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Burma: State of emergency imposed in Meiktila

Burma: State of emergency imposed in Meiktila

A state of emergency has been imposed in the Burmese town of Meiktila following three days of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

A statement announcing the decision on behalf of President Thein Sein was broadcast on state television.

He said that the move would enable the military to help restore order in the riot-hit town, south of Mandalay.

At least 20 people are reported to have been killed since the violence began, but exact figures are unclear.

A BBC reporter who has just returned from the town said he saw about 20 Muslim bodies, which local men were trying to destroy by burning.

Meiktila MP Win Thein told the BBC Burmese service that scores of mostly Buddhist people accused of being involved in the violence had been arrested by police.

He said that he saw the bodies of eight people who had been killed in violence in the town on Friday morning. Many Muslims had fled gangs of Buddhist youths, he said, while other Muslims were in hiding.

Mr Win said that that violence that recurred on Friday morning has now receded, although the atmosphere in Meiktila remains tense.

Police say that at least 15 Buddhist monks on Friday burnt down a house belonging to a Muslim family on the outskirts of the town. There are no reports of any injuries.

The disturbances began on Wednesday when an argument in a gold shop escalated quickly, with mobs setting mainly Muslim buildings alight, including some mosques.

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What uprisings give rise to – Dr Manzur Ejaz

The Egyptian army is no different than its counterparts in the developing countries. After a peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian army’s sole function was to maintain a corrupt and unjust economic system in which a small section of society owned most of the national wealth. As time goes by, the Egyptian military’s obstructive role will become clearer

Many Pakistanis have been wistfully looking towards the Tahrir Square uprising and questioning why the same cannot be done in Pakistan. These uprisings have happened many times in Pakistan, whereby army dictators were forced out of power by popular movements of one kind or the other. However, the people did not experience any improvement in their living conditions or even civil liberties during democratic periods. By now they are disillusioned and do not know against whom they should rise.

The Ayub Khan era was not as long as Hosni Mubarak’s but the democratic rights in Egypt were almost the same as those in Pakistan of that time. Ayub Khan was secular and an enemy of the Jamaat-e-Islami like Hosni Mubarak was against the Muslim Brotherhood. Up until 1967, Ayub Khan had such a strong grip on Pakistan that it appeared as if his family would rule for generations just like a few months back, Hosni Mubarak’s son seemed all prepared to take over Egypt by the next elections. However, a small incident in Rawalpindi Polytechnic Institute, in which some students were killed, triggered such a popular movement that Ayub Khan was out in a few months. In a way that incident was not unique because the then Governor of West Pakistan, Amir Mohammad Khan, the Nawab of Kalabagh, was notorious for his repressive techniques. However, the masses were fed up with Ayub Khan’s rule and a mammoth movement was born in both parts of the country. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the leading forces in East and West Pakistan respectively.

The people who had seen massive crowds on both sides of the GT Road, from Rawalpindi to Multan — making a human chain of hundreds of miles — would agree that the scene was not any less impressive than what we have seen in Tahrir Square in the last few weeks. Just like in the Egyptian uprising, the political environment was so tolerant and non-discriminatory that several Ahmedis were elected to the provincial and national assemblies. In short, what we are seeing in Egypt now did happen in Pakistan some 40 years back.

Now, if we skip the details of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against Ziaul Haq, which brought back the PPP and PML-N, and jump to the 2007 movement for an independent judiciary, we see another Tahrir Square-style uprising. Once again, the people turned the GT Road into a Tahrir Square as Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s motorcade made its way to Faisalabad/Lahore from Rawalpindi in 24 hours. Once again, the people’s movement forced General Musharraf to quit power and run away from the country. But what did people get from the democracy they struggled for so many times?

In a way, the Egyptian uprising for democracy was not as mature as Pakistani democratic movements. …

Read more : Wichaar