HRCP wants proactive govt measures to curb violence against minorities

Press Release, 14 September 2009

Lahore, September 14: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Monday expressed concern over increasing frequency of violent attacks on religious minorities and demanded that the government take proactive measures to prevent such violence.

Reacting to the recent torching of a church in Sambarial, Sialkot district, HRCP said in a press statement: “The Commission has been warning the government of the growing intolerance of religious minorities’ rights and pointing towards the increasing frequency of vigilante actions against them. It has repeatedly expressed concern at attacks on non-Muslims over allegations of blasphemy and desecration of religious scriptures. It is unfortunate that our fears of recurrence of such violence again proved to be true in Sambarial last week.

The government response in the face of a recent spurt in incidents of violence against minorities – mainly belated announcements of financial compensation and some attempts at encouraging reconciliation at the local level – has clearly been insufficient and exclusively reactive.

The Commission would emphasise that another attack targeting the minorities is a question of when, not if, unless the government acknowledges in a meaningful manner the threat extremism and intolerance pose to society, understand the dynamics fuelling the phenomenon and take urgent and effective remedial measures.

The allegations of blasphemy or defiling of religious scriptures, irrespective of their veracity, do not warrant vigilante attacks. Nor do they absolve the government of its primary duty to protect all citizens. Effective prosecution would serve as a deterrent to future attacks, while a lack thereof would encourage impunity.”

I. A. Rehman, Secretary-General

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Update from Wilder Tayler on the situation of Commissioner Muhannad Al-Hasani

Dear ICJ Commissioners and Honorary Members,

I am writing to follow-up on my letter of 21 August 2009 concerning the arrest and detention of our Syrian ioner Muhannad Al-Hasani. As he awaits likely prosecution before the State Security Court, Muhannad Al-Hasani is now facing a disciplinary “trial” before the Syrian Bar Association on the same charges pending against him before the State Security Court.  The Syrian Bar Association is not independent and is under the control of the Baa’ts ruling party.  Under the 1981 Syrian Bar association law, Al-Hasani might be suspended from practicing law for an unlimited or indefinite period.  The Bar Association allowed him to be represented by a lawyer during this proceeding, and according to information provided by his lawyer, Al-Hasani is remains at risk of ill-treatment in Adra prison, Damascus.

I had a meeting with the Syrian ambassador last Friday. It was an opportunity for me to express the ICJ¹s deep concern about the arrest of Al-Hasani and to impress upon the the Syrian Government that his arrest constitutes a serious attack against the Syrian legal profession and the Rule of Law in Syria.

However, I am concerned that it is quite possible that the Syrian authorities will go ahead with the trial of Al-Hasani before the State Security Court. If this were to occur, we will monitor the trial. Meanwhile, we are seeking to send an urgent mission to Syria in solidarity with Al-Hasani and to see if we can make progress with the relevant officials in Damascus.

The Mission will try to meet with representatives of the Syrian Government, the Bar Association and the State Security Court, and will seek Al-Hasani¹s release and the dropping of the charges, and the restoration of his capacity to practice his profession, including as a human rights defender.  The Mission will also try to have access to Al-Hasani in Adra prison.

I will let you know as soon as there is any further development with this situation. Many thanks to those of you who have already taken actions in defense of, and solidarity with, our colleague Muhannad Al-Hasani.

Best regards,

Wilder Tayler

Acting Secretary General

International Commission of Jurists

HRCP’s rejoinder

HRCP’s rejoinder
2 September 2009

With regard to a letter titled “HRCP?” published in The Nation on September 2, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan would like to set the record straight.

HRCP cannot help but notice the extremely selective perusal of newspapers by the writer. HRCP has consistently raised its voice against Taliban atrocities in Swat, even when it was deemed extremely dangerous to speak against them.

HRCP would like to draw attention to literally dozens of public statements it has made regarding Taliban atrocities in Swat. In August 2008, HRCP wrote to the prime minister and the NWFP chief minister urging them to address the alarming human rights abuses in Swat and referred to Taliban as criminals and terrorists when people, and even the government, chose not to openly oppose the Taliban.

In September 2008, HRCP had urged the need for using effective force to fight terrorism in Swat.

In January 2009, it demanded the government take action instead of “fiddling as Swat burns”.

HRCP was one of the few organizations to openly criticise April 13 – the day when the National Assembly was scared by Taliban threats into backing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation for Malakand Division – calling it “a day of ignominious capitulation”.

On February 20, HRCP had publicly expressed outrage for the so-called truce between the government and Swat Taliban.

On April 5, the HRCP had openly stated that Pakistan and Taliban could not co-exist. On April 4, HRCP was at the forefront of organising a demonstration in Lahore to assert the people’s will to resist and defeat the terrorists.

The statements can be accessed at HRCP’s blog: hrcpblog.wordpress.com
HRCP was at the forefront of organising demonstrations against the flogging of the woman in Swat that the writer has referred to, as well as to oppose terrorism.

As for human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK), HRCP would like to state the obvious – that it is a organization with a mandate to work on human rights within Pakistan, but is quite satisfied with the excellent work being done by a number organizations in both Pakistan and India on the human rights situation in IHK.

The HRCP report that refers to mass graves in Swat also covers atrocities by the Taliban and the civilian population’s plight. In that report, HRCP has pointed out the mass killings and instead of assigning blame asked the government to conduct a transparent inquiry to determine responsibility.

HRCP reiterates that it believes in the protection of rights of all individuals, whether they are suspected militants, ordinary citizens, or indeed even criminals.

While HRCP appreciates fair criticism, it expects that those criticising its work would make at least some effort to get their facts right.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

HRCP consultation urges persisting with local govt system

Press Release, 2 September 2009

Lahore: There was a strong consensus among the participants of a consultation organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) that local government system should not be wound up or made a mere administrative appendage of the provincial government set-up and the present system should be continued with necessary amendments to increase transparency, accountability and service delivery.

According to a press statement issued by HRCP on Wednesday, the participants of the consultation said some changes in the present order might be considered but the local government system must be retained because it gives representation and a share in public affairs to the common citizen at the grassroots.

They said any reform that reduced the financial and administrative authority of the local government institutions would effect service delivery at the grassroots and go against the very rationale of decentralization of power. “Deficiencies in any one area must not be cited as a justification for wrapping up a system crucial for the devolution of democratic governance to the lowest tier,” the consultation concluded.

The centrality of commitment to the principle of devolution of power and decentralization to any reform was highlighted and concern raised that the changes were being considered without any effort to solicit or consider public opinion. It was argued that any attempt at reform must be based on sound reasoning and widest possible consultation.

Retaining representation for women, minorities, and working classes was emphasised. There were also demands for increasing their representation.

The participants opposed any delay in holding local government elections. They argued that the provincial governments that advocated increased autonomy for themselves must follow the same principle when it came to devolving powers to the local government.

Those taking part in the consultation included academia, political activists and members of local bodies.

I. A. Rehman
Secretary-General

Another Baloch victim of extra-legal killing

Press Release, 1 September 2009

Lahore: Strongly condemning the brutal murder after abduction of another Balochistan leader, Rasool Bakhsh Baloch, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has reiterated its demand for earnest efforts to prevent killing of dissidents and to resolve the cases of missing persons. In a statement issued today the commission said:

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemns in the strongest possible terms the brutal murder of Mr Rasool Bakhsh Baloch, an important office-bearer of the Balochistan National Party and a well-known human rights defender and social activist from Khuzdar. He had been abducted by armed men on August 23 and on August 30 his son had accused “some intelligence agencies” of abducting him. He had also expressed the fear that Mr Rasool Bakhsh might be killed. A day later the abducted activist’s dead body, bearing marks of torture, was found hanging from a tree in Bela.

This incident needs to be seen in the context of the tension in Khuzdar caused by the disclosure of their abduction and torture by two Khuzdar activists, Qadir Qalandrani and Naeem Baloch, and the disappearance of several other Baloch activists.

HRCP reiterates its view that the killing of prominent political activists cannot be countenanced on any account. These incidents have been a major cause of the Balochistan people’s alienation from the state. The government must demonstrate its earnestness in preventing such target killings. At the same time the task of tracing the large number of people reported missing must be pursued with diligence. The cost of dilly-dallying in these matters will be too horribly high to be imagined.

Asma Jahangir, Chairperson

Kashmiri leaders urge resumption of Indo-Pak talks

Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, 11 Temple Road, Lahore

United Centre for Peace, 5 Temple Road, Lahore

Press Release

Dated 31 August, 2009

Kashmiri leaders urge resumption of Indo-Pak talks

Lahore, August 31: The leaders of all political parties of Azad Jammu and Kashmir have called upon the governments of India and Pakistan to immediately resume talks to solve the Kashmir issue on the basis of the peoples’ rights of self-determination and incurability of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir.

A press release issued after the AJK political leaders meeting said:

Eminent Kashmiri leaders representing all major political parties of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Areas met at Islamabad on 27-8-09 to resume their discussions for a peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue.  The political developments since their last meeting on August 28, 2007 followed by their meeting with Foreign Minister of Pakistan on September 20, 2007 were discussed.  The leaders noted with great concern the lack of progress in the negotiations between the government of Pakistan and India on matters vital for the resolution of the Kashmir issue and urged the two governments to resume the stalled talks without delay.

The leaders reaffirmed:

THAT the people of Jammu and Kashmir firmly stand to achieve their right of self determination,

THAT in the exercise of their said right of self-determination they reiterate the demand that the former State shall remain indivisible, geographically, politically and constitutionally,

THAT the right of self-determination also entitles them to sit with the representatives of the governments of Pakistan and India to conclude such arrangements as will adequately meet national security concerns of Pakistan and India,

The leaders exchanged views about the nature of the future State of Jammu and Kashmir and decided to take the necessary steps to explore the views of the government of Pakistan.  They also decided to extend invitation to the leaders of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian held areas of the former State.

The representatives of the people of the Former State of Jammu and Kashmir urged the two governments to open without delay all points on the Line of Control and all roads and paths including the Kargil Skardu and Mirpur Jammu (Mnawar Akhnur) road for traffic and commerce.

The leaders of all the political showed deep concerned at the continued senseless violence against the innocent people of the State adding to the horrendous toll of lives during the past nineteen years,

The following attended the meeting:

Ch. Muhammad Latif Akbar, Secretary-general PPP-AJK and minister of finance in the Government of AJK

Sardar Khalid Ibrahim Khan (MLA in the last four assemblies) President, Jamu Kashmir Peoples Party, AJK

Mr. Abdul Majeed Malick, Chief Justice (r) AJK, President, Jammu Kashmir Liberation League

Mr Aman-ullah Khan, Supreme Head, JKLF, B-144 Satellite Town, Murree Road, Rawalpindi

Justice(r) Syed Sharif Hussain Bokhari President, Kashmir Action Committee

Mr. Munir Hussain Chaudhry, Advocate President, Pakistan Peoples Party (SB) AJK

MrWajahat Hassan Mirza, Chairman APNA

Mr Nur-ul-Bari, Naib Amir Jamat-e-Islami

Mr Ianayatullah Shimali, Chairman, Gilgit Baltastan National Alliance

Dr Najeeb Khan Naqi, former minister Ajk representing the Muslim Conference AJK

The meeting was facilitated by Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy and United Centre for Peace that were represented by Dr. Mubashir Hasan.