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

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