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.