Attacks on journalists expose intolerance, Swat truce: HRCP

Press Release, February 19, 2009


LAHORE: The murder in Swat of journalist Musa Khankhel hours after his abduction on Wednesday dampens the unreasonably high expectations of peace after a truce called between the government and local militant groups, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.


The murder also exposes risks to free expression in the restive region, HRCP said. At the same time, an attack on SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam in Lahore, also on Wednesday, reveals the extent of intolerant attitudes in the rest of the country, the Commission said in a press statement on Thursday.


The statement said: “Journalists have frequently faced violence in the tumultuous Swat region. However, Khankhel’s murder became the first violation of a truce between the government and militant groups. Ironically, the journalist was covering a ‘peace march’ led by the local militant leader’s father-in-law when he was taken away.


The president and prime minister have expressed grief and ordered an investigation. But this must go beyond political statements. The government must look more closely at its new partners in ‘peace’, who have been consistently accused of large-scale and unusual savagery and destruction, of which there has been abundant evidence and media coverage. It is that independent coverage that Khankhel’s murder aims to prevent. The government must ask itself if it is negotiating with a party that has the ability or willingness to deliver on its promises.


Khankhel’s brutal murder has understandably shaken journalists in the Swat region. The warning could not have been any clearer for them.


Mercifully, Mr Imtiaz Alam escaped serious injury in the attack in Lahore. However, the incident exposes the threat intolerance and militancy pose to free expression across the country.


The government must act swiftly to bring the perpetrators in both cases to justice and protect journalists working in Swat and the rest of the country.”


Asma Jahangir


HRCP lauds WPAF organizers for persisting with event

Press release, November 24


LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has applauded the World Performing Arts Festival (WPAF) organizers for the fact that they continued with the festival despite a series of blasts close to the venue on Saturday.


In a statement on Monday, the Commission said: “The HRCP applauds the WPAF organizers for going ahead with the festival’s concluding ceremony and for not bowing to extremist element’s pressure and threats of sabotage.


Credit is also due to the government for improving security for the last day of the event. The HRCP believes that militants must not be allowed to kill the spirit of the people, which has been very much central to such entertainment and cultural activities, especially in Lahore.


The society and the silent majority must assert itself by coming together and exposing militant and extremist elements as the miniscule minority that they represent. It must also deny them the space they seek to create by resorting to threats, intimidation and other pressure tactics.”


Asma Jahangir


HRCP wants GCU-students row resolved quickly

Press Release, November 3, 2008


LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged immediate resolution of the current dispute between the Government College University (GCU) administration and protesting students, against two of whom cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) had been lodged.


In a statement issued on Monday, the HRCP said: “While the HRCP wishes that the disagreement between the GCU authorities and the students had not taken the turn it did assume, it finds there is much to be said on both sides. The action taken by the administration was clearly not the only one available, nor was it the most appropriate choice. However, this in no way suggests that truancy and indiscipline among students should be tolerated or the academic tradition of any institution violated.


HRCP is relieved to note that the matter is moving towards a resolution now and emphasises that it should be resolved forthwith.”


Iqbal Haider

Co-chair, HRCP

HRCP expresses support for the Long March

Press Statement, 6 June 2008


Karachi: Co-Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Senator (R) Iqbal Haider, has expressed wholehearted support of HRCP to the lawyers movement for restoration of the judges, independence of judiciary & rule of law. He has assured the lawyers community of participation of HRCP, its office bearers & members in the “Long March” of the lawyers from Multan to Islamabad, for achievement of the said noble causes, which are imperative for the protection of the human rights and national interest.


Mr. Haider stated that there is no tenable reason or justification for connecting the restoration of the judges of the superior courts and their Chief Justices with the Constitutional Package.


Mr. Haider emphasised that the delay in restoration of the judges as was committed by the Shaheed Chairperson, Muhtarma Benazir Bhutto as well as in the Murree Declaration, is not in the interest of the country or of the ruling coalition parties, because this delay is promoting unrest and uncertainty in the country and jeopardizing & harming functioning, image and credibility of the Federal Government and its coalition parties. The Government should realize the importance of this issue and the earlier the judges are restored unconditionally, the better it would be for the coalition partners in the Government, as well as in the interest of the people.


Senator (R) Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairperson

HRCP strongly condemns police violence on a peaceful demonstration at Justice Rana Bhagwandas residence

PRESS RELEASE, January 14, 2008

Karachi: In a joint statement issued to the press Mr. Iqbal Haider, Secretary General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Ms. Zohra Yusuf, Vice Chairperson, HRCP strongly condemned the police violence against peaceful demonstrators, gathered outside the residence of Justice (R) Rana Bhagwandas, to launch their protest against his undeclared house-arrest.

It was shocking to note that, violating all norms of decency, male policemen misbehaved with women demonstrators, baton-charged male activists and arrested 08 of them.

On the evening of January 13, 2008, protesters belonging to civil society groups gathered outside the residence of Justice (R) Rana Bhagwandas situated in Block-A, in the Clifton police’s jurisdiction and started lighting candles to symbolize their protest. In the meantime, a heavy contingent of police reached the spot. Suddenly, all the streetlights were switched off and police arrested 8 civil society activists, including Mr. Kamran Noorani, Mr. Salahuddin Ahmed, Mr. Naveed Noshad, Mr. Danish, Mr. Muhammad Faisal, Mr. Syed Mustafa Rizvi, Mr. Zafar Aslam and Mr. Asad Umar. They were thrown into the waiting police mobile vans after a brief scuffle with women protesters. They were taken to Darakhshan Police Station while an FIR # 13 / 08 was registered in Clifton Police Station U/S 147 and 148. After five hours of detention, all were released on bail on personal bonds.

HRCP holds the provincial authorities fully responsible for the brutal police action against peaceful demonstrators.

HRCP demands that all politically motivated cases be withdrawn, against the activists of civil society who were exercising a democratic right through peaceful means.

Iqbal Haider
Secretary General
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Zohra Yusuf
Vice Chairperson, Sindh

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan