HRCP Condoles Death of Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed

Council Members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan express their deep sadness at the passing away of Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed on 18 April. He was a founder member of HRCP and its first Vice Chairperson for Sindh. As a Council Member, Mr. Ahmed remained deeply committed to HRCP and contributed greatly to the causes and issues addressed by the Commission. He resigned from HRCP after being appointed as a judge of the Sindh High Court in 1997. Justice Sabihuddin was elevated to the position of Chief Justice of Sindh and was recently made a judge of the Supreme Court. He was among the judges who refused to take oath under the PCO in 2007.

 

Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed gave several judgments strengthening the principles of human rights and bringing relief to the aggrieved. In a landmark judgment in 1997, for the first time in Pakistan’s judicial history, he ordered the payment of monetary compensation to a detenu in a habeas corpus petition. In January 2009, he ordered the release of haris who were in detention. As a noted lawyer, he was always available to advise various NGOs working for the promotion of fundamental rights of citizens.

 

In his death, the country has lost a compassionate human being and a firm believer in the principles of justice and rule of law. 

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

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Judges’ restoration a good first step: HRCP

Press Release, March 16, 2009

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has welcomed the restoration of judiciary as a first step towards strengthening democracy and rule of law and said the people of Pakistan have sent a clear message that they will not settle for a sham democratic process.

A statement issued by the Commission on Monday said: “The HRCP welcomes the restoration of superior court judges and congratulates lawyers, the civil society, political parties – including the Pakistan People’s Party – and above all the people of Pakistan, who again demonstrated their ability for a worthy cause whenever they found one. We wish Monday morning’s decision had been taken earlier. Still the announcement revealed the difference of approach between a military regime and a civilian democracy. This is a clear message from the people to leaders of all political parties that they will not settle for a sham democracy.

However, this is merely the first step. Real challenges now begin and the people expect that they will get not only an independent judiciary but also justice. This will not come about automatically but will require some doing. The people also expect that the restoration of judges will ensure the rule of law and independence of judiciary and also that the parliament will make earnest efforts to save the judiciary from the harmful effects of politicization.

The HRCP has all along been concerned about the lack of independence of the Election Commission and of a satisfactory mechanism for the appointment, tenure and terms of service of members of the superior judiciary. An independent Election Commission is crucial for the democratic system to go forward in a smooth and non-contentious manner. Similarly, mechanisms for appointments and accountability of judges must enjoy the confidence of the legal fraternity and the people. The people expect speedy progress on federation-making, guarantees of provincial autonomy and priority to economic concerns of the people, specially their need for relief from unemployment and poverty. In addition, just as people from all schools of thought had come together for the cause of the judiciary and democracy, the people expect all political parties to get together to promote democratic governance and improve the level of social justice in the country.”

Asma Jahangir Chairperson

Stop this madness, says HRCP

Press Release, March 13

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly condemned the use of force on peaceful lawyers and political workers, specially the violence that resulted in serious injury to Ms. Musarrat Hilali, and has called upon the authorities to stop their mad operations. Ina statement today, HRCP said:

The words of sane counsel, offered from both domestic and international, quarters has had no effect on the government’s power-crazy establishment. Not only lawyers and their supporters are being denied their right to freedom of movement, those joining peaceful processions are being subjected to violence. Neither women nor senior citizens are being spared. HRCP strongly condemns the use of brute force on Ms Musarrat Hilali, not only because she is HRCP vice-chairperson for Frontier province but also because she is a widely respected advocate and has done a lot for the have-nots in Peshawar and across the country. The police had no right to break into her house and intimidate and abuse her family members. In the climate of terror created by the so-called law-enforcing personnel Ms Hilali got her leg fractured. The administration cannot absolve itself of this barbaric act. Similar reports of house gates being pulled down at night in a bid to arrest MPAs, and other political workers have been received from many towns in Punjab and Sindh. This madness must stop and civilized ways found to defuse the situation that is threatening Pakistan’s most vital interests. All those taken into custody must be released forthwith and the police firmly warned against violating the peaceful citizens’ basic rights.
Iqbal Haider
Co-chairperson

Pakistani: Stop violence and repression against activists!

FIDH Press Release on Long March
Pakistani: Stop violence and repression against activists!

Paris, March 12, 2009: The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses its concern regarding the wave of violence and arbitrary arrests that marked the long march that started today. Organized across the country by lawyers and opposition groups, the march intended to end with a sit-in in front of the Parliament in Islamabad, calling President Asif Ali Zardari to fulfill a pledge to reinstate all judges sacked under former President Pervez Musharraf.

According to the information received, the days before the march, government forces conducted raids and arrested opposition members, including members of the country’s lawyers’ movement. Following the raids, many opposition politicians and party leaders went to hiding. Protesters led by lawyers and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif call for judges sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf to be reinstated. Chief among the lawyers’ demands is the restoration of a former chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Today, the Pakistani police in Karachi used sticks to attack protesters outside the high court, as lawyers began an anti-government protest march. Dozens of demonstrators were arrested: more than 400 opposition activists in the past few days, according to officials. The opposition claims over 1000 arrests. The repression was aggravated with the authorities’ decision to ban political gatherings of four or more people at one time, under Section 144 in Sindh and Punjab provinces. The ban was allegedly extended today to the whole country for security reasons, in order to avoid bloodshed.

FIDH calls upon the Pakistani government to respect the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), signed by Pakistan, and release immediately all activists arbitrarily arrested, including lawyers and members of the opposition. “Pakistan has long experienced serious human rights violations under the regime of General Musharraf. It’s time to genuinely promote the rule of law and to ensure that the rights of citizens are fully respected ” said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen.

Background information:

The arrests and rally come as Pakistan teeters on the edge of political instability following last month’s Supreme Court of Pakistan ruling that barred Sharif and his brother from holding elected office based on a past criminal conviction. The Supreme Court’s controversial decision followed continued turmoil over the country’s judiciary, which has further ruptured relations between PML-N and Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), formerly coalition partners. Opposition groups and lawyers have been mobilising support for the four-day march on Islamabad since the court ruling on 25 February and tensions are high as the country’s political and economic crisis is deepening in a volatile context of several attacks by extremists groups in parts of the country and the practical handing over of power to the Taliban in Swat in the Frontier province.

The statement is also online at http://www.fidh.org/_nouveautes.php3/IMG/article_PDF/spip.php?article6415

HRW- Pakistan: Free Detained Opposition Activists

For Immediate Release

 

Pakistan: Free Detained Opposition Activists

Curbs on Freedom of Assembly Should Be Revoked

 

(New York, March 11, 2009) – The government of Pakistan should end its crackdown against activists of opposition groups led by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Human Rights Watch said today.

 

Since March 10, 2009, authorities have detained at least 300 activists from the opposition party and affiliated groups from across Punjab province, the party’s stronghold. Scores of opposition politicians are in hiding, fearing arrest. The activists have been detained under various provisions of the Maintenance of Public Order Act or simply detained without charge.

 

“It’s a disgrace for elected officials to mimic the discredited military government by using old and repressive laws to stifle political expression,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The protesters who were arrested should be freed right away and allowed to demonstrate peacefully without fear of violence or arrest.”

 

Supporters of the party, headed by the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, are being arrested to prevent them from converging on the capital, Islamabad, for a “sit-in” in support of the restoration to office of Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the Supreme Court chief justice who was illegally fired in November 2007 by Pervez Musharraf, then the country’s military ruler.

 

The Punjab and Sindh provincial governments have imposed a discredited colonial-era legal provision, section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which bans gatherings of four or more people, to prevent the protest march to Islamabad. The Punjab police, acting on orders from the provincial government, have set up police checkpoints and roadblocks across the province.

 

Pakistan has been gripped by a political crisis since February 25, 2009, when the country’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling that banned Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections because of a previous criminal conviction. The court also disqualified Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, from continuing as the chief minister of Punjab province.

 

Nawaz Sharif declared “rebellion” against the government and vowed to force a resolution of political disputes “on the streets” at a rally in the city of Lahore on March 5. Along with lawyers seeking the reinstatement of Chaudhry, Sharif announced a protest march to Islamabad, scheduled to arrive in the city on March 16 and culminating in an indefinite sit-in until Chaudhry is restored to office.

 

Human Rights Watch said that by placing curbs on the rights to peaceful assembly and association, Pakistan’s government was making use of the same authoritarian tools it had decried when in opposition.

 

“Pakistan’s transition to democracy is imperiled by the government reacting to a political dispute with unnecessary force,” said Hasan. “Regardless of political differences, rights-respecting leaders don’t lock up people for trying to participate in their country’s political process.”

 

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Pakistan, please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/en/asia/pakistan

 

For more information, please contact:

In Lahore, Ali Dayan Hasan (English, Urdu): +92-300-842-5125 (mobile)

In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-79-0872-8333 (mobile)

In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin): +1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)

Govt adopting dictatorial ways: HRCP

Press Release, March 11, 2009

 

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed dismay at curbs on freedom of assembly, arbitrary arrests and harassment of lawyers, political figures and civil society activists ahead of the lawyers’ long march.

 

In a statement issued on Wednesday, HRCP said: “A wave of indiscriminate arrests has been reported from across the country ahead of the long march. Such arrests, snatching and placing of containers on roads, and imposing curbs on the right to peaceful assembly are measures disturbingly similar to the path military ruler Pervez Musharraf had taken against dissent and peaceful protest. The government is abusing legal process to prevent the people from exercising their democratic rights.

 

There is no justification for the government’s undemocratic decision to impose Section 144 curbs on the right to assembly and unleash a spate of arrests and harassment against lawyers, political workers and civil society activists. In Punjab, the enforcement of Section 144 restrictions has compounded the already tense situation created by the imposition of governor’s rule.

 

All the marches, rallies and protests of lawyers in the past two years have been peaceful without exception. The government, therefore, has no justification in preventing gathering of lawyers.

 

Indiscriminate actions – such as arrest and confinement in police stations of people like Tahira Abdullah, an HRCP board member – are hardly a distinction for a government that prides itself at being democratically elected.

 

The government’s resort to ways of authoritarian regimes has cancelled out whatever goodwill it had achieved by not interfering with the lawyers’ long march last year.

 

The government’s action is undemocratic, counterproductive and will only fuel confrontation. Whatever the outcome of the present protest, the government’s reckless policy is posing a grave threat not only to the democratic experiment but also to the state’s integrity.

 

There is still time for the government to give up the policy of conflict and defuse tensions by accommodating the demands of lawyers, ending governor Raj in Punjab, and allowing the Punjab Assembly to exercise its right to elect its leader.

 

The government must release all the detainees and desist from impeding in any way the people’s constitutional right to peaceful assembly and protest.”

 

 

Iqbal Haider

Co-chairperson

Mobile courts will disrupt judicial order: HRCP

Press release, March 2

Lahore: The manner in which the federal government has decided to launch mobile courts will lead to disruption of judicial order and widespread resentment, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

A press statement issued by HRCP on Monday said: “Both the timing and manner of promulgating an ordinance to establish mobile courts raise grave concerns. There is no valid reason why the government chose to introduce the measure through a presidential ordinance a day ahead of the current National Assembly session. Such brazen-faced tricks to bypass the parliament always invite doubts on government’s bona fides. It is impossible to ignore the timing of the measure, amid protests by the PML-N against the court verdict disqualifying its leaders and ahead of the lawyers’ long march. If it is meant to pre-empt protests and demonstrations it will only fuel more. Such shortsighted measures would achieve little other than further undermining public faith in the judicial order and increasing credibility gap between the public and the government and it is all the more important to avoid them amid the prevailing confidence deficit and political turmoil.”

Asma Jahangir , Chairperson