Press Release, April 9
Lahore: No words are strong enough to condemn the unpardonable violence inflicted upon Arbab Ghulam Raheem in Karachi and Dr. Sher Afgan in Lahore. Both will cause the people distress, shame and anger for years to come. The victims’ record may not be such as to make any defenders of justice and democracy envious, and their warped view of human rights is known, but every human rights activist will defend their right to disagree and their right to personal safety and dignity. Both incidents must be thoroughly probed and no quarter shown to those responsible for committing violence as well as those who failed in their duty to quell disorder. But that won’t be enough.
Both incidents reveal the extent to which long periods of dictatorship have brutalized the Pakistan society, and how professional gangsters of old days have been joined in criminal acts by educated professionals. The Karachi incident invited indictment of political workers and the Lahore horror stigmatized the lawyers. One should still like to hope that both these groups realize their stake in fostering democracy and justice. As neither of the two incidents appeared to be a fortuitous affair there is ground to suspect that the traditional enemies of democracy might be up to their nefarious tricks. But that only increases the responsibility of political activists and lawyers to avoid being trapped or exploited. It is good that the bar leaders have condemned Tuesday’s disgraceful episode but the Bar Council must also hold an independent inquiry. They have to save their movement from coming to grief as a result of the excesses or weakness of a few of them. The situation does not allow the luxury of evading responsibility.
Not surprisingly the diehard enemies of democracy have raised a chorus of vilification against the yet-to-be-installed governments and some of them want to divert attention from the blood of innocents on their hands by abusing human rights activists. They will never succeed in converting the people to their creed of rule by force and fraud but all those who stand by the people’s rights must now get started on satisfying the citizens’ aspirations for peace, democratic freedoms and economic relief. That alone will enable them to overcome the monster of intolerance reared by despotism.
Asma Jahangir, Chaiperson
Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairperson