Cosmetic changes won’t resolve militancy: HRCP

Press Release, July 21, 2009

Lahore: While welcoming the return of the Malakand IDPs to their homes as a positive development, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has warned the government that no cosmetic shift in the security policies will solve the crisis of militancy and that efforts in a new dimension will be needed to achieve that end.

Based on the conclusions of a quick fact-finding mission to the Frontier province, led by Ms Asma Jahangir, the HRCP statement issued on Tuesday said:

“The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is monitoring the gradual return of the IDPs from Malakand Division to their homes. This is a positive development and gives peace a chance. It also presents a brief window of opportunity for reversing the trend towards Talibanisation but this opportunity may be lost if a cohesive policy is not adopted and civilian infrastructure not put in place, an infrastructure that can sustain peace.

It is important to recognise the collective role played by the humanitarian agencies as well as the civilian and military administration in making the early return of the IDPs possible. Even more crucial to this turn of events was the exemplary behaviour of the displaced people and their local hosts. The displaced people found their own way to safety under extremely tough conditions and are now making their way home on their own. They have little faith in the government and there is a serious deficit of trust between the local population and the military.

In order to build trust as well as to sustain peace HRCP believes that the government must take a new direction. There was near unanimity amongst official and non-official interlocutors that met with HRCP during their missions to Pakhtoonkhwa (NWFP) that any cosmetic shift in the security policies of the government will not solve the crisis of militancy in Pakistan.

HRCP believes:

* It is crucial that the policy of “bleeding India” and maintaining a strategic depth in Afghanistan be reviewed. In short, the national security paradigm must shift to the need to keep pace with the political realities of the region. There are indications that this has so far not happened.

* The government must distance itself from the ideology of pan-Islamism.

* The nucleus of the top militant leadership must be taken apart and their communication and financial infrastructure dismantled. There are no indications that this has happened either. On the contrary, there are well-founded suspicions that certain elements known for their pro-Taliban policies continue to protect a number of top militant leaders.

* The operation in Malakand Division must not lose sight of the strong militant presence in FATA. Peace will not return to Swat unless militant networks in FATA are defeated.

* Simultaneous action must also be carried out against all militant networks in other parts of the country, particularly the Punjab, where militants operate with impunity.

* The civil and political administration must take command on the ground in Swat soon. There is a comprehensive plan of recruiting and equipping the police force in Pakhtoonkhwa. The number of police stations in the Malakand Division is to be doubled and the police force tripled. It appears that the civil administration is also preparing a comprehensive plan for better governance in the province. The resources provided to them will, however, be monitored by a serving army general on behalf of the Federation. The Awami National Party leaders plan to visit Swat on a regular basis now but almost all IDPs resented the bunkerisation of the political leadership while they faced all the risks and tragic deaths of their families.

* Access for independent journalists and observers to the area must be ensured. So far, the military has only encouraged embedded journalism to an embarrassing extent. At times local journalists have openly raised slogans in support of the military. Foreign journalists have accused the authorities of misleading them by giving false names of the places they were taken to for reporting. There are several reports of reprisals against journalists by the militants as well as by the security forces.

* Human rights violations should be closely monitored both during and post-conflict. HRCP was appalled at reports of extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces. Militant leader Maulvi Misbahuddin was apprehended by the security forces and later the bodies of Misbahuddin and his son were found in Bacha Bazar. The government claims that they were killed in an encounter while eyewitnesses hold that they were arrested by the police in Mardan. Amir Izzat, spokesperson of the Swat militants, was arrested from Amandara. Two days later the authorities claimed that Izzat was killed allegedly by militants trying to rescue him when they attacked the vehicle taking him to jail. Independent journalists claim that the targeted vehicle shown to them did not even have an engine. The most harrowing reports were of dead bodies strewn upside down by the military with notes attached to the bodies warning that anyone supporting the Taliban will meet the same fate. There must be a difference between the actions of agents of the State and those of fanatical non-state actors. Such tactics only terrorise and dehumanise society. HRCP urges the government to impart training to the security forces and familiarise them with human rights and humanitarian law. HRCP has also received credible reports of the security forces resorting to collective punishments, forcible occupation of orchards and the use of indiscriminate and excessive force.

* All human rights violations during the conflict must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice. There are reports of reprisals which can only be discouraged if the State fulfills its obligation of providing justice through due process.

* HRCP has received reports of children abandoned during the conflict being handed over to dubious NGOs. It is vital that the provincial government keep track of the adoption of every single child and ensure that children are reunited with their families or are looked after by well-intentioned groups.”

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

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HRCP questions voluntary nature of refugees’ repatriation

Press release, 24 June 2009

Lahore: The repatriation of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan does not meet the required standard of voluntarism deemed mandatory by international refugee law, a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

The report entitled ‘Push Comes to Shove’ – whose publication coincided with the World Refugee Day, June 20 – studies the trends and patterns of repatriation of Afghan refugees through 2007 and 2008 to determine whether the process was voluntary.

The study conducted by HRCP’s Peshawar chapter says that even though many Afghan refugees in Pakistan signed up for repatriation, large numbers did so not because they thought that it was safe to return, but because they believed they had no choice in the matter.

Refugees interviewed from camps slated for closure spoke of harassment by police, lack of security, basic infrastructure, education, health and livelihood opportunities in Afghanistan as the main reason for their hesitation to return.

All Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan were required to leave by the end of 2009. Those living in camps slated for closure could opt to relocate to another camp. An overwhelming majority of refugees declined relocation to another camp, not because they were keen to return to Afghanistan but said they would not want to be uprooted again when the December 2009 deadline arrived. That deadline has now been extended to 2012.

According to the report, outside the camps slated for closure, “an environment of persecution and intimidation was created by checking movement of refugees and harassment at the hands of police. In camps, houses were razed and businesses locked, often resulting in confrontation between the authorities and the refugees.”

Repatriation may be the preferred solution for all concerned but adhering to the principle of voluntarism must not be ignored and the needs of refugees with additional vulnerabilities must be considered, the report said.

“Any attempt to repatriate Afghan refugees must take into account their willingness to return and the conditions back home, especially security and shelter,” it added.

I.A. Rehman

Secretary General

Getting Away With Murder 2009

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA     Phone: (212) 465‑1004     Fax: (212) 465‑9568     Web: www.cpj.org     E-Mail: info@cpj.org

Contact: Meredith Greene Megaw

E-mail: mgmegaw@cpj.org               Telephone:  (212) 465-1004 x105

 

GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER 2009

 

CPJ’s Impunity Index spotlights countries where journalists are slain and killers go free

 

New York, March 23, 2009—The already murderous conditions for the press in Sri Lanka and Pakistan deteriorated further in the past year, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found in its newly updated Impunity Index, a list of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. Colombia, historically one of the world’s deadliest nations for the press, improved as the rate of murders declined and prosecutors won important recent convictions.

 

“We’re distressed to see justice worsen in places such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Our findings indicate that the failure to solve journalist murders perpetuates further violence against the press,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “Countries can get off this list of shame only by committing themselves to seeking justice.”

 

CPJ’s Impunity Index, compiled for the second year, calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population. CPJ examined every nation in the world for the years 1999 through 2008. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on this Index, a threshold reached by 14 countries this year.

 

Iraq, Sierra Leone, and Somalia—countries racked by armed conflict—top the Impunity Index. But most of the list encompasses peacetime democracies with functioning law enforcement, nations such as Russia, the Philippines, and India.

 

Brazil is the sole newcomer to the 2009 index. Although Brazilian authorities have succeeded in prosecuting some journalist murders, those efforts have not offset the nation’s high rate of deadly violence against the press.

 

CPJ began compiling the index in 2008 to raise awareness about a disturbing pattern of impunity in countries across the world. The organization has undertaken a Global Campaign Against Impunity to seek justice in journalist murders, the world’s gravest threat to free expression, and has focused particularly on unsolved killings in Russia and the Philippines.

 

This year’s report is being released in Manila to mark the fourth anniversary of the murder of Marlene Garcia-Esperat, a Philippine columnist who reported on corruption in the government’s agriculture department. Garcia-Esperat was gunned down in her home in front of her family in a case that has become emblematic of the struggle against impunity. Two government officials are accused of ordering her murder.

 

“Philippine journalists are clamoring for justice in at least two dozen unsolved cases, and they need government protection from the murderous thugs who are killing their colleagues year after year,” said Elisabeth Witchel, CPJ’s impunity campaign coordinator. “We call on the Philippine government to take the hard steps needed to gain convictions: assigning sufficient prosecutors and investigators to these cases, moving trials to safe and impartial venues, protecting witnesses, and providing high-level political backing for all of these efforts.”

 

Among the other findings in CPJ’s Impunity Index:

 

  • All of the countries included in the 2008 Index remained on the list this year. Only slight changes were seen in the rankings and ratings of most countries.

 

  • Unsolved murders were reported in both Russia and the Philippines in 2008. Both countries have had stubbornly high rates of impunity in journalist slayings over the past decade.

 

  • South Asian journalists face particularly severe risks. The region’s nations make up nearly half of CPJ’s index. Six are included on the 2009 list: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.

 

  • Even in wartime, journalists are more likely to be targeted and murdered than killed in combat. In Iraq, for example, murders account for nearly two-thirds of all media fatalities.

 

  • Although conditions in Iraq improved in 2008, authorities there have yet to solve a single murder case involving a journalist.

 

  • Worldwide, the vast majority of victims are local reporters covering sensitive topics such as crime, corruption, and national security in their home countries.

 

For a detailed explanation of CPJ’s methodology in compiling this index, click here.

 

THE INDEX Continue reading

CSOs’ Joint Statement

A large group of civil society organisations and concerned citizens of Pakistan have called upon the governments of India and Pakistan both to resist any temptation of violating one another’s territorial integrity. These organizations have demanded that both governments must give priority to: elimination of poverty, provision of food, shelter and jobs to all, ensure security of life and guarantee essentials such as water, gas, electricity and social services. As for terrorism it will be overcome by better understanding and constructive action rather than confrontation between states. The government of Pakistan must no longer stay in a state of self-denial. India too must bear in mind that militant groups and extremists thrive in a state of conflict and polarization. Both governments must sincerely redouble their efforts at addressing the rise of militant groups in the region. This may well be done through the composite dialogue that must be resumed forthwith. At the same time, the joint statement urges the Pakistan government not to miss the opportunity of devising an effective strategy to overcome the menace of terrorism that is posing a greater threat to this country than any other nation.

A joint statement issued by the CSOs says:

We condemn the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai and extend our heartfelt condolence and sympathy to the victim families. Likewise, we condole and sympathize with the victims of terrorism in Delhi, Kabul, Swat, other parts of NWFP and FATA. Pakistan’s civil society is alarmed at the loss of life, denial of education to girls and large-scale displacement of civilians in FATA and Swat. The militant groups are acting without any effective challenge by the government. Regrettably, there appears to be a total absence of a cohesive policy by the government of Pakistan to protect its own citizens or any strategy to challenge militant outfits that operate with impunity within and outside the country.

We regret that the media in both India and Pakistan failed to present the Mumbai outrage in a proper context and, instead, used the event to fuel hostility between the two countries. It aided warmongers on both sides to whip up a war hysteria. Quite ironically, terrorism, which should have brought India and Pakistan together to defend peace and people’s security, pushed them to the brink of a mutually destructive war. Confrontation between these two closest neighbours has never had such a puerile basis.

Mercifully, the tension between India and Pakistan seems to have abated somewhat and this is some relief. But the danger of an armed conflict persists and we call upon both the governments not to take peace for granted. Better understanding and constructive action rather than confrontation between states will discourage militant groups that are growing in strength in both countries. The government of Pakistan must no longer stay in a state of self-denial. It must not miss the opportunity of devising an effective strategy to overcome the menace of terrorism that is posing a greater threat to this country than any other nation. India too must bear in mind that militant groups and extremists thrive in a state of conflict and polarization. Both governments must sincerely redouble their efforts at addressing the rise of militant groups in the region. They need to quickly compose their differences over ways of dealing with terrorism. This could be done through the composite dialogue that must resume forthwith because neither country can bear the cost of keeping defence forces on alert and suspension of normal peacetime duties.

We should also like to caution the government of Pakistan against lapsing into its traditional complacency with the disappearance of the war clouds. Blinking at the existence of terrorist outfits within the country, some open and others disguised, will amount to self-annihilation and greater isolation from the comity of nations. The state’s commitment to root out terrorist groups must be total. It must ensure, as far as possible, that Pakistan is not even accused of allowing cross-border terrorism by any group, alien or indigenous. But everything must be done within the canons of law and justice. Killing of innocents and extra-legal excesses will not end terrorism. They will only fuel it.

Islamabad must also repudiate the suggestion that its firmness in the ongoing standoff with India has contributed to national cohesion, revived the Kashmir issue, and enriched the national coffers. Nobody can forget the cost paid by the country for unity behind Yahya Khan in his war on fellow Pakistanis, for the financial windfall during Zia’s agency for the Afghan war, and for the ‘revival’ of the Kashmir issue through adventurism is Kargil. The hazards of living in a make-believe environment are all too clear.

Success neither in the fight against terrorism nor in defending the nation’s integrity can be guaranteed by arms alone. The way to end the abuse of belief for politics or for terrorism, there being little difference between the two, is going to be long and hard. The task cannot be accomplished without the whole-hearted support of a fully informed and wide-awake society. The returns on investment in people’s food security, education, shelter, health cover, creation of adequately rewarding employment for both men and women and ensuring regular supply of water, gas, petrol and electric power will be infinitely higher than on resources expended on guns and explosives. This can be best achieved through regional cooperation and trade liberalisation.

It is these pre-requisites to national unity, solidarity, and survival that we urge the state to address and the people shall not fail it. Pakistan can beat off all challenges but only through people’s fully mobilized power.

CPJ: U.S. military frees Afghan journalist from Bagram

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465‑1004 Fax: (212) 465‑9568 Web: www.cpj.org E-Mail: media@cpj.org

U.S. military frees Afghan journalist from Bagram

New York, September 22, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the U.S. military’s release of imprisoned journalist Jawed Ahmad from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Sunday, 11 months after he was first detained. But CPJ calls again on the U.S. military to end its practice of holding journalists without charge on an open-ended basis.

Ahmad, 22, was never charged with a crime, and military officials have never explained the basis for his prolonged detention. Ahmad, who is known by his nickname Jojo and also uses the surname Yazemi, does not know why he was freed, according to an interview with the Canadian Globe and Mail. Ahmad worked most recently as a field producer for the Canadian broadcaster CTV and had several other freelance clients in the past.

Ahmad said he was detained at a NATO airfield near the southern city of Kandahar where he worked, after being invited there by someone who said he was a U.S. public affairs officer, according to the Globe and Mail. He was later transferred to the U.S.-operated air base at Bagram, he said. He told the newspaper he was beaten, that two of his ribs were broken, and that he was deprived of sleep.

“We are relieved that Jawed Ahmad has been freed and we wish him the best with his return to work,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator. “But he has lost almost a year of his life being held without charge and says he was brutally treated by his captors. His case adds to the U.S. military’s appalling record of detaining working journalists in conflict zones, without a modicum of due process, based on allegations which are shrouded in secrecy and have apparently proved to be unfounded.”

The U.S. military detained Ahmad on October 25, 2007. CPJ publicized his case after being alerted by Carlotta Gall, The New York Times reporter based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who had worked with him. A Pentagon spokesman told CPJ in February that Ahmad had been classified as an “unlawful enemy combatant” but did not provide information about the allegations or evidence against him.

A statement issued today by Capt. Christian Patterson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said Ahmad had been released because he “was no longer considered a threat.” The statement offered no explanation for the 11-month detention. Ahmad told the Globe and Mail his U.S. interrogators were suspicious of his reportorial contacts with local Taliban. 

CTV News President Robert Hurst issued a statement today to CPJ. “It is startling that U.S. military authorities released Jojo Yazemi on Sunday morning without any explanation about why he was apprehended in the first place and then declared an enemy combatant,” Hurst said. “CTV News is also concerned about his health after he recounted his treatment while in U.S. custody. Our priority now is to get Jojo Yazemi back to Kandahar and reunited with his family.”

CPJ research shows that at least one other journalist remains in U.S. military custody. Freelance photographer Ibrahim Jassam, who was working for Reuters in Iraq, was detained September 2 by U.S. and Iraqi forces; he has not been charged. The U.S. has held dozens of journalists in Iraq, at least 10 of them for prolonged periods, according to CPJ research. Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was released in April after a two-year detention on unsubstantiated allegations of collaborating with local insurgents.  

On May 1, Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was released from the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after six years in detention. Al-Haj, also designated an “enemy combatant,” was never charged with a crime.

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

Bob Dietz  bdietz@cpj.org

Asia Program Coordinator

Madeline Earp mearp@cpj.org

Asia Program Researcher

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Ave, 11th floor

New York, NY 10001

+1 212 465 1004

www.cpj.org

Pakistan must ensure justice to Dr. Aafia; probe her children’s disappearance: HRCP

Press Release, August 12

 

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan urges the government of Pakistan to fulfil its duty of ensuring that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui receives full justice, necessary facilities and immediate medical attention. HRCP demands an official investigation into Dr. Siddiqui’s, and her children’s, disappearance and details of their detention – from the point of being picked up in 2003 till the present. HRCP also emphasises that Dr. Siddiqui should not be repatriated to Pakistan against her wishes and be given the full opportunity to contest her case in the US. The fear is that once she has been repatriated to Pakistan she will be pressurised by the intelligence agencies to maintain silence and she will not be able to secure justice. Though it may be a relief that she has been traced there is no information about Dr. Siddiqui’s children. The government must also disclose the whereabouts of her children.

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been following the case of disappearance of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her three children since early 2003. The information collected by HRCP at that particular time was that in March 2003 Dr. Siddiqui, along with her three children, left her mother’s house in a taxi on her way to the Karachi airport and was picked up by an intelligence agency. What she was accused of when picked up has not been made public. Strangely, the only charge against her is an alleged assault against her captors while in custody.

 

A statement was issued expressing concern on this most heinous violation of human rights and HRCP demanded an explanation from the government. The parents of Dr. Siddiqui were also contacted, who were under sever threat of the intelligence agencies and warned not to speak either to the press or any human rights organization. At one point office bearers of the HRCP contacted the family of Dr. Siddiqui and arranged to meet but at the last minute they expressed their “inability” to see the office bearers despite the fact that the meeting was arranged at their request. Since then HRCP representatives have been in touch with the family and filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court which is still pending. The petition was heard on the 8th of March 2007 and at several subsequent hearings the government expressed their ignorance of the whereabouts of Dr. Siddiqui and her children.

 

HRCP is convinced that Dr. Siddiqui and her three children were picked up from Karachi as is evident from the initial reports and urges the government to now play a positive role in insuring that she gets full justice, fair trial as well as compensation from the government of United States for the mistreatment meted out to her. HRCP appreciates that the Pakistan mission has sought consular access to her yet these belated efforts can only be compensated if the Pakistan government is able to intervene in the courts in the US and submit an honest investigation report

 

HRCP will remain in touch with the legal team defending Dr. Siddiqui and will make all efforts to submit its own reports through her lawyers.

 

The violation of the rights of Dr. Siddiqui and her children, and countless other missing persons, is squarely the responsibility of the government of Pakistan. There is enough evidence indicating that she was initially picked up by the intelligence agencies in Pakistan and therefore it is not only the government of the United States but also the government of Pakistan that must be made accountable for this crime.

 

HRCP fears that the fate of Dr. Siddiqui will be the same as hundreds of others who have disappeared, been tortured and rendered to third countries without following the legal process. Regrettably petitions of hundreds of people in almost similar circumstances are pending in the courts of Pakistan and not in one single case has full justice been delivered. No one has received compensation neither have the perpetrators been brought to justice.

 

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

HRCP urges justice for Dr. Afia and others

Press release, 5 August 2008

 

Lahore: With the US finally admitting custody of Dr. Afia Siddiqi, one of the most brutal cases of suppression of individual freedom has become to unravel, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement on Tuesday.

 

The commission said: Public pressure has at last compelled the United States to admit that Dr. Afia is in their custody.

 

While the Pakistani government has belatedly begun to admit that it had some responsibility towards Dr. Afia, it has a lot of explaining to do as to who had been detaining her and where since she was picked up from Karachi in 2003 along with her three children.

 

To say that she had been taken into custody only on July 21, 2008 is a blatant lie, as transparently ugly as any falsehood can be. The insinuation, that she had been hiding herself since 2003, is a travesty of truth, an affront to people’s commonsense.

 

Dr. Afia’s case is a reminder of the grave injustice done to God knows how many Pakistanis in US detention facilities in Bagram in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and elsewhere, who have been listed as missing.

 

While reminding the government of Pakistan of its duty to trace all people who are reported to be involuntarily disappeared, HRCP calls upon all civil society elements and human rights organizations to make a concerted effort for the release of all missing persons and to ensure that Dr. Afia gets justice, that has long been denied to her and that in a manner no civilized people can condone.

 

Iqbal Haider

Co-chairperson