Avoid civilian casualties, HRCP asks govt

Press Release, April 29

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday expressed serious concern at reports of civilian casualties during operation by the security forces in Lower Dir district.

In a statement, the commission urged the government to ensure that the security forces’ action against Taliban does not add to the woes of non-combatants stuck in the area.

“HRCP is distressed at the unnecessary loss of lives and the continued suffering of innocent civilians in Dir despite, and at times because of, the security forces’ operation.

While the people of Dir had heaved a sigh of relief at the security forces operation that the government had finally decided to reclaim the area from Taliban, the first few days of the offensive have heaped more suffering on the civilian population, including a number of casualties on account of the choice of tactics and weapons by the security forces.

Reports from the area suggest that Taliban militants are hiding in and operating from areas with large civilian populations and the security forces have sought to target them through the use of heavy weapons, including aerial bombardment and long-distance artillery shelling, putting the safety of civilians trapped in the conflict zone at even greater risk.

Tens of thousands civilians have already been displaced and those trying to flee the area find it increasingly difficult to reach safety. The government should have ensured protection of non-combatants before the launch of the operation. It must now meet civilians’ needs and facilitate their flight to safety. It must also meet their needs in line with international humanitarian obligations and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

The security forces in Dir must learn lessons from the numerous incidents of ‘collateral damage’ in their operation in the Swat valley and immediately cease indiscriminate artillery and aerial attacks in Dir, which are not suited for ousting militants from residential areas with large concentrations of civilian population.

We urge that the same precautions should be taken in the security forces’ operation launched in Buner.

The significance of public backing for such operations cannot be emphasised enough. Civilian casualties would only erode that support. The security forces must ensure that the war against terror and Taliban does not become war against civilians.”

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

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Musharraf’s stance on disappearances is wrong: HRCP

Press Release, April 28

 

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has rejected as “absolutely untenable” the claim made by former president Pervez Musharraf that most of the “disappeared” persons had gone missing on their own.

 

In a statement issued on Tuesday following the former president’s recent interview with Al-Jazeera TV – in which he denied the role of state agencies in “enforced disappearances” and claimed the missing persons had voluntarily disappeared to join jihad, the Commission said: “That loss of power causes dementia and other disorders is amply demonstrated by General Musharraf’s recent interview and denial of state agencies’ well documented role in the illegal practice of enforced disappearance.

 

While some individuals may have gone away on their own, the statement that all victims of enforced disappearance had gone missing voluntarily to join the jihad without informing their families is absolutely untenable. It contradicts undeniable evidence and numerous accounts of those who have regained freedom after being missing for various periods.

 

It is ironic that the former president should deny the role of state agencies during his rule, which was acknowledged by the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights in February 2007, when it urged the government to present all ‘missing’ persons before courts and give them an opportunity to defend themselves. The committee had observed that the response received from the government had been ‘inadequate and too little’ and it had taken ‘too much time’. It had said it was not sufficient for the government to say that a missing person was wanted in a case. ‘The civilised world no longer buys such versions. Whatever be the charges, they should be properly probed and documented and a legal course of action should be resorted to,’ the committee had said.

 

It was during the Musharraf regime that the Supreme Court expressed dismay at the lack of government’s cooperation in the missing persons case. If his government had nothing to hide, why did he refer to the Supreme Court’s investigation into the matter as ‘constant interference in executive functions’ in the November 3, 2007 proclamation of emergency? What of the scores of people released, ‘traced’ or produced in court by state agencies? Did that not happen either?

 

One would have ignored Musharraf’s fulminations as being undeserving of a response but for the possibility of his plans to again assume leadership of the enemies of democracy and basic freedoms.

 

The government must depart from the previous regime’s ways by coming clean on the illegal practice and set the record straight and facilitate the recovery and release of all the missing Pakistanis wherever they may be.”

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

 

HRCP Condoles Death of Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed

Council Members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan express their deep sadness at the passing away of Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed on 18 April. He was a founder member of HRCP and its first Vice Chairperson for Sindh. As a Council Member, Mr. Ahmed remained deeply committed to HRCP and contributed greatly to the causes and issues addressed by the Commission. He resigned from HRCP after being appointed as a judge of the Sindh High Court in 1997. Justice Sabihuddin was elevated to the position of Chief Justice of Sindh and was recently made a judge of the Supreme Court. He was among the judges who refused to take oath under the PCO in 2007.

 

Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed gave several judgments strengthening the principles of human rights and bringing relief to the aggrieved. In a landmark judgment in 1997, for the first time in Pakistan’s judicial history, he ordered the payment of monetary compensation to a detenu in a habeas corpus petition. In January 2009, he ordered the release of haris who were in detention. As a noted lawyer, he was always available to advise various NGOs working for the promotion of fundamental rights of citizens.

 

In his death, the country has lost a compassionate human being and a firm believer in the principles of justice and rule of law. 

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

Alarming rise in killing of women and children in Karachi recorded during the 1st quarter of 2009

Press Release, April 14, 2009

 

An alarming rise in killing of women and children in Karachi was recorded during the first quarter of 2009

 

Karachi: According to the statistics maintained by Sindh Chapter of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an increase of 13% (8.4% in cases of women and 4.9 in children) has been recorded in the killings and accidental deaths of citizens of Karachi during the first quarter of 2009.  This does not include deaths due to road accidents.

 

During the first quarter of 2008, a total of 387 deaths were recorded including that of 25 women and 18 children, while during the first quarter of 2009, it was 415 including that of 62 women and 40 innocent children.

 

Below are some comparative figures for the first quarters of 2009 & 2008:

 

·        54 persons died due to drinking of toxic wine (2009)

·        45 persons were killed due to personal enmity while last year it was 32

·        37 persons killed during robbery while last year it was 44

·        24 persons lost lives in target killing while last year it was 25.

·        19 persons kidnapped and killed while last year it was 53.

·        19 dead bodies were found while last year it was 21.

·        17 political activists were killed while last year it was 51.

·        15 persons killed in police encounter while last year it was 20.

·        12 labourers died at work while last year it was 12.

·        11 policemen were killed while last year it was 15.

·        07 persons were killed on railway track while last year it was 11.

·        07 persons were killed due to stray bullets while last year it was 9.

·        06 persons were killed due to overdose of drugs while last year it was 4.

·        06 persons were killed in Lyari gang war while last year it was 17.

·        05 persons were killed by police torture while last year it was 02.

·        04 persons died in jail while last year it was 02.

·        03 Security guards were killed while last year it was 07.

·        01 person was killed in bomb blast while last year it was 14.

·        05 persons dead due to negligence of different departments of government.

·        01 person was killed by relatives due to love marriage.

·        01 person was killed in ethnic riots.

 

Women            

 

·        23 women were killed by unknown persons while last year it was 11.

·        20 women died due to burn injuries.

·        14 women were killed by their relatives while last year it was 12.

·        07 women were killed on railway track.

·        03 women killed during robbery while last year it was 02.

 

Children

 

·      40 children died in different incidents while last year it was 18.  Among the 40 this quarter, 21 children died due to fire, 6 were kidnapped and killed, 5 drowned in open sewerage tanks, dead bodies of 2 infants were found, 2 were killed due to stray bullets, 01 was killed on railway track and 1 lost life in target killing.

 

Major incident causing death during the first quarter of 2009

 

At least 40 people were killed and around 25 injured when a fire ripped through dozens of shanty homes in North Karachi, in January 2009.

 

HRCP Sindh Office

Unit # 8, First Floor, State Life Building # 5,

Abdullah Haroon Road, Saddar, Karachi

Ph: (021) 5637131 – 32.

April 13 a day of ignominious capitulation: HRCP

Press Release, April 14

 

Lahore: The way the National Assembly resolved to back the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation for Malakand Division on Monday does no credit to the House, and the day will be remembered for the state’s humiliating submission to blind force, a statement by HRCP said on Tuesday.

 

The Commission said, “The reservations of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation for the Malakand Division apart, the manner the resolution relating to the subject was adopted in the National Assembly cannot bring any credit to the House.

 

Making all allowances for the circumstances, in which a desperate government was seeking survival through surrender to militancy, no one except a lone member of the PML-N, noted journalist Ayaz Amir, had the courage to speak honestly and directly about the situation, while members of the MQM at least maintained consistency in resisting bigotry. What is amazing is that no reference was made to the impact of the measure on women, children, minorities and the prospects for rule of law in the embattled Malakand Division. Even if the party chief whip had ruled out the possibility of criticising the measure, expressing concern over the threat to fundamental rights should not have been an utterly hazardous undertaking. What use is increased representation of women in parliament if they cannot squeak even in matters of life and death to them? Whatever may happen to the repeatedly abandoned people of Pakistan, 13th of April 2009 will only be remembered as a day of ignominious capitulation to brute force.”

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

HRCP aghast at the extrajudicial killings of three Baloch nationalists

Press Release, April 9, 2009

Lahore: The killings, allegedly by the security forces, of Baloch Nationalists are a dangerous provocation and a grave violation of human rights. HRCP has credible information that Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir and Sher Mohammad, office holders of Baloch Republican Party and Balochistan National Party, were picked up on 3rd April 2009 by people in plain clothes, who were accompanied by two vehicles of Frontier Corps that stood at a distance. It is reported by credible sources that the three victims were sitting in the office of their lawyer after having attended a court hearing when they were forcibly picked up, blindfolded and taken in cars, closely followed by vehicles belonging to the Frontier Corps. A number of people witnessed the abduction. Mutilated bodies of the three victims were found in an isolated place near Turbat in the early hours of the morning.

The facts strongly suggest that members of state security picked up the three victims, tortured and killed them before dumping their dead bodies, which were discovered in a mutilated and decayed form. HRCP is aghast at this brazen violation of human rights and calls upon the government to get this incident thoroughly investigated so that the perpetrators are brought to justice. It is crucial that the authorities condemn this act and warn the security forces from taking the law into their own hands. Persecution of Baloch Nationalists must be stopped and the policy of hounding or maligning them through illegal means be abandoned by the authorities. Those involved in any criminal activities must be dealt with according to the law rather than through arbitrary and foul means. It is imperative that the government set up a high level Commission to identify those who indulged in involuntary disappearances, torture and extra judicial killings of hundreds of Baloch activists during and after the Musharraf regime. Victims must be compensated and offenders identified and brought to trial. HRCP warns that the free hand given to the security forces in Balochistan in violating the rights of Baloch nationalists will alienate the people of the Province and escalate the level of violence in the Province. Political demands must be met with political solutions and not through brute force.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson HRCP

HRCP seminar concludes Pakistan and Taliban cannot co-exist

Press Release, April 5

LAHORE: The people of Pakistan cannot accept peace at the cost of surrendering citizens’ rights to militant groups, a seminar organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Sunday observed. It concluded that Pakistan and Taliban cannot co-exist.

The speakers at the seminar, “Militancy in FATA and Swat: Impact and remedies”, said that the militants in Swat and FATA were not all indigenous. Militants from other parts of the country and foreigners were imposed on them. They emphasised that in Swat conflict could be over soon if the government and the military were determined and sincere. However, they said that such determination and sincerity were not in evidence. They said the military operation in Swat had been a failure and had only caused large-scale suffering and displacement for the civilian population.

They said that the government had failed in its primary responsibility of protecting the lives, liberty and property of citizens.

Speakers hailing form Swat and the tribal areas said that the militancy had spilled over from those areas and now the whole of NWFP was at its mercy.

They said that alienation had grown among the residents of the affected areas, who think that there is a lack of care in addressing their suffering.

They said the militancy will spread to all parts where there was a lack of governance and failure to implement rule of law and constitutional guarantees. Pakistan’s Northern Areas, could be the next target.

All speakers vehemently criticised the so-called peace deal struck with militants in Swat and emphasised that it was regrettable that a government bargained with such elements who had no respect for basic rights. They highlighted that even though the residents of Swat have suffered the most at the hands of militants, not a single person from Swat had been consulted before striking a deal. They said the contents of the “peace deal” violated the constitution and law of Pakistan.

Speakers from the tribal areas said the State had left the citizens and armed private lashkars to shoulder the responsibility of law and order and confront the militants. This has also increased militarisation of society, which will further disturb peace.

They said even though the legal vacuum in their areas had not caused the militancy, it had certainly been used as a justification to give militants a foothold in the area. They added that laws allowing collective punishment in FATA had no precedent in the civilised world.

The speakers unanimously agreed that the ideas of Taliban and the people of Pakistan were incompatible. They urged the government to ensure that Pakistan’s interest takes precedence in Islamabad’s dealings with other partners in the so-called war on terror and come up with a comprehensive policy to ensure that security is not achieved at the cost of sovereignty or human rights.

The role of the media in glorifying militants was criticised and the importance of calling a militant a militant was emphasised.

Speakers included Asma Jahangir, Iqbal Haider, Sher Muhammad Khan, Kamran Arif, Waseem Shah, Zarteef Afridi, Ihsanullah Afridi, Shaukat Saleem and Zainul Abideen.

Afzal Khan Lala addressed the seminar on phone from his native Swat, which he has refused to abandon in the face of extremist threats.

I. A. Rehman

Secretary-General