The savage beating of democracy activist Riaz Ahmed by armed police last week is a mark of how little has changed in Pakistan since February's election rebuffed US-backed dictator Pervez Musharraf.
The Pakistani Rangers – the paramilitary force responsible for 'internal security' – assaulted Dr Ahmed, a leading member of the International Socialists group, on Monday of last week while he attempted to leave his university campus in Karachi. He was so badly beaten that he had to be rushed to hospital.
During the soldiers' assault it became clear that Dr Ahmed was being deliberately targeted. Subsequently a spokesperson for the Rangers told the Dawn newspaper that they believed Dr Ahmed to be 'well known for his political ambitions'.
Now, rather than bring the soldiers and their commanding officer before a court, the Rangers have demanded that Dr Ahmed be arrested for assault. It is common for those who are wanted by this force to face torture, and even to disappear.
Following release from hospital Dr Ahmed addressed a packed meeting of the Karachi university teachers' society.
The meeting passed a unanimous motion in his support and demanded that the university authorities seek to remove the Rangers from the campus.
Students put up banners in solidarity with Dr Ahmed and joined teachers who boycotted their classes for the day in protest at the attack. The university authorities have so far refused to act on the teachers' demands.
Anger at the attack has spread this week to universities throughout the Sindh province and to lawyers, journalists and civil society activists.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has also issued a strongly worded condemnation of the Rangers' actions.
Dr Ahmed, speaking to Socialist Worker, urged democracy activists in Pakistan to step up their campaigning, and appealed for international solidarity.
He called on trade unionists, academics and civil society activists to send messages of protest to the governor of Sindh province and to the vice chancellor of Karachi university.
Email messages of protest at police brutality to governor Ishrat ul-Ebad Khan at [email protected] and messages demanding action to remove the Rangers from campus to vice-chancellor Pirzada Qasim at [email protected]
Email messages of support for Dr Riaz Ahmed to [email protected]