Govt fiddling as Swat burns: HRCP

Press Release, January 27

 

Lahore: Swat Taliban summoning politicians and citizens to their so-called sharia courts is further testimony, if testimony was needed, of the absence of state’s writ and growing boldness of militants, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

 

A press statement issued by HRCP on Tuesday said: “Repeated official vows of regaining control of the security situation in the Swat valley have been laid bare by extremists’ call to politicians from the restive valley to appear before Taliban courts. The situation has worsened to this extent largely because of the government’s denial and appalling inability to even jam a radio station broadcasting propaganda by the Taliban.

 

It is all very well to issue statements vowing not to allow parallel justice, but increasingly it seems that Taliban’s justice and rule has no competition in the Swat region.

 

Government claims of having control over the area are impossible to believe when citizens continue to be killed in brazen attacks and the illegal Taliban radio station even announces the names of the people that they would kill later in the day.

 

Provincial and national lawmakers have conceded the government has no control over the area. Yet surprisingly, the urgency in the government’s approach towards addressing the issue is conspicuous by its absence. The government must immediately share a frank assessment of the security situation with the people instead of watered down claims of control. It must also share an objective analysis of any progress, or lack thereof, during the military operation. The government’s strategy to restore law and order in Swat has clearly not worked and need to be revised promptly and in a transparent manner.

 

The efforts and responsibility to restore order must be shared by all political entities, especially those with representation in the legislature. Also, all segments of the society, including the religious communities, must no longer remain mere spectators to this shocking breakdown of the state apparatus and must pressurise the government to handle the situation in a more transparent and comprehensible manner.”

 

Dr. Mehdi Hassan

Vice-chairperson

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SAHR-SAFMA Peace Mission to New Delhi – Let People Unite Against Terrorism and War

SAHR-SAFMA Peace Mission to New Delhi

Let People Unite Against Terrorism and War

Lahore-New Delhi: 21-24 January 2009

 

The South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) and South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) have jointly decided to take a Peace Mission from Pakistan to New Delhi from 21st to 24th January 2009. The 19-Member Delegation will interact with civil society, media and political leadership of India to stress the need to keep the peace process going, jointly fight the scourge of terrorism at all levels and in every manner and avoid war in the best interest of the peoples of India and Pakistan. The Peace Mission will explore the possibilities of reciprocation by the civil society of India.

 

The Peace Mission condemns, unequivocally and unreservedly the November 26 terrorist attack in Mumbai as a most heinous crime against innocent people. We share the grief of the families of victims and the people of India whose friendship we cherish.

 

Unfortunately, this outrage has brought India and Pakistan to a dangerous crossroads and we hope we will not be diverted from the path of peace. The two countries must not allow the terrorists to hijack the peace agenda. They must resume the Composite Dialogue process, and the sooner the better. War or even a state of suspended hostility between India and Pakistan will blight the whole region’s future.

 

India’s rage after Mumbai was justified and the world had sympathy for it. When Pakistan revealed its hurt it didn’t wash with the world and ended with bringing Pakistan’s democratic experiment under tremendous strain. Unfortunately the media on both sides did not pay due heed to the long-term interests of the subcontinent’s teeming millions.

 

After passing through a denial mould, Pakistan has acknowledged that the surviving Mumbai raider came from Pakistan which it should have accepted much earlier. Subsequently, the interior ministry has ordered an investigation and vowed to bring the culprits to justice. We hope the investigation will be thorough and fair and the Pakistan establishment will take all possible measures not to let anyone use its soil for murderous games. Meanwhile, India must eschew anger and get Pakistan to engage in negotiations on the basis of verified facts of the Mumbai attack. Whoever planned the Mumbai carnage wanted to foment conflict between India and Pakistan and prevent the latter from securing peace in its north western regions. They did succeed partially, but they must not be allowed any further success.

 

We appreciate the role of the international community in helping to defuse the situation and yet the South Asian context remains relevant. It is important that both India and Pakistan accept a South Asian cooperative methodology of resolving inter-state disputes. The wisdom may not appear realistic at the moment but it is unassailable. We must insist on evolving a SAARC mechanism for looking after our common problems.

 

Mumbai should not threaten Indo-Pak relations, nor should it endanger South Asia. It should compel South Asia to seek solutions to problems that are bound to become more trans-border than they are now. Terrorism is spreading like a disease. It has engulfed Afghanistan, a SAARC member, and has spread to most of Pakistan too. Some traces of it are already visible in India where a majority of the South Asian population lives. Instead of accusing each other of terrorism, the SAARC states must get together and discuss it as a common problem. A regional consensus against terrorism and extremism and a common strategy to fight it – that is the only answer.

 

It is only in this context that SAARC states could ask one another for the surrender of terrorists guilty of cross-border outrages. There are two possible reactions to trouble as it looms on the horizon. One is to build high walls and block communication so that calamity stays on the other side of the border. This has not worked and may work even less in the days to come. The only casualties are the peace process and the truth. The other way is to open up the region to trade routes and transport networks allowing free movement of people, goods and information. The SAARC protocols on terrorism need to be made more effective.

 

The Mumbai attack was paradigmatic, which means patterns of behaviour must change fundamentally now for the sake of survival of SAARC states. This change cannot come through war. It must come through cooperation at both bilateral and regional levels. India and Pakistan must strengthen Joint Anti-terrorism mechanism. On the other hand, SAARC must evolve regional mechanisms and institutions to collectively fight terrorism, cross-border crimes, smuggling, narcotics trade and evolve a judicial forum to prosecute the terrorists and criminals wanted by one state or the other. We must forge friendship and burry the hatchet forever. We wish India well, so should you Pakistan. The people must unite against terrorism and war and persuade their governments to forge unity against the common enemy.

   

Imtiaz Alam                                                           Asma Jehangir,

Secretary General, SAFMA                                    SAHR-HRCP, Pakistan

 

 

List of PEACE DELEGATION TO INDIA

 

  1. Mr. Haji Muhammad Adeel (Senator Awami National Party)
  2. Ms. Farzana Adeel (Wife)
  3. Mr. Ali Haroon Shah (former member Provincial Assembly & member of working committee PML N)
  4. Ms. Asma Jahangir (Chairperson HRCP)
  5. Mr. Ibn Abdur Rehman (IA Rehman) Senior Journalist & Bureau member of South Asian for Human Rights (SAHR)
  6. Ms. Salima Hashmi (Artist &Human Rights Activist)
  7. Mr. Iqbal Haider (former Senator, Law Minister & Co-chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
  8. Ms. Syeda Maimanat Mohsin (Jugnu Mohsin) (Publisher and editor Friday Times)
  9. Mr. Muhammad Tehseen ( Executive Director South Asia Partnership)
  10. Mr. Brig (r) Rao Abid (Peace activist)
  11. Mr. Dr. Abdul Hameed Nayyar (educationist research fellow SDPI)
  12. Ms. Samina Bano Rahman (Women’s Action Forum)
  13. Mr. Kamran Arif (HRCP & specialist on FATA and Northern Areas)
  14. Ms. Mussarrat Hilali (Vice Chair NWFP, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan)
  15. Mr. Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed (former member National Assembly & PPP working committee)
  16. Mr. Imtiaz Alam (Executive Director SAFMA)  
  17. Mr. Nusrat Javeed (Senior Journalist)
  18. Mr. Mustansar Javed (Senior Journalist)
  19. Mr. Munir Ahmed (Munoo Bhai) (Senior Columnist)
  20. Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi (Independent political and defense analyst)

 

For Media Coverage

 

Ms. Phyza Jameel (Bureau Chief CNBC Pakistan-Lahore)

Ms. Asma Sherazi (TV Journalist and encore person)

Fresh attacks on Pakistan schools- BBC

BBC – Fresh Attacks on Pakistan Schools

A school destroyed by militants in Saidu Sharif in SwatTaleban militants have blown up another five schools in north-west Pakistan, officials say, despite a government pledge to safeguard education.

The schools were destroyed in the town of Mingora in troubled Swat district. The Taleban issued an edict in December that private schools must close by 15 January as part of their campaign to ban education for girls.

Meanwhile the Khyber route for supplies into Afghanistan was temporarily closed on Monday after a militant attack.

‘Scared’

The attacks in Mingora took place despite a curfew. No-one was hurt as the winter holidays had begun. A government official, Shaukat Yousafzai, told Reuters: “Attacks on troops are understandable but why are they destroying schools?”

The militants have destroyed more than 150 government schools over the past year, most of them for girls.

The Taleban want to impose their austere interpretation of Islamic law and oppose education for girls – which they say is un-Islamic.

Winter holidays began on 1 January but some private schools stayed open to catch up with lost classes.

But school owners in Mingora have now complied with the ban and say that the schools will not reopen until the Taleban revoke it or the conflict in Swat is resolved. They say that even if they keep the schools open, parents are unlikely to send their children in view of the Taleban threat.

Mr Yousafzai said teachers were refusing to work. “I try to convince them but they’re scared. They doubt the government’s ability to protect them.”

In her diary for the BBC Urdu service, a seventh grade schoolgirl from Swat says there was little excitement about the winter school holidays – which for her began on 15 January.

She writes on 14 January: “Since today was the last day of our school, we decided to play in the playground a bit longer. I am of the view that the school will one day reopen but while leaving I looked at the building as if I would not come here again.”

There are close to 2,000 schools in Swat district. Some 1,600 of them are run by the government, including more than 500 girls’ schools, education officials say. The rest are privately owned.

HRCP sets the record straight

Press Release, 19 January 2009

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan heard chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry’s comments on the laxity of human rights organisations in the country. In his address at the inaugural ceremony of the Karachi Bar Association, the Chief Justice lauded a foreign organisation for breaking the story on Zareena Marri and chided the national organisations for being unaware of this incident.

 

 HRCP has enormous regard for Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and therefore wishes to put the record straight. Human rights violations in Balochistan have been regularly monitored by HRCP and several reports issued. Those conducting fact-finding missions ran great risks and some were also fired upon and this for exposing grave human rights violations during the military operations.

 

 HRCP hopes the Chief Justice can recall the petition filed by HRCP on disappearances in the Supreme Court on 08-02-2007, which was eventually heard by the honourable Chief Justice himself a month later. Mr. Muneer Mengal, who is the source of the Zareena story, was on the list of missing people. The government disclosed in August 2007 that he had been sent to ATF jail in Quetta after being detained in Central Jail Khuzdar. HRCP regrets that Muneer Mengal was not produced in court and his statement recorded despite a request made by HRCP. This could have given valuable leads to other human rights violations that came to his knowledge during detention.

 

 A representative of HRCP met Mr. Mengal in jail in November 2007. Mengal disclosed that he was tortured, offered women, wine and money but did not , at that time, give details or names of women offered to him. HRCP noted the statement recorded by RSF on 11-12-2008 after Mengal had left the country and the same statement was subsequently released by AHRC but with substantial additions on 12-01-2009. Under these circumstances any credible organisation will wish to verify facts before initiating an effective campaign. HRCP is not in the habit of raising issues without verification.

 

The shocking disclosure now made obliges all associations and organisations to probe the allegations. HRCP does not claim to be the sole custodian of the rule of law and would greatly appreciate co-operation in such difficult fact-findings of eminent lawyers who have played a laudable role in upholding the rule of law. HRCP appreciates the Chief Justice’s concern about human rights issues in the country. However, the role of HRCP goes beyond 9 March 2008 and despite some lapses it has played an important role since 1986 in investigating human rights violations and promoting democratic values. It has constantly tried to bring such issues into the public domain without fear or favour and will continue to do so.

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

SAHR statement on the Assasination of Lasantha Wickrematunge

From South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) network

 

The members of South Asians for Human Rights vehemently condemn the attack on Lasantha Wickrematunge, Chief Editor of the Sunday Leader, who succumbed to his injuries in hospital today. His is the latest in the long list of media personnel who have lost their lives in the pursuit of a truly free media environment in Sri Lanka. This however, was not the first time he was targeted, as he has faced many threats against his life, with even the Sunday Leader office coming under attack on previous occasions.

 

Mr. Wickrematunge was attacked early Thursday morning by four armed men dressed in black and wearing black helmets on motorcycles had blocked his vehicle and opened fire, hitting him in the neck and chest, leaving him critically injured. The shooting took place in broad daylight at the bakery junction in Attidiya which is close to Ratmalana military base.

 

This brutal killing of an out spoken and veteran journalist comes in the wake of yet another attack on MTV/MBC transmission station where a gang of 20 armed men with T-56 rifles and explosives destroyed the main control room and caused extensive damage estimated at around 200 million. SAHR notes with dismay and concern the many other previous attacks on media personnel, and the pathetic attempts or the mere show of an inquiry and investigation by the state; which to this date have not brought a single person to book in connection with these cases. This only goes to show the level of impunity prevalent in the country.

 

SAHR demands that an independent unbiased investigation be carried out, and that the perpetrators are brought to justice to face a fair trial. SAHR also underlines the responsibilities of a truly democratic state, to protect media freedom and preserve freedom of speech.

 

I K Gujral

Chairperson SAHR

Avoid War Hysteria

From South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) network

Dated: 05-01-2009

 

There are times like the present, when truth must be told to powers, however, unpalatable it may be, and however one may be viciously misunderstood. But nevertheless speaking has to be done because in times like this, to keep silent is a sin and to speak is a duty.

 

There was justifiable anger, anguish at Mumbai Terrorist attack; and indignation at Pakistan government refusing to even acknowledge that terrorists came from Pakistan added to serious Indo-Pak tension. The instant denial by Pakistan that its territory had been used by LeT connected terrorists could, though regretful would have been allowed to pass. One could understand Pakistan denying that ISI had any hand in it – but to have gone to the shameful length of suggesting that Mumbai attack was a ‘ploy of India’ or was stage managed by India government not only by those in government, but even in media & disappointingly even by some of those who have been part of third track group, was indeed shocking and hurtful to friends of Pakistan in India.

 

Similarly the reaction of sober Indian government ministers openly suggesting that India was prepared to take any options, (impliedly even war) so egged on by media and rival political establishment was certainly regretful and not a sign of mature statesmanship.

 

The situation has got further heated up by the irresponsible and provocative suggestion of BJP President Raj Nath Singh that India could consider the option of military blockade of Karachi and Indian Government should take international community into confidence and persuade the launch of joint military action under UN Security supervision against the terrorists in Pakistan.  The provocative speech of the BJP President has been allowed to quietly pass off not only by the party but even the media at large, because somehow an atmosphere is being created where to call for restraint and dealing with sanity Indo-Pak relations is considered anti-patriotic. 

 

Equally irresponsible and provocative and no doubt instigated by unworthy consideration of political one man up ship was statements by Digvijay Singh, General Secretary of the Congress and Jaiswal, Minister of State for Home, who both boasted publicly that Mumbai terrorists had demanded the release of the hostages but the Government of India had rejected it, unlike yielding by the BJP Government in the Kandhar episode.  But soon thereafter they had to eat their own words because neither the Maharashtra Government nor the Central Government accepted its truthfulness.  The irresponsible and shamelessness of such provocative remarks, specially by Jaiswal, Minister of State for Home in the Central Government ( who is expected to know better provided of course if he is attending to his job) taking an indefensible plea of relying on non existent media story, beats all limits.

 

Similar unfortunate and indefensible attitude was reflected in the public stand of Pakistan President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, who instead of accepting the obvious proof of Pakistan territory having been used by the terrorists, chose to deny it and raising war cries instead. And this inspite of U.S.A. media saying that FBI has accepted the conclusion of Indian authorities that Mumbai Massacre shows the involvement of Laskar, its leaders Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, who are based in Pakistan. It would be understandable if Pakistan government was to deny the involvement of I.S.I. (India may have felt saying “tell that to marines”; but could have lived with these normal diplomatic cover ups). But Pakistan must at least accept that what it describes as non actors (including Kasab, the terrorist held by India) are from Pakistan. This will immediately reduce the mutual tension and one upmanship by India and Pakistan. The further question whether these terrorists in Pakistan should be handed over to U.S.A. (because amongst killed were USA nationals) or to India or Pakistan will try them itself are though important but still secondary question. This approach by both the countries would have immediately dispelled the clouds of danger of war. But sad that both the countries are willing to hold closed door conferences with U.S.A. but not even official open business like meetings with each other. This is cliff hanging game and puts both the countries in danger of becoming surrogates of U.S.A. Imperialist design.

 

Unfortunately saner counsel in India in coming under pressure by the nearness of General Elections to the Parliament which are to be held by May at the latest.  I feel that if further downward slide in Indo – Pak relations is to be avoided it is essential that General Elections be held, if possible, in February but the latest by the first week of April.  I say this because it is now commonly accepted that because of the nearness of the General Elections, parties otherwise sober become the victims of “vote bank politics” as pointed out by our Prime Minister in his recent Bhim Sen Sachar Memorial lecture in December, 2008 – in fact the Prime Minister has commendably made it absolutely clear “that there was never a question of war, but only of terrorism”. Should not President Zardari, Nawaz Shariff reciprocate the agony of India and help to defuse the warlike tension being builtup in India and Pakistan, and horror of horror, both countries may become victims of unintended war like the First World War started, just because some mischief maker shot down the Prince of Austria.

 

However it is somewhat of a relief to know the welcome news that India and Pakistan, only a few days back exchanged a list of their nuclear facilities – a further reiteration of President Zardari speech that Indo – Pak dialogue can ease tensions shows recognition of stark truth that military confrontation can have disastrous consequences for the region.

 

I feel that both government should immediately allow TV, Radio channels to operate freely in both the countries. The people at large should know that apart from hawkish governments posture, there are innumerable seasoned sensible leaders, organizations in both countries who do not approve of their respective governments stand. Overwhelming number in both the countries realize the disastrous consequence of Indo – Pak war. Let this silent majority be allowed to interact with each other – may be in a little short time people to people contact between the two countries be allowed as of before – because this alone will act as impregnable shield against the vagaries and moods of hawks in both the countries.

 

Rajindar Sachar

New Delhi, India

Ajmal Kasab must have his rights protected

Press Release, January 9, 2009

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan regrets that one of the perpetrators of Mumbai carnage is confirmed as a Pakistani, but commends the government of Pakistan of facing this unpleasant reality. Denial would only have eroded credibility of the government and soured relationships between the two countries possibly leading to war. At the same time, the HRCP urges the government of Pakistan to extend counselor access to Ajmal Kasab and to arrange proper legal defense to him. It is the right of every individual to have counselor access and to have proper legal assistance, regardless of the accusation against the detained person. HRCP will contact human rights organizations in India to ensure that Ajmal Kasab has legal defense as well as a fair and transparent trial.

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson