Jahangir Akhtar’s hunger strike: ‘We voted for them and they are accountable to us’

Published: September 14, 2011

On day two, speakers urge silent majority to wake up before it is too late. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID

ISLAMABAD: 

Walking up to the dusty pathway to get to the canopy under which Jahangir Akhtar’s was sitting on the second day of his hunger strike, one has to wonder, whether or not the movement will actually amount to anything. As well intentioned as he may be, can one old man make a difference? Can, as Akhtar said today, we stop selling out our country to all parties, foreign and domestic?

Part of the answer to that came from Jawad, Akhtar’s son, “If the following of my father matches that of Anna Hazare only then can these [idealistic] goals be met.” He remind me of the role that the media played in highlighting Hazare’s strike and shared his disappointment with the low level of interest shown by the Urdu press.

After a few minutes of silence out of respect for the Azaan, Akhtar’s better known supporters began to talk of their hopes. Pakistan Awami Party President Fanoos Gujjar noted,” If you complain of American imperialism, this is your chance to peacefully show your resistance. From GHQ to the parliaments, to the President House and governors houses, our message will be heard.” He later reminded the nation’s elected leadership of who they should owe their loyalties to. “[PM] Gilani, [President] Zardari, we put you there, we can drag you out.”

There was a short interruption then, as Asim Sajjad, an academic and leader of the Workers Party of Pakistan, reminded people to show civic sense and not block traffic by parking in no parking areas, as the government has already given the common folk enough headaches.

Sajjad, an MIT graduate, spoke on the promotion of militarism by the state education system, state-run media and right-wing media and mouthpieces. “We are taught to fear India in schools and by the state media so that we will not question military spending and demand social services. But it is not India threatening Pakistan. It is hunger, poverty and depravation. We must spend on social services or we will be left beating the same drum.”

The point against partisan speech reminded people of the shameful extent of our own leadership’s own partisan politics, which, according to a policeman, is “intended to make them look effective while the state continues to teeter on the edge of an abyss.”

With a story in hand, I got up to leave, when I noticed a man in a wheelchair approaching. I recognised him, and I still remember the events that put him in that chair. It was Dr Israr Shah, a former PPP member, beaten in the elections for one of Islamabad’s MNA seats by the corruption-scandal-plagued-runaway MP Anjum Aqeel. He is a double amputee today because he actively supported the judicial movement. His reward, in his own words, was “being sacked from the party’s Central Executive Committee for speaking against corruption within the party”.

Dr Israr spoke only for a few minutes, but in that time he moved everyone present. After expressing his support for Akhtar’s cause, he addressed the silent majority, “Losing my legs does not make me helpless. Losing my conscience does. Unfortunately, those without it can never regain it.”

He closed with a stinging message, “To my disabled brethren, governance needs no legs. Governance needs heart and integrity, both of which are sadly lacking.”

Earlier, Enver Baig, a former PPP Senator and senior leader who left the ruling party after baseless accusations of working against party interests, came to show his support. As Akhtar’s son reminded me that the only reason Akhtar was not at the deadly bombing that took Dr Israr’s legs was that he was a ‘guest’ of the police at the time, the trend of once-senior PPP leaders showing up reflected the fractures within the ruling party.

The last speech I heard was Jahangir Akhtar’s, as he addressed the crowd again, reminding them that he “respects parliament because it is by the people. If people are angry with it today, they must acknowledge the mistake they made on Election Day and work to fix it the right way: by demanding parliament to correct itself. Until parliament accepts we are right, we must continue.”

Addressing the people of Pakistan, he said, “I risk my life, all I ask is your time. We restored the Chief Justice, we will fix the country.” He closed with a message to the army, “I understand the pressure on the army to maintain the status quo, but if you do not listen to the people, you will wander aimlessly like a Russian Cossack, looking for help and finding none.”

Earlier, a doctor checked him up and said his health is holding up well, considering that he is a heart patient.

Labour Party Pakistan (LPP)’s Advocate Nisar Shah, National Students’ Federation leader Aliya Amirali, Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Payaam Trust’s Basit Subhani also spoke.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2011.

on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook

Reader Comments (35)

  • Sep 14, 2011 - 9:39AM

    May ALLAH bless Jahngir Akhtar..my prayers r with him

    Recommend

  • Maleeha
    Sep 14, 2011 - 9:57AM

    Chosing Islamabad as the venue is a wise decision on Jehangir’s part. So is the humanist, philanthropist Mr. Burney to join him here (as he also announced to launch similar movement after eid)?
    Sadly, like always I see it becoming anti- PPP movement. The liberals and educated ones will once again try to teach the illiterate poor majority and give them lessons on democracy, how to end corruption, how to vote that the vociferous like Imran Khan win.
    I fail to understand why the Anna’s movement is eulogized here. The ‘Team Anna’s movement’ has been criticized for trying to belittle and simplify the complex issue of corruption. The corporate media played an important role in making it ‘successful’ while writers like Arundhati roy, Praful Bidawi have termed it an effort to ‘overrule democracy’. Anna’s own conduct and his praise of Nernadra Modi of Gujrat fame limited his support base.
    I do not think think that merely passing a legislation can end corruption. Are we not corrupt to the core? We see people accumulating wealth around us in matter of days, at times we know from where it comes but do we dare to sever our ties with such relatives or at least question them? They remain our beloved parents, friends, uncle and aunts! Why target the parliament or the government officials only? Why not army, businessmen, traders, the whole society should be held accountable.

    P.S Given below are the links to the must read articles on ‘Team Anna’s Movement’
    praful Bidawi’s aricle
    http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=64803&Cat=9&dt=8/27/2011
    arundhati’s articulate article
    http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2379704.ece?homepage=true

    Recommend

  • Junaid
    Sep 14, 2011 - 11:59AM

    Im afraid this doesn’t appear to be well thought out.

    Recommend

  • Akshay
    Sep 14, 2011 - 4:38PM

    I am not too sure if this brave old man can succeed in his mission. Anna Hazare had a whole team to assist him in his movement. Indian students/enterpreuners who returned from overseas managed the media event. They worked towards creating a whole Brand Anna theme. Newspapers across India carried frontpage pictures of 1/2 year old babies wearing ‘I am Anna’ Gandhi caps. It was ensured that no other news captures any sort of TV/Print media space for nearly two weeks. This is what galvanized the whole Indian society to support the cause.Millions came out on the streets accross India. At any point in time, there were more than hundred thousand people in Ramlila Ground in Delhi. On 20th August, the rally in Mumbai stretched upto 8kms in length. Anna Hazare got support in every city/town/village in India. This is why the Government of India had to bow down. In the end it is the common man on the street that makes a difference. The cause has to strike a chord with him. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening with Mr.Janhangir Akhtar. At the moment, he seems to be waging a lonely battle. Many prominent news media havn’t even bothered to cover his story. Anyway, its still early days. Nothing gets done in the first day itself. Maybe, a week from now, Pakistanis might see some change happening.

    Recommend

  • Paras Vikmani
    Sep 14, 2011 - 7:18PM

    Why is only ET covering this news?
    What is Dawn doing?

    Recommend

  • Andy Martin
    Sep 14, 2011 - 7:41PM

    Maleeha,

    Yes we are corrupt at core. But this is something we learned over the years and finally seeped to our core. No new born is corrupt. Corruption starts innocuously. Parents corrupt the baby with distant alien ideologies making distinction between fellow beings. We start valueing distant Zum-Zum more than local native Sindhu. We corrupt our native languages and many times refuse to communicate in those native languages even though our soil, flora-fauna and cultural history is more in tune with the verbiage (words) of the native language. We do not listen to the voices of the peasants and maid servants in our home but are more in tune with distant alien’s 19th century speeches in alien tongue. Then those voices start becoming feeble in our echo-chamber and finally die out. Then since to us it becomes easy to import alien “phoren” solutions, we earn lot of moolah, power and prestige as we become the importer. Now we see and make ourselves completely alien from the native masses. Our kids start going to convents or boarding schools abroad. Slowly we start having vested interest in the exploitive status quo. Recommend

  • Vinayak
    Sep 14, 2011 - 10:01PM

    @Maleeha:

    Anna’s own conduct and his praise of Nernadra Modi of Gujrat fame limited his support base

    Anna Hazare praised the development done in Gujarat by Narendra Modi. That was used to beat up negative propoganda against Anna. However, even US Congress is praising Modi for his development work. — link_USHAILS_MODI

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Sep 15, 2011 - 4:20AM

    lol this attention seeking fake Liberal. All his ideas are self hating

    Suicide in Haraam in pakistan and Islam, his hunger strike will not last

    Recommend

  • samavia
    Sep 15, 2011 - 3:46PM

    hey c’mon u ppl r aguing plz promote this nd avail this golden chance plz plz
    spread and share it to the extent u can do, look wot indian nation done in this situation wot u ppl r doing. abusing indians can nvr take our cntry on right path
    PLZZZZ youth wake up nd help this person n attaing his goal plz plz

    Recommend

  • samavia
    Sep 15, 2011 - 3:57PM

    plz spread it nd promote it to the extent u can do nd think wot indian nation done wid anna nd wot v r doing wid this man plz keep promoting it this is a golden chance plz do avail it
    PLZZ do sum thing for this country nd save it
    think uo role 4 few momnts nd help him n achieving his goal..
    HELP HIM
    PROMOTE HIM
    THNK GOD SUM1 TOOK INTIATIVE…

    Recommend

  • ch muhammad nawaz
    Sep 15, 2011 - 4:41PM

    i think raja jahangir akhtar wants publicity and response from news channels.

    Recommend

  • alina
    Sep 15, 2011 - 5:32PM

    This is really good thing to hear… a sih of relief,,,how to help him out?

    Recommend

  • Cautious
    Sep 15, 2011 - 6:48PM

    Nice to know that non violent protest hasn’t been forgotten — Kudo’s to Jahangir Akhtar and Kudo’s to ET for providing the coverage.

    Recommend

  • Khalid Ahmed
    Sep 15, 2011 - 6:52PM

    If youth of Pakistan don’t come to streets nothing is going to work. During Anna Hazare’s hunger strike, 20,000 young software engineers in Bangalore took mass leave, came to streets and formed a 17 KM long human-chain even in the rain. Pakistan needs to show such level of solidarity to Jahangir Akhtar.

    Recommend

  • Paras Vikmani
    Sep 15, 2011 - 8:49PM

    I hope he doesn’t die :(

    Recommend

  • vickram
    Sep 15, 2011 - 9:31PM

    @Maleeha:

    You have given the links of two writers who wrote malicious articles out of plain jealousy. Whereas countless, eminent people have unreservedly supported the cause and movement of Anna Hazare, those names you have ignored.

    Amir Khan (actor), Prabhu Chawla (Editor, Indian Express), N Ram (Editor, The Hindu),Shekhar Kapur (director), Anupam Kher (actor), and Vinod Mehta (editor, Outlook) many intellectuals too are supporting the movement.

    Read this article, The Kindling Crucible, by Aijaz Ashraf here: http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?278134

    Every Anna’s worth: http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?278135Recommend

  • SM
    Sep 16, 2011 - 4:21AM

    We seek international media coverage in order to gain the Pakistani government’s attention.
    68 yr old man in Islamabad, Pakistan on hunger strike till death against corruption and the system.

    Due to the plague that our Country is infected with, Raja Jahangir Akhtar has announced to go on a hunger strike until death against Corruption and high military expenditures which our economy cannot afford.

    http://www.rajajahangir.blogspot.com/

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Raja-Jahangir-Akhtar/197843753609552

    Recommend

  • akash
    Sep 16, 2011 - 5:32AM

    Anna’s movement was a hit because it had overwhelming support of common Indian from across the spectrum. The criticism was far and few. As for Arundhati roy, no one takes her seriously in India, she gets space in media because she is one book wonder. Our Pakistani freinds rightly adore her because whatever she says is music to their ears. But we find her engaging in polemics and not offering any concrete solutions. She is also guilty of either not knowing the facts or knowingly choosing to ignore them and the following link shows that.
    link text

    Anna’s movement also had some bright and upright people behind it. No one claims it is a Panacea to cure all corruption. But even if it reduces it by 50 to 70%, we have won a big battle. Small time policemen or local official can still get away with Rs. 10 bribe but its the big politicians/official that harm the country most and Lokpal will try to catch them.
    Hope Pakistan will get behind their Anna!!

    Recommend

  • ihtisham khan
    Sep 16, 2011 - 7:27AM

    @maleeha….so because we are corrupt to the core we should not criticize the government…???..whose job is it to stop corruption…???..the way u r sayin it means there should be no police to stop the crime..the criminals should not a commit crimes…just surprises me the way people like u think…u r write every corrupt person or institution should be criticised but controlling the overall corruption the job of government…thats why the majority criticises government..just give a coruupt government to any developed country and lets see what happens…and who should we criticize …the clerk working in the office….who is going to stop him and punish him if he/she don’t stop..who should check that the police are not corrupt…??who should check that the engineers are not corrput…??? whose job it is to check that army are not corrupt??…why would i be scared of a government who is corrupt?…if u urself are corrupt how can u stop anyone from corruption..???..yeah .this is the thing now..criticise the government thats bad for democracy..its like giving a vote is a crime which is punishable by five years of corrupt and incompetent government whom u cannot criticise…u cannot do anything agianst cause u have voted..let them take everything cause u voted…now u have to live like this for 5 years no matter what…
    ….

    Recommend

  • mutazalzaluzzaman tarrar
    Sep 16, 2011 - 10:52AM

    The only difference between this dude and Anna Hazare is that Anna Hazare had a draft law that he got passed. This dude has nothing.
    in pakistan we don’t have any plans. we assume that if people come out on the streets and there is a ‘revolution’ things will magically correct themselves. we have no plans.

    Recommend

  • Raza
    Sep 16, 2011 - 12:05PM

    how many people favoring at this forum, went to support him? AhhhRecommend

  • Karim
    Sep 16, 2011 - 12:45PM

    Media is requested to find out about the person and his achievements. and lead the nation, if he is trust worthy?

    Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala
    Sep 16, 2011 - 2:55PM

    The reference to the Russian Cossacks is very pertinent.Way to go Akhter saab .
    At long last somebody is there to raise his feeble voice in favor of 140 million mortal souls .

    Bless you !Recommend

  • samavia
    Sep 16, 2011 - 4:27PM

    @Khalid Ahmed:
    u r very right. plz took intiative and keep promoting it v wud definitely come out..nd every one hav to come out its enough..

    Recommend

  • Feroz
    Sep 16, 2011 - 4:49PM

    Do not underestimate the power of peaceful non violent protests like a fast. It needs only a tiny spark to set fire to a haystack. If the cause is good and just many ordinary people will join Akhthar and the ranks will swell.
    Good Luck !

    Recommend

  • shair
    Sep 16, 2011 - 5:35PM

    Surprisingly, I was not aware of this development in our own country …but the difference here is that the Anna hazare of india had a very well written document for eradicating corruption from his country which he succeeded in making it a law througn their assembly….

    and Akhtar sb though have sit but lacks the strategy or document with him to eliminate corruption from Pakistan society….with no agenda or document it would be very difficult that any govt entity will even care about it…..

    please prepare some good document and call it Anti-Corruption Bill of Pakistan 2011 and then make your efforts to get it pass through the assemble…..if not then go for hunger strike…

    Recommend

  • zeeeeee
    Sep 16, 2011 - 8:47PM

    Sadly I m doing job with media and even dont aware of this important hunger strike. I think there is huge difference between Anna Hazaray and Mr. Jahangir Akhtar’s movement.There is importance of Hunger Strike in Indian due to Ghandi hunger strike but in Pakistan there is no concept of such movement. I haven’t heared about such effort before this. So it is very important that civil society, media and spcially new generation should supoort him, if we want to finish corruption in Pakistan….. Thnx Jahangir Akhtar to take first step…..In Pakisan eveybody waiting for first step……….U have taken bold step. God bless u my prayers are with you and Inshallah I will support you and your efforts on every plateform……..

    Recommend

  • Imran Agha
    Sep 16, 2011 - 8:55PM

    Sorry Mr Raja but you have chosen a very inappropriate time for your Hunger Strike because of the fact that Pakistan is going through multiple crises i.e dengue in punjab and floods in sindh I doubt you will succeed in your mission.

    Listen to my advice, cancel your strike and drop your demands for now only then restart at a better time.

    but I know you wouldn’t listen so RIP in advance

    Recommend

  • Joginder
    Sep 17, 2011 - 8:17AM

    The Anna phenomenon took off with massive public support but the launching of the anti-corruption movement was done by yoga guru Ramdev. He cashed in in on the popularity of his yoga programmes to push his anti-corruption agenda. The earlier meetings were held in the confines of the Jantar-Mantar grounds of Delhi and were more or less ignored by the media. I remember such a meeting being buried on an inside page of Times of India in a little patch measuring a few square centimetres. When the Ramdev movement ended in a fiasco due to the State’s strongarm methods, the govt. became sanguine enough to think the worst was over. They didn’t know they were sitting on a volcano of public rage. Mr Jahangir Akhtar’s may be voice in the wilderness right now but these things start quietly at first. If there is indeed a vein of public anger waiting to be tapped then it will succeed. Since the Pakistanis haven’t dropped in from another planet, then I’m pretty sure they too find corruption highly annoying.

    Recommend

  • Also Anonymous
    Sep 17, 2011 - 10:08AM

    Pakistan today is at the crossroads. The road that it is presently taking will slowly but steadily take it to the edge of the abyss (I still believe pakistan isn’t exactly staring at it yet but it is going there). The other one is equally bumpy and hazardous, the one which will slowly but steadily drift it away from it.

    But now it has to make a choice..a fine man among you has taken a step…a similar call here in India was answered by millions of Indians, although we no where face the kind of existential threat your country does..so it is even more imperative for you to join him and bring your corrupt government to heel. You are anywayz living life on the edge..dangerous militants, hostile intelligence agencies, both urs and that of other nations, teetering economy, sectarianism and what not. So why be brave and face the government, a government who would sell your country for a few doles..

    The choice is urs..either you continue to die and wither on a daily basis, not to mention the (steady brew that is brewing which could suddenly burst and endanger us all in south asia)..or you could face the ‘establishment’ once and for all..which may result in syria like action by them..but then..you could say you would have tried..and seek help from the lord above..with sincerity…and God willing..ur condition might just change for the better..slowly

    Recommend

  • Umair Qureshi
    Sep 17, 2011 - 10:50AM

    Unfortunately Pakistani Media is not covering it as indian media covered anna hazare’s movement.

    Recommend

  • Adnan Nawaz
    Sep 18, 2011 - 10:38PM

    I used to be the supporter of Pakistani media but this time I am really disappointed by their response. None of the channel talked about hunger strike where as the same were covering Anna Hazare. Is this Pakistani media???????? Are they (media) really want change in Pakistan????

    Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Sep 20, 2011 - 12:28AM

    Asak wrwb brother Ali:

    So, what your are suggesting to your country…If its wrong suggest something right, So how can you solve ur problem..

    Zazak allah khair.

    Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Sep 20, 2011 - 12:37AM

    You are right brother, Better his team can meet some good personolities and make a Agenda and keep infromt of Governament as well as people.
    So you can do one thing you can circulate this issue and his team can get aware (You can wrote a letter )

    Zazak allah
    Ahmed

    Recommend

  • islooboy
    Sep 21, 2011 - 9:16AM

    @Akshay:
    he did that before anna no body listened

    Recommend

More in Pakistan