March 3, 2006
Friday, March 3, 2006, was supposed to be the world strike day to protest the Danish cartoon. I didn’t know whether it was indeed done universally, but at least it was nation-wide in Pakistan, and included in this quake torn capital of AJ&K, Muzaffarabad. The experience of unrest in Lahore gave me a fore thinking, that anything could happen in so-called ‘peaceful protests’. The boy from the office accompanied me along the way, and I was wearing my Indonesian peci for my national identity, not to be misunderstood as Chinese and Japanese.
From the information I gathered, the whole city would be under strike situation, where all shops were supposed to be closed and no public transport operating. But even though most shops were closed, those which kept doing business were not few anyway. And many restaurants were open, and food were not scarce at all (compared to total hartal in Lahore in previous experience). I have heard that the demonstration (Urdu: jurus) started from the University, but it was very quiet there. Wrong information.
We went to the chowk near bank road. There was small jurus there, a group of twenty or something people, with a dozen of police around. Very peaceful, indeed. The policemen told me that there would be bigger jurus up the hill, in the chowk near Madina Market, and would start after the Friday Prayer. I asked the police whether there would be another unrest here as what happened in Peshawar or Lahore. The police said that they would try hard (Urdu: koshish karenge) not to make it happen.
I was waiting in the chowk for hours, but it seemed that nothing would happen. Suddenly, around 2:30 pm, there was coming a group with some turbaned men holding green flags and banners with Arabic script. Then the mass was getting bigger and bigger, but not more than a hundred of people. The oration started. “Bush kutta … Bush kutta...!” yells dominated, as well as “ghulam hai, ghulam hai, rasul ke ghulam hai… “(we are slaves, slaves of the Prophet) . The oration was not as aggressive as what I had heard in Lahore, and nobody holding wood sticks, but green flags. The rally started, from the chowk down the hill. There were approximately four dozens of policemen accompanying the rallying group, two dozens front and another two behind. It was much more controlled indeed, and it seemed that nothing would be happen.
The Indonesian peci I was wearing was indeed working. I met at leas three people who could hold a long conversation with me in Malay as all of them had been working in Malaysia previously, and most people could call my country name correctly, or at least guessing as Malaysia. Indonesia is much larger than Malaysia, with more than six times of population, but somehow the popularity of Malaysia was much larger in Pakistan. Hmm…. Our government needs to make the stronger image of our country, I guess.
The rally went down the way to the chowk near Bank Road, where the group stopped and oration started. I was called by a police. I was thinking that he didn’t allow me to be there, but he just suggested me to go to another place, where the bigger demonstration would be. The place name was ‘Secretariat’, has the name because the AJ&K Secretariat was located there. But the people here preferred to pronounce as ‘Secre-et’, which I understood as ‘secret’. I was thinking that how it be possible the demonstrations held ‘secretly’. But it was just due to the wrong pronunciation.
The police was so kind-hearted that he would like to take me personally to ‘Secre-et’, but then he found a car that would take me. I was taken to the police office near the Secretariat, where there was indeed much larger mass listening to the oration. From my limited Urdu understanding, I just understood the part of condemning America, then to lesser context, Europe and Israel. The condemnation is somehow shifted to be emphasized to America than Denmark. There was a little bit irony, as the whole demonstration was held just next to a big banner written ‘We welcome donation from America’, while the people yelling ‘go down with Bush’, ‘go down with kafirs (kafir=unbeliever)’, etc.
But yes, it was indeed a peaceful protest. A reporter who interviewed me then told me, I should show to the world that Kashmiris are peaceful people, and this was proved by how peaceful and quiet the demonstration. He said that the Indian side of Kashmir was dangerous. I objected as he had never been there and so hadn’t been I, so I said we shouldn’t prejudice. But I supported his opinion, that the demonstration was very peaceful, and I congratulated AJ&K for this.