the Palestinians.

Addressing the gathering, AWP federal leader Aasim Sajjad Akhtar said that Israel was the last major outpost of European settler-colonialism in the world, which followed the same brutal practices and was kept in place by the same imperialist forces.

He said the battle for Palestinian freedom was not a religious war, as demonstrated by the shameful unconditional recognition of Israel by oil-rich ‘Muslim’ Gulf states, but a fight for the recognition of the basic human freedom and dignity of Palestinians and all oppressed peoples of the world.

According to him the nature of the struggle necessitated an internationalist response by all freedom-loving people around the world. Reconciliation in the occupied territories would only be possible if there was an acknowledgement of Israeli crimes and equal citizenship for the Palestinians under a one-state solution.

Dr Sajjad mentioned what links the Zionist settler-colonial project to manifestations of imperialism in other parts of the world. He also spoke about the destruction visited upon Afghanistan by the Empire and its puppet mercenaries.

Aasim Sajjad also mentioned the devastation of Libya, Yemen and Syria and Pakistan, the military operations conducted in former tribal agencies of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in the name of the ‘war on terror’.

He also highlighted the violent dispossession of indigenous communities and the working poor by Bahria Town and governmental agencies,

When the academician and AWP federal committee member was speaking to the crowd, a ruling party MNA Nafeesa Khattak and a handful of activists tried to interrupt him. They were of the view that the Palestinian issue shouldn’t be linked to local politics.

Responding to this act, Aasim wrote on his Facebook page: “that was obviously unacceptable to some reactionaries present. I was deliberately interrupted by a handful of them who do not want young people in this country to understand that the global and local establishments and ruling classes are unified. And that our resistance and politics must also be global, beyond caste, creed and other divisions.”

He reiterated his party’s resole that “we will keep hammering home this message. Reactionaries, the rich and the establishment will keep telling us that Palestine is only a ‘Muslim cause’”.

He criticized those who are trying to make it a Muslim vs Jew issue. 

“Some even idiotically harming the Palestinian struggle by spewing hateful anti-Jewish rhetoric.  

“This battle of ideas will continue, and when the day comes that Palestine, along with all other colonised nations, is finally free, it will be because revolutionary internationalism triumphed over hate, bigotry and the rule of capital,” the statement read.

Ammar Rashid on his microblogging handle wrote: It was the most surreal moment of today’s protest when a PTI MNA and her family started shouting at Asim Sajjad for ‘politicizing the Palestine cause’ because he drew attention to Muslim states’ own complicity and injustices. They apparently want an apolitical route to Palestinian freedom.

Speaking on the occasion, filmmaker Samar Minallah said that the recent round of violence against civilians in Gaza had once again exposed the brutality of the Israeli occupation and the hypocrisy of Western powers.

She said it was shameful how the mainstream corporate Western media was presenting a one-sided view of the atrocities that blamed Palestinians from the suffering visited upon them for decades.

The activist and artist said that while western media outlets continued to describe Israeli war crimes as ‘clashes’, the world was increasingly beginning to wake up to the colonial occupation, systemic oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by Israel.

This was also echoed by WDF Islamabad President Huda Bhurghri. In her speech she said that the moral bankruptcy of Western states and their institutions is laid bare by the relentless bombing of residential buildings in Gaza, the third most densely populated area in the world, where 42% of the people are between the ages of 1-14 years.

However, she said, the visible increase in support for the just Palestinian cause across the globe was evidence that the tide is turning against the brutalization of Palestinians and those complicit in the slaughter of unarmed civilians by an occupying military force.

In a separate statement posted on their official Facebook page, WDF condemned the ongoing oppression by the Israeli Zionist forces against the Palestinian people.

The socialist feminist organisation leaders expressed solidarity with all those people who are fighting the occupation, expansionist policies and the imperialism of the world.

“Our solidarity with the Palestinian cause has deep roots in Third World internationalism and anti-imperialism.”

The WDF condemned the continuous support the US has provided to Israel as, according to them, the Zionist forces cannot continue their violence without the support of other imperialist powers especially the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia.

“We also condemn the criminal silence of the OIC and UN on the ongoing violence against the people of Palestine,” the statement read.

People take part in a rally in support of Palestinians organised by Leftwing AWP and civil society organisations in Islamabad on Monday. — AP

The WDF called upon the Left and resistance movements including the ethno-nationalist struggles for equal rights in Pakistan, the Black peoples’ fight against racism, the resistance of Kurdish, Afghan and Kashmiri women, the rebellion in Columbia and Myanmar and other parts of the world to join hands to fight capitalism, imperialism, racism, occupation forces in Palestine and across the world.

Lawyer Humaira Masihuddin said for Pakistanis it is important to support the ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement’ to target companies and organizations that were economically involved in the occupied territories in order to end economic support for Israel’s occupation.

She also asked the PTI-led government to do lobbying with other Muslim countries to build international support to bring an end the terror endured by the Palestinians.

PRSF Islamabad President Aunil Muntazir said that students of Pakistan stood with the Palestinian people in their heroic struggle for freedom and dignity.

He said that the US government, UN Security Council and the silence of Muslim-majority states had all failed the Palestinian people.

The student activist was of the view that only people’s movements of workers, students, women and other oppressed nations could truly exert the international pressure needed for Israel to end its brutal actions.

He called on students around the country and the world over to call out the occupation for the apartheid that it was and mobilize in support of the Palestinian cause.

AWP Islamabad-Rawalpindi President Nasir Mehmood condemned the military occupation and ongoing massacre of Palestinians by Israeli forces, which was sustained by US imperialism and the support of European allies and institutions.

The AWP salutes the Palestinian people as they continue to fight both military assaults and the erasure of their culture and identity by a settler colonial state.

He said the party mourned the loss of lives and trauma inflicted by the occupation forces in the form of airstrikes in Gaza and police and mob attacks in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He said you did not need to be a Muslim to support Palestinians, but just needed some basic humanity.

Other speakers included AWP Punjab President Ammar Rashid, student Fatimah Quadri, journalist Fouzia Shahid, Muttahida Awami Movement convenor Bashir Hussain Shah, and other civil society and human rights activists.

“We demand an end to the Israeli occupation, war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, the UN must act immediately to stop violent armed escalation on all sides,” demanded Tahira Abdullah.

The statement called for citizens’ support to the global BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement and urged global media to report the truth. The statement also condemned the Holocaust terming it a genocide and a crime against humanity but questions that preserving at Auschwitz-Birkenau and other museums (with the resounding slogans: “lest we forget” and “never again”) – could ever justify or rationalize their own war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, torture, eviction, annexation, illegal settlements, death and destruction of Palestinians in their own land? How long will Israel be permitted to continue this inhuman outrage?

The protest was also joined by the Palestinian students in Pakistan. They said the gathering had given them hope and courage that the people were with them and they were raising voice for them at every forum.

“Our families are passing through a hard time. We are here worried for them. We request all our brothers and sisters to pray for them and keep supporting them on all forums especially on social media. We need solidarity and unity against our common enemy that is Israel,” said Eyas and Hassan, students from Palestine.

One protestor shared that the number of participants in the protest despite COVOD-19 restrictions showed that the people were not ready to tolerate this injustice and barbarism against the Palestinians.

Media parsons gathered in the NPC to raise a black flag in the memory of journalists who lost their lives or got injured in the recent attacks.

Organized by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists and National Press Club, the gathering was addressed by anchorpersons, union leaders and representatives of civil society.

They participants demanded the government and international community to ensure safe access to media in Gaza. “We demand access to conflict areas so that we can inform our general public and the world about the factual situation,” said senior anchorperson Hamid Mir.

In Lahore, the Progressive Students’ Collective (PSC) staged a protest at Liberty Chowk in solidarity with the Palestinians and against the Israeli government. The protest was joined by at least 800 students and local activists.

In their speeches, the organisers condemned Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians and said that the West, especially the US, had “sponsored Israeli settler colonialism”.

PSC leaders said the unification of progressive forces on a global scale could help them fight Israeli “fascism” and support the Palestinians.

The protesters regretted that all Muslim majority states are only focusing on presenting resolutions in the [UN] Security Council. They demanded concrete action against Israel.

A protester said that supporting the Palestinians was not a “religious matter” and “anyone who is human should come forward and protest the attacks.”

A journalist Ailia Zehra on her Twitter handle commented: Progressive activists in Pakistan who are accused of peddling Western agenda took our rallies in support of Palestine today. TLP thugs who never miss an opportunity to hold violent protests are missing in action because they haven’t been signalled to come out on the streets this time.

In Karachi, a protest was held outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC).

Journalists shout slogans as they take part in a demonstration in support of Palestine in Karachi. — AFP

Addressing the crowd, KPC Secretary Muhammad Rizwan Bhatti paid tribute to Palestinian fighters who, he said, were standing firm in the face of Israeli aggression.

He condemned the “silence” of the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and international human rights organisations.

The KPC President, Shazia Hassan, said the UN should take “practical steps” to ensure peace in Palestine.

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