HRCP shocked at police brutality against Bahawalpur students

Lahore, August 25: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious concern over police brutality against students of a medical college in Bahawalpur who were protesting against electricity outages and demanded all authorities, including police officials, who authorized the use of force must be proceeded against.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, HRCP said: “As if police connivance in the killing of two young brothers in Sialkot was not enough to tarnish its image, it has been followed by a brutal attack on students, including girls, of Quaid-e-Azam Medical College, graphic images of which have been carried by the media.

The students had been observing a strike to demand mainly exemption of their college and its hostels from electricity load shedding. The college administration called in police which fired teargas shells on protesters and beat them with batons. Over 80 students were taken into custody and at least nine have been sent to jail.

HRCP is dismayed over the apparently disproportionate and uncalled for use of force against the students and demands that the police personnel responsible for the violence and the officials who authorised resort to violence must be proceeded against and the use of force against protesting students must be discontinued forthwith. The students taken into custody must be released immediately and allowed to resume their studies. The Commission advises the college administration to facilitate the students affected by the massive floods who may not be able to submit tens of thousands in fees at a short notice. HRCP also urges the administration to resist the tendency to call upon the police to resolve matters which could easily have been addressed through amicable means.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

Call for army’s intervention mischievous and inappropriate: HRCP

Lahore, August 23: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has slammed as entirely inappropriate and mischievous the demand by the head of a political party for the military to “take any martial law-type action against corrupt politicians and feudals”.

In a press statement issued on Monday, the Commission said: “It is a poor reflection on the nation’s adherence to democratic norms when one of the main political parties starts pleading not with parliament, or with the people, but with ‘patriotic army generals’ to act against politicians.

There may be many complaints against politicians and the democratically elected government of Pakistan. Some of them may be justified as well. But there are also many ways of dealing with these complaints, and a return to military rule is certainly not one of them. Matters can be raised in parliament and dealt with in a democratic manner. One fails to see the hurdle in following such a course when the party in question is part of the ruling coalition in Sindh and at the Centre.

Experience has demonstrated beyond any doubt that army takeovers were rationalized on the pretext of eliminating corruption but they only aggravated the state of affairs.

As for the need to demolish the bastions of federalism, the feudals survived long periods of military-backed dictatorships and a fresh dose of this medicine is unlikely to affect their health. Pakistan will be able to rid the curse of feudalism only when the people’s genuine representatives can democratically come into power.

Not that there ever would be a good time to make demands like that, but they are all the more mischievous, unwelcome and entirely inappropriate at a time when the country is devastated by its worst natural disaster in living memory. The army should indeed be complimented on playing an active role in flood relief as much as any individual or organization should be for doing their job.

The ‘chequered history’ of Pakistan that the respected politician refers to is chequered in no small part because of the military rulers’ constantly denying the mandate of the people. The change that ‘Pakistan desperately needed’ is not from civilian rule to martial law but for persistence with democratic governance. Pakistan simply cannot afford another hiatus in the democratic process.”

 
Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

HRCP condemns denial of relief to Ahmedis

Lahore, August 20: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious concern over the murder of two Ahmedis in the last three days and over reports of denial of shelter to members of the Ahmedi community displaced by massive floods in South Punjab, and has called upon the government to take urgent measures to ensure there is no discrimination on the basis of belief and that assistance and protection are not denied to a community that faces specific threats. In a statement issued on Friday, HRCP said:

 “The unrelenting targeted killings of members of the Ahmedi community by extremists is a poor reflection on the State’s obligation to protect the lives of all subjects. This week, the murder of an Ahmedi in Sanghar and another, a doctor, in Karachi only highlights the impunity the perpetrators of such heinous crimes enjoy. Only bringing the culprits to justice and promoting tolerance in society would bring an end to these senseless killings and would give the Ahmedi community confidence that they can lead peaceful lives as equal citizens of Pakistan. The HRCP is also shocked by reports that government officials and local clerics have refused to provide shelter to around 500 flood-affected Ahmedi families from Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh and Rajanpur districts.

 The Commission has noted with extreme concern reports of lack of provision of relief goods to the flood-affected Ahmedi families, expulsion of displaced Ahmedis from a government school in Dera Ghazi Khan and from rented lodgings elsewhere in South Punjab following clerics’ pressure as well as the issuance of edicts by clerics that the affected Ahmedis must not be provided help. HRCP reiterates the urgent need for distribution of relief goods and extension of other support to the affected people without any discrimination on the basis of faith or gender. The fact that the Ahmedis are a vulnerable community on account of their religious beliefs must lead to specific assistance and protection measures for them, including protection of their lives and property.

 The extensive scale of displacement and destruction by the massive floods has understandably stretched the resources of the government to their very limits. However, it is hoped that whatever little is available from any source will be distributed among those in need without discrimination on the basis of religious belief. It would be a greater tragedy than the devastation caused by the floods if the people cannot find enough humanity and compassion in their hearts to rise above personal biases to help without distinction fellow human beings that are in desperate need of help.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

Pakistan: URGENT-Shirkat Gah Appeals for Support in Relief Work

Pakistan is facing yet another emergency situation due to severe flooding caused by heavy rainfall which, according to UN reports, has directly affected fourteen million people so far. Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre (SG), Pakistan, is actively engaged in providing and coordinating relief to those affected across Pakistan through its partner community based organizations in synchronization with all three Shirkat Gah offices in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.

We would like to appeal to all to help us in raising funds. Your contribution will be highly appreciated and will be used to set up medical camps and purchase goods necessary for immediate relief such as food items, medicines, cooking utensils, clothing and shoes (the latter two items can also be donated to Shirkat Gah Offices). The funds will later be used for the particular needs of communities based on a reassessment of the situation.

Click here for Complete details
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
International Solidarity Network
www.wluml.org
wluml@wluml.org

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE – COMUNICADO DE PRENSA

10 August 2010 – IMMEDIATE

FIJI: Jurists welcome dismissal of charges against leading human rights lawyer
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) in a joint statement
today welcomed the permanent stay of all charges against leading human rights advocate and ICJ
Commissioner, Imrana Jalal. Presiding Justice Priyantha Fernando dismissed the charges, related to the
licensing of a restaurant she operated, as improperly formulated and legally unfounded.
“This case should never have been initiated. It was politically motivated and aimed at intimidating a
prominent human rights defender who had been critical of Fiji’s current interim government,” says Wilder
Tayler, ICJ Secretary General.
“The prosecution of this case sends a chilling message to other human rights defenders. It is now time for
the prosecutors to accept the decision of the court as well as to affirm its commitment to the rule of law and
human rights”, said Francesca Boniotti, Director General of ASF.

The ICJ and ASF, issuing their statement following an observation of the pre-trial arguments in the case,
highlight that the FICAC, the country’s anti-corruption body, initiated the prosecution, which concerns a
minor regulatory matter unrelated to corruption normally handled by the local City Council. A magistrate
involved in the case was dismissed two days after raising questions as to the propriety of FICAC’s
jurisdiction. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (“DPP”) then took over the prosecution and
applied to have the matter transferred from the Magistrates’ Court, which deals with less serious offences,
to the High Court, which generally takes jurisdiction over serious crimes. In this way, the prosecution
effectively transformed a civil misdemeanor into a number of offences, including criminal offences carrying a
penalty of imprisonment.

Imrana Jalal and her husband were charged personally with criminal offences on the basis that they were
the directors of the corporation that owned the restaurant, even though the corporation was never given a
chance to plead to the regulatory offence or pay a relevant fine, as is the normal course when restaurant
licensing infractions are prosecuted in the city of Suva. Again contravening usual practices for offences of
this nature, strict bail conditions, including travel restrictions, were imposed on Imrana Jalal.
The ICJ and ASF note that all indications suggest that Justice Fernando acted impartially and
independently in making his rulings. However, the attempt by the authorities to abuse the judicial system
highlights the continuous concerns over the corroded state of the rule of law in Fiji, following the abrogation
of the Constitution in April 2009 and the summary dismissal of the entire judiciary. Since April 2009, legal
remedies against the State and judicial review of executive action have been virtually eliminated by a series
of executive decrees. The powers and competencies of the law society as a professional regulatory body
have been removed. Human rights defenders, and in particular women human rights defenders, as well as
lawyers and members of the media perceived to be critical of the Government, have been subject to
reprisals, including threats, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, and/or dismissal from State
employment.

The ICJ and ASF consider that the independence of the judiciary and legal community in Fiji remains
gravely threatened. It is imperative that the Government take unequivocal steps to restore the rule of law
and the independence of the legal system if it is to emerge successfully from the present crisis. In this
regard, the ICJ and ASF call on the Government to accept the outstanding request for an invitation from the
Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and to issue an invitation to the Special
Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.
For further information, please contact:

ICJ – Erin Shaw (Bangkok) at +66 2 619 8477 (erin.shaw@icj.org)
or Gerald Staberock (Geneva) at +41 22 9793803 (gerald.staberock@icj.org)
ASF – Francesca Boniotti (Brussels) at +32 (0) 2 223 36 54 (fboniotti@asf.be)

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JOINT STATEMENT BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF JURISTSAND AVOCATS SANS FRONTIÈRESWELCOMING THE PERMANENT STAY OF ALL CHARGESAGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER IMRANA JALAL

10 August 2010

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) welcome the ruling on Friday, 30 July 2010 by Justice Priyantha Fernando in the High Court of Fiji to permanently stay the remaining charge under local business licensing regulations against prominent human rights lawyer and advocate, Ms. Imrana Jalal. The high profile manner in which Ms. Jalal was criminally prosecuted for what are normally minor civil charges raised concerns internationally that she was being unfairly targeted by the interim government for her outspoken criticisms of its legitimacy and human rights record.

Justice Fernando adhered to professional standards and ensured procedural fairness in hearing the arguments by both Ms. Jalal’s legal representatives and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and also acted properly in applying the law to dismiss all charges against Ms. Jalal. Given strong indications that this prosecution was politically motivated, the ICJ and ASF call on the Director of Public Prosecutions to accept Justice Fernando’s decision and refrain from launching an appeal.

Ms. Jalal is currently serving her first term as a Commissioner of the ICJ, following her election in 2006 to the 60-member body of eminent jurists from around the world. She is well known internationally for her work and advocacy in support of the rule of law and human rights in Fiji and throughout the Pacific region. Ms. Jalal was also a Commissioner of the Fiji Human Rights Commission until she resigned following the coup d’état in May 2000. She has publicly criticised the military administration in Fiji and the erosion of the rule of law in the country, despite the personal risks in doing so.

Justice Fernando’s rulings in this case serve as a positive sign that judges continue to act with impartiality and integrity in Fiji. However, the ICJ and ASF are concerned that the overall environment for the rule of law and independence of the judiciary remains dismal, having deteriorated following the December 2006 coup and the decision by the current interim government to rule by executive decree after the unlawful decision on 10 April 2009 to abrogate the Constitution and dismiss the judiciary.

Procedural History

In January 2010, the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) charged Ms. Jalal with seven counts of breaching local business licensing regulations and disobeying lawful orders to cease illegal operations of a restaurant, based on conduct allegedly occurring between June 2008 and June 2009. In December 2009, the FICAC had lodged similar charges against Ms. Jalal’s husband, Mr. Sakiusa Tuisolia. Ms. Jalal and Mr. Tuisolia were the directors of the company that owned the Suva-based restaurant, though Ms. Jalal was not actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. Unusually, the corporate owner of the restaurant was not given the opportunity to resolve the matter through the payment of a fine to the municipal council.

The charges against Ms. Jalal were originally brought before the Magistrates’ Court. However, in February 2010, the FICAC successfully applied to the Magistrates’ Court to have the matter transferred to the High Court of Fiji, and for the prosecution to be transferred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The FICAC charges essentially transformed minor civil misdemeanours into serious criminal offences carrying penalties of imprisonment. The cases against Ms. Jalal and Mr. Tuisolia were consolidated into one matter.

In June 2010, Ms. Jalal’s legal representatives made an application to the High Court of Fiji to permanently stay all of the charges against Ms. Jalal and her husband on the grounds that they were bad in law because they were doomed to fail. Therefore, the judge held that it would be an abuse of the Court’s process to allow a prosecution to continue on such charges. On 19 July 2010, Justice Fernando made his initial ruling that six of these charges would be permanently stayed as they were subject to certain time limitations and thus statute-barred, and a prosecution should have first been brought against the company which owned the restaurant. Ms. Jalal had never been served with a notice to cease operations of the restaurant and could not have disobeyed a lawful order of which she was unaware. Following this ruling, the one remaining charge against Ms. Jalal was for operating a business without a licence. This is a regulatory offence that carries a

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maximum penalty of twenty Fijian Dollars, plus four Fijian Dollars per day in the case of a continuous offence. Against Ms. Jalal’s husband, this charge and one count of giving false information to a public officer remained.

On 22 July 2010, the Director of Public Prosecutions applied to amend the remaining charge against Ms. Jalal and her husband to include an additional seven-month period in which the defendants were alleged to have operated the restaurant without a licence. In response, Ms. Jalal’s legal representatives argued that such an amendment was improper because it sought to include a period of time that had previously been stayed by Justice Fernando in his initial ruling, and was subject to a limitation period. In a second ruling on 30 July 2010, Justice Fernando upheld both of these submissions and stayed this charge against Ms. Jalal and Mr. Tuisolia.

All charges against Ms. Jalal have now been dismissed. Mr. Tuisolia still faces a separate charge of giving false information to a public officer in a case that is scheduled to proceed to trial in September 2010.

Malicious Prosecution

The ICJ and ASF consider that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the prosecution of this matter was politically motivated and that, in other common law systems, it would be considered a malicious prosecution. The permanent stay granted by Justice Fernando of seven charges indicates that the prosecution against Ms. Jalal was an abuse of process because the charges were bad in law. Given that the charge against Ms. Tuisolia stems from the same underlying facts as the charges that have already been stayed, the ICJ and ASF are concerned about the motivation behind the continued prosecution of this charge, as well as its evidentiary foundation.

The FICAC is mandated under s.2A of the FICAC Promulgation No. 11 of 2007 to investigate and prosecute offences relating to corruption. The offences prosecuted in this case were regulatory offences, not in any way related to corruption. Yet they were prosecuted as serious crimes, carrying a potential prison sentence. When the charges against Mr. Tuisolia were first brought before the Magistrates’ Court in December 2009, Magistrate Mary Muir queried the basis on which FICAC was prosecuting minor local authority misdemeanours. She suggested that it was outside FICAC’s jurisdiction and a matter for the Suva City Council. Two days later, Magistrate Muir’s contract was terminated.

Businesses in Suva are typically allowed to operate pending the granting of a business licence by local council authorities. On the few occasions when such matters are prosecuted, they are handled by the local council and resolved by the payment of a small fine, usually paid by the corporate owner where one exists. For example, on the same day Ms. Jalal first appeared before the Magistrates’ Court, a similar regulatory infraction was resolved in the Magistrates’ Court with a fine. We were unable to find any other similar regulatory case which was prosecuted by either FICAC or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions before the High Court of Fiji.

The prosecution of this matter has imposed significant legal expense and exacted an emotional toll upon Ms. Jalal and her husband. Ms. Jalal is required to travel extensively outside Fiji for her human rights work, but was placed under strict bail conditions throughout the prosecution of this matter which required her to deliver her passport to the High Court registry and to file a formal motion and affidavit notifying the Court each time she travelled abroad. We understand that such strict conditions are highly unusual in a case that is essentially a regulatory matter.

Also unusual was the high level of Government attention and resources devoted to prosecuting this case. For example, during oral arguments on the stay application on 2 July 2010, the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions himself was present to assist the prosecutor, despite the fact that far more serious criminal cases were being heard in other courts that same day. We note that the UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors require prosecutors to “perform their duties fairly, consistently and expeditiously, and respect and protect human dignity and uphold human rights, thus contributing to ensuring due process and the smooth functioning of the criminal justice system”. Those guidelines also state that prosecutors “shall not initiate or continue prosecution, or shall make every effort to stay proceedings, when an impartial investigation shows the charge to be unfounded”.

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We urge the Director of Public Prosecutions to take the measures necessary to uphold these principles. In this particular case, he should refrain from appealing the rulings of Justice Fernando as this would unnecessarily prolong these abusive charges.

We consider that Ms. Jalal was singled out for prosecution on serious charges that were legally unsound in order to punish her for her criticism of Fiji’s military regime. The ICJ and ASF are concerned by the interim regime’s strategy of prosecuting Ms. Jalal on charges related to the licensing of a restaurant, giving it the appearance of normality and lawfulness. This strategy tends to obscure the true dimension of the prosecution, serves to discredit Ms. Jalal and reduces international attention to the prosecution.

Rule of Law in Fiji

The trial of Ms. Jalal must be understood in the broader context of ongoing attacks against critics of the interim regime since the December 2006 coup, and the overall deterioration of the rule of law in Fiji. On 10 April 2009, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo dismissed the entire judiciary and abrogated the 1997 Constitution after the Court of Appeal held that the December 2006 coup was unconstitutional. Since April 2009, the interim regime has ruled by executive decree.

The ICJ and ASF recognize the fact that some of the decrees issued by the interim regime have brought Fijian law into line with international standards, over the past year, including, for example, new criminal provisions to bring Fijian law into line with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. However, the overall trend during this period has been a significant erosion of the rule of law and weakening of the institutional independence of the Fijian judiciary. Public Emergency Regulations have been in force continually since April 2009, severely restricting the exercise of human rights including freedom of expression and association, in contravention of international standards. For example, the Regulations have been used to require that government censors approve all print media stories before publication, and to require that groups wishing to organise a meeting of three or more people first obtain a permit to do so. The Regulations also permit the discretionary use of force by security officials, while providing for civil and criminal immunity even where the use of such force causes harm or death, in violation of the right to life and the right to an effective remedy. A series of decrees have been issued preventing any legal challenges to any decrees made by the President since April 2009 or to executive decisions. As a result, judicial review of official action has been replaced by personal appeals to powerful individuals for relief. In some cases, where money judgments had already been issued against the State, certificates have been issued by the Chief Registrar halting recovery of monetary relief.

A new Media Industry Development Decree has recently come into force which requires all organisations that disseminate information to the public, including NGOs, to adhere to strict content guidelines and, if required by the Executive, to gain government approval prior to publication. Publication of information not in the public or national interest or which creates “communal discord” is prohibited and information may be censored prior to publication on the basis it may give rise to “disorder”, promote “disaffection or public alarm” or “undermine the Government and the State”. Organisations subject to the Decree may also be required to disclose the identity of their sources, which may affect the willingness of victims of human rights violations to approach such organisations. Human rights defenders and others are also concerned that statements they make criticising the legitimacy of the regime or its actions may be deemed by the Government to fall within a broadly worded category of seditious offences under the new Crimes Decree, which are punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment.

In this context of widespread media censorship, restrictions on civil society activity, the prohibition of judicial review of executive discretion, human rights defenders and lawyers who have publicly criticised the legitimacy of the regime have been subjected to unlawful violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, harassment and intimidation. Professional disciplinary proceedings also appear to have been brought in order to harass and punish critical lawyers. Government bodies and public enterprises may no longer engage two prominent law firms that have criticised the lawfulness of the Government’s actions and members of the private Bar fear State retaliation should they exercise their right to peaceful, public dissent. The restrictions on freedom of expression create a pervasive feeling of vulnerability because individuals believe that no one will find out if they are treated unlawfully by the State. At the same time, the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution and the effective elimination of remedies against the State through a series of executive decrees, including the elimination of judicial review, prohibitions on court actions against State bodies or officials, and the removal of the power of the Human Rights Commission to consider the legality of

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Presidential decrees or receive complaints against such decrees, leaves individuals largely without domestic legal recourse.

Women human rights defenders and lawyers such as Ms. Jalal have attracted particular attention for their outspoken criticism of the Fijian interim regime, placing them at greater risk of reprisal or attack. International experience demonstrates that women human rights defenders often provoke a particularly hostile response because their activities often run counter to social norms and the beliefs of individuals in positions of power and authority as to women’s status and role in society. In addition to the criminal charges against her, Ms. Jalal has previously been subjected to gender-specific harassment when, after expressing opposition to the military coup, she was told to “shut up” and threatened graphically with rape in December 2006.

The ICJ and ASF are concerned at the lack of independence in the legal system since April 2009 that may enable inappropriate prosecutions such as that against Imrana Jalal. Following the dismissal of judges in April 2009, the procedures for appointment, tenure, and dismissal raise serious concerns for the independence of the judiciary. The exclusion of judicial review impedes the function of the judiciary in administering justice and protecting of individual rights. The role and competencies of the Law Society, too, have been eroded The ICJ and ASF consider that there is an obvious lack of confidence in the legal system and a wide perception that it is subject to undue executive influence, including by the military. We consider that urgent steps are thus needed to restore the independence and credibility of the legal system.

The case against Ms. Jalal appears to be an attempt to intimidate others from exercising their human rights. The ICJ and ASF, therefore, remain concerned about the situation of human rights defenders, particularly women human rights defenders, lawyers, members of the media and others who criticise the legitimacy of the interim regime or its actions.

We encourage the interim government to give full effect to the commitments that it made as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. In particular, we underscore the importance of issuing an invitation in response to the request to visit Fiji made by the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers in May 2009. We will also continue to follow up with other UN Special Procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, to ensure that ongoing scrutiny of the human rights situation in Fiji is a priority in international fora.

Ultimately, the ICJ and ASF consider that an unequivocal recommitment to the judiciary, with full institutional guarantees of its independence and the restoration of judicial remedies, as well as the maintenance of an independent Bar and Human Rights Commission are required. Restoration of the rule of law and renewal of confidence in the legal system in Fiji are necessary if Fiji is to emerge from the present crisis.

International Commission of Jurists Avocats Sans Frontières asbl
33, rue des Bains, P.O. Box 91 Rue de Namur 72
1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +41(0) 22 979 3800 Tel: +32 (0)2 223 36 54
Website: http://www.icj.org Website: http://www.asf.be
E-mail: info@icj.org Email: info@asf.be

HRCP urges world to help Pakistan cope with flood devastation

Lahore, August 10: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the United Nations and other aid and humanitarian organisations to support Pakistan in meeting the needs of millions of people affected by country’s worst ever floods as well as reconstructing the entire infrastructure of the flood-hit areas.

In a statement issued on Tuesday on behalf of the HRCP chairperson, vice-chairpersons and members of the Board, the HRCP “called upon the United Nations, and other international aid and humanitarian assistance organisations to pay urgent attention to the assistance needs of around 14 million Pakistanis devastated by a calamity acknowledged to be more severe in scale than the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined”.

“After three weeks of deadly floods and with 13.8 million people affected already, the scale of the tragedy engulfing Pakistan is only beginning to emerge. It is far too early to even assess the damage and needs of the affected people in many areas, such as Swat where rescue workers have so far been unable to reach up to 600,000 stranded people.

Internal displacement has occurred at a large scale and an estimated 300,000 houses have been washed away.
The HRCP is highly concerned about the situation of the affected population, which is in urgent need of life-sustaining support. The authorities are still struggling to cope with emergency response. It is getting clearer by the day that Pakistan’s capacity to help the affected population has been seriously jeopardized by a lack of financial resources, extensive destruction of infrastructure and the sheer scale of devastation wrought by the floods. The human casualties may have been fewer in comparison with the October 2005 earthquake, but critical food needs, displacement in oppressive heat and humidity and threats of outbreak of diseases loom large amid large-scale destruction of the health infrastructure in large swathes of the country.

Immediate interventions are needed to limit further loss of human life. The rescue work and delivery of emergency food, medical supplies and other assistance to those in need is the first and the most urgent challenge. The country needs urgent assistance not only during the ongoing rescue and emergency response phase but also for rescue equipment, housing needs of the affected population, and reconstruction of the decimated infrastructure.

Lessons from the 2005 earthquake and other disasters before and since must serve as a reminder that failure to respond to the crisis in an expeditious and appropriate manner would lead to militant groups filling the vacuum in the provision of assistance and using that to increase their support and further their agenda.

The HRCP also calls upon the government of Pakistan to ginger up its response to the massive crisis and take every possible step to make certain that the aid is delivered to the needy at the earliest and that all possibilities of misuse of funds are blocked.”
 
Dr Mehdi Hasan
(Chairperson)

On behalf of vice-chairpersons and members of the HRCP Board

HRCP slams attacks on the media

Lahore, August 9: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned Sunday’s attacks targeting cable operators’ offices, blocking of telecasts of a couple of TV channels and snatching and burning of copies of newspapers in parts of the country.

A statement issued by the Commission on Monday said: “HRCP unreservedly condemns the attacks on cable operators’ offices in Karachi and other efforts to block broadcasts of a couple of TV news channels, burning of copies of newspapers snatched from vendors and efforts to prevent distribution of newspapers.

HRCP may not be able to join those who are gloating over the hurling of shoes at the country’s president and it has its own views on the continuance of unseemly partisan politics even as the country is devastated by the worst flooding of its history. However, the Commission cannot but condemn any form of interference with the media’s freedom of expression in as strong words as possible. Besides, such actions are always counterproductive. The government must take to task all perpetrators of Sunday’s attacks and back up its professions of commitment to freedom of media by taking resolute action to end harassment of journalists, cable operators and newspaper vendors.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson