HRCP against Encroaching personal freedoms

Press Release, July 17, 2009

LAHORE,: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemns the government’s move intended to use state power to prosecute and punish certain kind of messaging through cellular phone networks and content on the websites and calls upon the government to withdraw such measures and desist from introducing any law to this effect.

The HRCP statement said:

In recent days, federal government representatives have expressed the government’s intention to introduce a law to prosecute and punish people who indulge in certain kind of messaging (SMS) through cellular phone networks.

The government has announced that messages containing any content against the state or immoral material would be punishable under the law. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan views proposed measures with concern and as an intrusion into the personal liberties of citizens. The government seems to be embarrassed by criticism of certain government officials and policies and actions in the messaging of the people on cell phones and blogs on websites and intends to muzzle the people’s voice by curtailing their freedom of expression.

The Commission is of the view that this is not the way to persuade people to respect a government which does not earn this status by its deeds. The Commission also believes that the recent modification in the government’s stance that the law would be directed against those who speak against the state and not against those who only attack the government is meaningless because in Pakistan the government has often been treated as the state.

The Commission demands of the government to stay away from enforcing any legislation to this effect which will not only be violation of people’s human rights but hamper the nascent democratic process in the country.  The HRCP is of view that the new means of electronic communication pose a challenge to all governments and societies and a way will have to be found to deal with the explosion of communication without encroaching upon personal freedoms.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

HRCP urges security for Bugti’s niece

Press Release, April 29

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the president of Pakistan and the Punjab chief minister to ensure that Samia Mazari, a niece of Nawab Akbar Bugti and mother-in-law of Brahamdagh Bugti, is provided protection against harassment by intelligence agency operatives.

In letters addressed to President Asif Ali Zardari and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, HRCP has drawn attention to Ms. Mazari’s harassment at the hands of intelligence agency members who have been following and harassing her in Lahore and have threatened to kill her.

The letter urged the president and the chief minister to take prompt action “to ensure that Ms. Mazari’s security is guaranteed and that she is not harassed merely because of her relationship with a person about whom somebody in government may have unfavourable ideas”.

I.A. Rehman

Secretary General

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 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