An international solidarity campaign has been launched to demand the release of comrade Rawal Asad, who was arrested in Multan for the 'crime' of attending a protest. He faces a scandalous charge of sedition, which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison, and a judge has now officially denied his application for bail. In addition to demonstrations in Pakistan, comrades from all over the world have been protesting outside of Pakistani embassies, and sending pictures and messages of support calling for Rawal's release, as reported below. We demand freedom for our comrade!
On Saturday 16 Feb, the Marxist Student Federation annual conference in London sent a message of solidarity to Rawal and called for his immediate release:
Photographs and messages of solidarity were also received from Edinburgh and Cambridge:
Today (20 Feb) in London, more than 20 members of Socialist Appeal (the IMT in Britain) attended an emergency protest at the Pakistan High Commission to demand the release of Rawal Asad:
Ben Gliniecki explained the situation and made our demand for the release of our comrade clear to all officials going in and out of the embassy. One official asked us if he could get us anything, like tea or coffee. We replied that all we want is an explanation for why Rawal Asad has been denied bail, and unlawfully detained.
Fiona Lali (national organiser of the Marxist Student Federation) brought to the Commission a petition, signed by over 600 people, demanding Rawal’s release and an explanation for his detainment:
After protesting outside, the petition was handed over, however the authorities of the embassy claimed they had no information about the case. We replied that we would continue to protest until he was released. The Pakistani state is trying to clamp down on the basic human right to protest.
Khadija Arsalan from the Pakistan Trade Union Solidarity campaign spoke of the glaring inequality that exists in Pakistan. Whilst members of the ruling class of Pakistan live happily in the UK, poverty and repression is the norm for the majority of students and workers in Pakistan itself. She condemned the ludicrous charge of sedition put against Rawal Asad, which is a clear attempt by the Pakistani state to clamp down on progressive voices and leaders.
USA and Canada
Over 230 comrades at the Montreal Marxist Winter School raised their voices for Rawal Asad, sending a group photograph and calling for him to be freed; as did a group of comrades from Minneapolis:
Sweden and Denmark
Swedish youth comrades from Gothenburg and Umeå sent photographs and messages of solidarity for Rawal, while comrades in Stockholm held a protest outside of the Pakistani embassy:
We also received a solidarity photo from Danish comrades from Copenhagen University:
A demonstration was held in front of the Lahore Press Club against Rawal's arrest, organised by the Progressive Youth Alliance. Among the protesters were students from a number of universities and activists from various left and trade union organisations. The attendees vowed that their protest movement will continue until Rawal is released: