HRCP plea for security for non-Muslims in Balochistan

Lahore, January 19: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has asked the Balochistan government to address concerns of members of non-Muslim communities residing in Balochistan regarding growing incidents of abduction of non-Muslims in the province.

According to a press statement issued on Wednesday, HRCP has conveyed to Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani the concern among non-Muslim communities in the province over the recent increase in abductions of non-Muslims there.  The latest incidents include the abduction of Mr Maharaj Lakhmigar of Qalat on December 21, and of Mr Rajeev Kumar from Noshki on January 10. HRCP said that several other incidents of abduction of non-Muslim citizens in Balochistan had also been reported in the media in the last few months.

HRCP said that while those abducting Mr Lakhmigar had asked for his community to raise funds for his release, without mentioning any amount, the abductors of Mr Kumar had not contacted the family so far. “The families of the abducted individuals are obviously in great mental agony and fear for their safety. This spate of abductions has also increased a sense of insecurity and vulnerability across the non-Muslim population in the province,” HRCP said.

“Balochistan has long enjoyed considerable reputation as an area where non-Muslims have lived in relative peace and safety. No effort should be spared to ensure that that reputation remains untarnished,” HRCP said, requesting the chief minister to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to allay the fears of non-Muslim citizens in Balochistan and restore a sense of security among them.

Dr Mehdi Hasan

Tunisia: Authorities must protect the civilian population and establish the rule of law

The ICJ today called on the Tunisian authorities to take immediate measures, compliant with human rights, to protect the civilian population against ongoing attacks, including extrajudicial killings. Most of the attacks are believed to have been carried out by the Presidential guard, other services of the Tunisian police, and militia loyal to former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Twenty-three years after the coup that brought former President Ben Ali to power in November 1987, a popular revolt against repression, corruption, and unemployment began in mid-December 2010 after an unemployed university graduate set himself on fire after police seized his vegetable cart. At least 100 people were reportedly killed during these protests in the cities of Tunis, Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Thala, and Regueb. The former President fled to Saudi Arabia on 15 January.

“Tunisian authorities must ensure that those responsible for firing live rounds into crowds and the continuing attacks against the civilian population are held accountable,” said Saīd Benarbia ICJ Legal Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa programme. “Under international standards, law enforcement officers must use force proportionally and may use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect lives,” Benarbia added.

Under Ben Ali’s regime, dissidents, human rights defenders, independent journalists, lawyers and judges were subject to arbitrary arrests, heavy surveillance, harassment, physical assaults and unfair trials. On 10 January, Ben Ali vowed to crack down on the demonstrators calling them “terrorists”.

“Tunisian authorities must release all persons detained arbitrarily, including for political reasons, and ensure that those who were forced into exile because of their political activities can freely return to Tunisia,” said Benarbia. “Restrictions on the freedom of expression, association and assembly must immediately be repealed,” he added.

During the events, many Tunisians have expressed publicly their grievances and their aspirations for a democratic government that guarantees the rule of law and protect the human rights.

“Tunisian authorities bear responsibility for upholding Tunisia’s international legal obligations and respecting international human rights and rule of law standards,” said Benarbia. “To this end, they should ensure free, transparent and fair elections with the participation of all political actors and parties, in line with the commitment announced to hold elections within six months.  They should also fully investigate all incidences of alleged extrajudicial killings with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international fair trials standards,” Benarbia concluded.

For more information, please contact Saīd Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Legal Adviser, at + 41229793817

HRCP grieves passing of Minhaj Barna

Lahore, January 15: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grief at the passing of Minhaj Barna, veteran journalist and a leading member of journalists’ trade unions.

A statement by the Commission said: “HRCP is shocked and grieved at the passing of Mr Minhaj Barna, a former president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and All Pakistan Newspaper Employees’ Confederation (APNEC). His services for the promotion of freedom of expression and the economic rights of the journalist community can never be forgotten. Mr Barna was also one of the founder members of HRCP and remained a steadfast defender of people’s basic rights all his life. HRCP extends heartfelt condolences to the late Brana’s daughter and other members of his extended family.”

Dr. Mehdi Hasan

HRCP wants journalist’s killers brought to justice

Lahore, January 14: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed sorrow and alarm at the murder of TV journalist Wali Khan Babar in Karachi and demanded a full investigation to bring the killers to justice. A statement issued by the Commission on Friday said: “HRCP is grieved and alarmed at the murder of yet another journalist in Pakistan.

We express our condolence to the family and colleagues of Wali Khan Babar, who was shot and killed in Karachi in what could only be described as premeditated murder. That Babar was the second Pakistan journalist killed in 2011 underlines the great challenges and perils Pakistani journalists continue to face on a daily basis. Pakistan was declared the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2010 by international media advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists.

All indicators suggest the dismal trend will continue. While the motives for Babar’s murder are yet to be established, any hope of finding and bringing to justice his killers depends entirely on the importance the government attaches to investigating the murder fully. Otherwise, the long record of impunity for those killing and assaulting journalists in Pakistan seems set to continue. At least seven other citizens also lost their lives in the latest spree of violence in Karachi on Thursday. More killings were reported in the city on Friday. This recurring pattern of death is a stark negation of the most basic of rights that the state is under an obligation to protect. The state needs to take a long, hard look at its shortcomings in crucial areas even in the country’s main cities, particularly in Karachi, and share with the people its plan to improve the situation.

The task of the law enforcement agencies must be more than merely delivering dead bodies and injured to hospitals and claiming to be on high security alerts after the fact.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan

HRCP condoles murder of Justice Iqbal’s parents

Lahore, January 12: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed deep shock and grief at the murder of parents of Justice Javed Iqbal, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, and condemned the killing as “absolutely unconscionable”.

A statement issued on Wednesday said: “HRCP is shocked at the brutal murder of Justice Javed Iqbal’s aged parents in a locality that is considered safe from criminal activities. We condole with the bereaved family. HRCP would not like to comment on the motives behind the absolutely unconscionable killing until the matter has been thoroughly investigated. However, if there is even the slightest indication that this is some kind of a message to the judiciary, that would be an even more sinister incident than the ghastly murders.

The incident only underlines the state of disorder and lawlessness and the extent of perils to life and liberty even in the country’s main cities. Such incidents strain the people’s sense of patriotism to the breaking point and cast doubts on the government’s ability and entitlement to rule. Mere apprehension of the culprits would not do. The people must be given due assurances that guarantees of life and liberty are more than mere words.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan