HRCP demands independent inquiry into extrajudicial killing in Swat

Press Release, 17 August 2009

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has rebutted the denial of extra-judicial killings by security agencies in Swat operation by ISPR’s Swat Media Centre and has demanded of the government to hold a transparent and impartial inquiry into this issue by a multi-party parliamentary committee in collaboration with the representatives of the civil society.

In response to ISPR’s statement published in a section of the press on August 16, a statement issued by the HRCP said on Monday: “The Commission reiterates that it has come across credible accounts of extrajudicial killings and complaints of reprisal attacks by the security forces during the operation in Swat.

Some of the better known instances include the death of militant leader Maulvi Misbahuddin –credible evidence shows he had been 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 for 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.

In its statement the ISPR has conceded the presence of mass graves in the conflict-hit area. However, HRCP believes that this is not enough and the government must conduct a transparent inquiry into this issue to ascertain the circumstances under which the bodies were buried. The military cannot simply explain the existence of these mass graves by alleging that the bodies were of militants buried by other militants. HRCP has knowledge of other versions to the contrary. HRCP suggests that a multi-party parliamentary committee should be formed to conduct an inquiry into this issue as well as into the reports of extrajudicial killings to which HRCP will extend its cooperation.

HRCP also demanded of the government to clarify whether the government considers it as an internal law and order situation on which human rights are applied or does it treat it as an armed conflict that comes under humanitarian law.

HRCP will be happy if an impartial inquiry proves that extrajudicial killings did not take place in Swat but this sensitive matter cannot be disposed of through off-the-cuff statements by intelligence agency’s denial-writers.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

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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

 

Avoid War Hysteria

From South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) network

Dated: 05-01-2009

 

There are times like the present, when truth must be told to powers, however, unpalatable it may be, and however one may be viciously misunderstood. But nevertheless speaking has to be done because in times like this, to keep silent is a sin and to speak is a duty.

 

There was justifiable anger, anguish at Mumbai Terrorist attack; and indignation at Pakistan government refusing to even acknowledge that terrorists came from Pakistan added to serious Indo-Pak tension. The instant denial by Pakistan that its territory had been used by LeT connected terrorists could, though regretful would have been allowed to pass. One could understand Pakistan denying that ISI had any hand in it – but to have gone to the shameful length of suggesting that Mumbai attack was a ‘ploy of India’ or was stage managed by India government not only by those in government, but even in media & disappointingly even by some of those who have been part of third track group, was indeed shocking and hurtful to friends of Pakistan in India.

 

Similarly the reaction of sober Indian government ministers openly suggesting that India was prepared to take any options, (impliedly even war) so egged on by media and rival political establishment was certainly regretful and not a sign of mature statesmanship.

 

The situation has got further heated up by the irresponsible and provocative suggestion of BJP President Raj Nath Singh that India could consider the option of military blockade of Karachi and Indian Government should take international community into confidence and persuade the launch of joint military action under UN Security supervision against the terrorists in Pakistan.  The provocative speech of the BJP President has been allowed to quietly pass off not only by the party but even the media at large, because somehow an atmosphere is being created where to call for restraint and dealing with sanity Indo-Pak relations is considered anti-patriotic. 

 

Equally irresponsible and provocative and no doubt instigated by unworthy consideration of political one man up ship was statements by Digvijay Singh, General Secretary of the Congress and Jaiswal, Minister of State for Home, who both boasted publicly that Mumbai terrorists had demanded the release of the hostages but the Government of India had rejected it, unlike yielding by the BJP Government in the Kandhar episode.  But soon thereafter they had to eat their own words because neither the Maharashtra Government nor the Central Government accepted its truthfulness.  The irresponsible and shamelessness of such provocative remarks, specially by Jaiswal, Minister of State for Home in the Central Government ( who is expected to know better provided of course if he is attending to his job) taking an indefensible plea of relying on non existent media story, beats all limits.

 

Similar unfortunate and indefensible attitude was reflected in the public stand of Pakistan President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, who instead of accepting the obvious proof of Pakistan territory having been used by the terrorists, chose to deny it and raising war cries instead. And this inspite of U.S.A. media saying that FBI has accepted the conclusion of Indian authorities that Mumbai Massacre shows the involvement of Laskar, its leaders Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, who are based in Pakistan. It would be understandable if Pakistan government was to deny the involvement of I.S.I. (India may have felt saying “tell that to marines”; but could have lived with these normal diplomatic cover ups). But Pakistan must at least accept that what it describes as non actors (including Kasab, the terrorist held by India) are from Pakistan. This will immediately reduce the mutual tension and one upmanship by India and Pakistan. The further question whether these terrorists in Pakistan should be handed over to U.S.A. (because amongst killed were USA nationals) or to India or Pakistan will try them itself are though important but still secondary question. This approach by both the countries would have immediately dispelled the clouds of danger of war. But sad that both the countries are willing to hold closed door conferences with U.S.A. but not even official open business like meetings with each other. This is cliff hanging game and puts both the countries in danger of becoming surrogates of U.S.A. Imperialist design.

 

Unfortunately saner counsel in India in coming under pressure by the nearness of General Elections to the Parliament which are to be held by May at the latest.  I feel that if further downward slide in Indo – Pak relations is to be avoided it is essential that General Elections be held, if possible, in February but the latest by the first week of April.  I say this because it is now commonly accepted that because of the nearness of the General Elections, parties otherwise sober become the victims of “vote bank politics” as pointed out by our Prime Minister in his recent Bhim Sen Sachar Memorial lecture in December, 2008 – in fact the Prime Minister has commendably made it absolutely clear “that there was never a question of war, but only of terrorism”. Should not President Zardari, Nawaz Shariff reciprocate the agony of India and help to defuse the warlike tension being builtup in India and Pakistan, and horror of horror, both countries may become victims of unintended war like the First World War started, just because some mischief maker shot down the Prince of Austria.

 

However it is somewhat of a relief to know the welcome news that India and Pakistan, only a few days back exchanged a list of their nuclear facilities – a further reiteration of President Zardari speech that Indo – Pak dialogue can ease tensions shows recognition of stark truth that military confrontation can have disastrous consequences for the region.

 

I feel that both government should immediately allow TV, Radio channels to operate freely in both the countries. The people at large should know that apart from hawkish governments posture, there are innumerable seasoned sensible leaders, organizations in both countries who do not approve of their respective governments stand. Overwhelming number in both the countries realize the disastrous consequence of Indo – Pak war. Let this silent majority be allowed to interact with each other – may be in a little short time people to people contact between the two countries be allowed as of before – because this alone will act as impregnable shield against the vagaries and moods of hawks in both the countries.

 

Rajindar Sachar

New Delhi, India

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.

HRCP urges mechanism for accountability of ISI

Press release, November 25 

 

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has welcomed government’s announcement of disbanding the political wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but urged putting in place a mechanism to hold the intelligence agency accountable.

 

A statement issued by the Commission on Tuesday said: “The HRCP welcomes the government’s move to disband ISI’s political wing and must stress that the measure was long overdue. However, official action to control the agency’s activities must not stop there, especially in view of its widely criticized role in enforced disappearance among other illegal practices. The HRCP implores the government to ensure that there must be a law under which the ISI operates. The government should also put in place a procedure to allow accountability of the agency’s actions in a transparent manner by parliament.”

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

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 delegation met with the Chief Minister of Sindh

HRCP delegation met with the Chief Minister of Sindh

 

HRCP has been holding consultations on human rights issues confronting the country. With a new democratically elected government in power, HRCP believes it is time to share concerns and proposals with political leaders.

 

Therefore, a delegation of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan headed by Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairperson HRCP, comprising of Uzma Noorani, Asad Iqbal Butt, Sindh Council Members of HRCP, and Ejaz Ahsan, Program Coordinator, HRCP had a meeting with Mr. Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Chief Minister of Sindh at CM House on June 5, 2008.

 

HRCP delegation shared a copy of policy statement of HRCP on critical issues of human rights, for the consideration and support of PPP leadership . This policy statement was adopted by the General Body at HRCP’s Annual General Meeting held recently.

 

CM promised moving necessary resolutions and bill for legislation wherever required, for expeditious implementation of the recommendations of HRCP on human rights issues.

 

HRCP also expressed concern over marrying off 15 under-age girls to settle tribal dispute through a jirga held in Chach village, Kashmore-Kandhkot and demanded that the provincial government take immediate action against all those responsible for the illegal and inhuman decisions and ensure immediate release of the minor girls.

 

Iqbal Haider also presented the recently published, Annual Report of HRCP “State of Human Rights in 2007” to the CM.

 

Policy Statement of HRCP Continue reading