Targeted Killings in Karachi

Press Release, 9 June 2009

Karachi: In a statement issued on Tuesday 09th June 2009, HRCP Vice-chairperson (Sindh) Ghazi Salahuddin has expressed deep concern over the alarming rise of violence in Sindh that is highlighted by the latest spate of targeted killings in Karachi. Following is the text of the statement:

At a time when the nation’s attention is focused on the counter-insurgency operation of the armed forces in northern areas and on the massive humanitarian crisis that it has spawned, a virtual breakdown of law or order in Sindh, particularly in Karachi, is a matter of deep concern for all law-abiding citizens. An environment of fear and insecurity that this situation has caused is generating lack of respect for basic human and democratic rights of the people.

Karachi has always had a potential for violence and disorder, a potential that has been expanded by poor governance and political expediencies. The present situation has been in the making for some time and it is disquieting to see that parties that are together in the ruling coalition have also been engaged in bitter rivalries that have exacerbated tensions and emboldened armed political/criminal factions.

The inability of the provincial administration to enforce rule of law and protect life and property of the citizens has raised the level of anxiety and uncertainty to an extent that the entire social equilibrium of the society is threatened. As for targeted killings in Karachi, apparently old rivalries and some new developments are involved. The complexity of this situation demands a combined effort on the part of all political and ethnic and linguistic factions to protect peace and social harmony in the city.

One measure of the gravity of the law and order situation in Karachi is that the number of political activists killed in the first week of this month has exceeded 35. It is extremely worrying that killers, who tend to appear suddenly, riding motorbikes, in often congested localities, are not apprehended by law enforcement agencies. This failure calls for a new strategy to reverse the rising tide of violence, with the sincere involvement of the political as well as the administrative arms of the provincial government.

Ghazi Salahuddin

Co-Chairperson

HRCP Sindh Chapter

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HRCP for a crash plan for IDPs

Press Release, May 07

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the federal government to immediately set up a special task force to implement a crash plan for extending relief to the large number of people displaced in the ongoing conflict in the country’s northern part. In a statement issued today, the commission said:

The plight of the people displaced from their homes in Swat, Dir and Buner as a result of militants’ activities and the security forces’ operations against them is getting more and more serious day by day. The number of these IDPs may soon touch a million mark. The circumstances in which these unfortunate people have been forced to abandon their homes have made it impossible for them to find succour on their own. Many among them, from barbers and musicians to teachers and lawyers, lost their means of income weeks and months ago and are now in dire straits. Their needs for relief are both urgent and substantial.

HRCP believes the NWFP government’s plan to set up six camps in Swabi will not touch even a fringe of the problem. The matter is clearly beyond the provincial government’s means and capacity. The federal government must take matters into its hands and set up a special task force manned by people skilled in relief work. Since the number of IDPs is likely to grow it is necessary to draw up a master plan for looking after them in the days and weeks ahead. The civil society organisations also must rise to the occasion and convince the innocent victims of conflict that they are not going to be abandoned.

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

April 13 a day of ignominious capitulation: HRCP

Press Release, April 14

 

Lahore: The way the National Assembly resolved to back the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation for Malakand Division on Monday does no credit to the House, and the day will be remembered for the state’s humiliating submission to blind force, a statement by HRCP said on Tuesday.

 

The Commission said, “The reservations of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation for the Malakand Division apart, the manner the resolution relating to the subject was adopted in the National Assembly cannot bring any credit to the House.

 

Making all allowances for the circumstances, in which a desperate government was seeking survival through surrender to militancy, no one except a lone member of the PML-N, noted journalist Ayaz Amir, had the courage to speak honestly and directly about the situation, while members of the MQM at least maintained consistency in resisting bigotry. What is amazing is that no reference was made to the impact of the measure on women, children, minorities and the prospects for rule of law in the embattled Malakand Division. Even if the party chief whip had ruled out the possibility of criticising the measure, expressing concern over the threat to fundamental rights should not have been an utterly hazardous undertaking. What use is increased representation of women in parliament if they cannot squeak even in matters of life and death to them? Whatever may happen to the repeatedly abandoned people of Pakistan, 13th of April 2009 will only be remembered as a day of ignominious capitulation to brute force.”

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

HRCP seminar concludes Pakistan and Taliban cannot co-exist

Press Release, April 5

LAHORE: The people of Pakistan cannot accept peace at the cost of surrendering citizens’ rights to militant groups, a seminar organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Sunday observed. It concluded that Pakistan and Taliban cannot co-exist.

The speakers at the seminar, “Militancy in FATA and Swat: Impact and remedies”, said that the militants in Swat and FATA were not all indigenous. Militants from other parts of the country and foreigners were imposed on them. They emphasised that in Swat conflict could be over soon if the government and the military were determined and sincere. However, they said that such determination and sincerity were not in evidence. They said the military operation in Swat had been a failure and had only caused large-scale suffering and displacement for the civilian population.

They said that the government had failed in its primary responsibility of protecting the lives, liberty and property of citizens.

Speakers hailing form Swat and the tribal areas said that the militancy had spilled over from those areas and now the whole of NWFP was at its mercy.

They said that alienation had grown among the residents of the affected areas, who think that there is a lack of care in addressing their suffering.

They said the militancy will spread to all parts where there was a lack of governance and failure to implement rule of law and constitutional guarantees. Pakistan’s Northern Areas, could be the next target.

All speakers vehemently criticised the so-called peace deal struck with militants in Swat and emphasised that it was regrettable that a government bargained with such elements who had no respect for basic rights. They highlighted that even though the residents of Swat have suffered the most at the hands of militants, not a single person from Swat had been consulted before striking a deal. They said the contents of the “peace deal” violated the constitution and law of Pakistan.

Speakers from the tribal areas said the State had left the citizens and armed private lashkars to shoulder the responsibility of law and order and confront the militants. This has also increased militarisation of society, which will further disturb peace.

They said even though the legal vacuum in their areas had not caused the militancy, it had certainly been used as a justification to give militants a foothold in the area. They added that laws allowing collective punishment in FATA had no precedent in the civilised world.

The speakers unanimously agreed that the ideas of Taliban and the people of Pakistan were incompatible. They urged the government to ensure that Pakistan’s interest takes precedence in Islamabad’s dealings with other partners in the so-called war on terror and come up with a comprehensive policy to ensure that security is not achieved at the cost of sovereignty or human rights.

The role of the media in glorifying militants was criticised and the importance of calling a militant a militant was emphasised.

Speakers included Asma Jahangir, Iqbal Haider, Sher Muhammad Khan, Kamran Arif, Waseem Shah, Zarteef Afridi, Ihsanullah Afridi, Shaukat Saleem and Zainul Abideen.

Afzal Khan Lala addressed the seminar on phone from his native Swat, which he has refused to abandon in the face of extremist threats.

I. A. Rehman

Secretary-General

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

Terrorism a threat to existence of Pakistan: HRCP Council

Lahore, September 23: The Council (governing body) of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has issued the following statement after its two-day session in Peshawar:

The HRCP Council welcomes the departure of the military leadership from the Presidency and the filling in of parliament and key public offices by people’s elected representatives. This marks only the first step towards establishing a democratic order in accordance with the wishes of the people. The concentration of power in the hands of any single individual never bodes well for democracy or a just dispensation. Now there is an urgent need for building and strengthening institutions of governance so that a democratic culture takes root in the country. The supremacy of the parliament needs to be strengthened, the judiciary has to be made truly independent and effective and the Election Commission must be transformed into an autonomous, and multi-member institution.

Lack of good governance causes increased impoverishment of the people, and allows lawless elements to wreck havoc with the rights and interests of the people.

HRCP welcomes the Sindh government’s initiative in including landless women among those entitled to receive land grants. It calls upon the government to make good its promise of abolishing the death penalty and reviving student and trade unions in the real sense of the term.

The Council is deeply worried that an increase in the incidents of terrorism and the devastation caused by them and the spread of militancy have blocked the country’s way to progress and the entire population seems to have been taken hostage. The government of Pakistan must realize its duty in guaranteeing the citizens security of life, liberty and property. This will essentially require a comprehensive strategy which must include sharp intelligence, appropriate use of force, timely political intervention and above all due respect for human rights in the conflict areas. While use of adequate force may often be necessary to counter the wave of violence unleashed by the terrorists, yet it must conform to human rights standards in terms of justification and appropriateness. In particular extrajudicial killings, torture and disproportionate use of force must be avoided at all costs and in all situations. Above all, every effort must be made to prevent harm to innocent and unarmed civilians.

Terrorism is surely a threat to the very existence of Pakistan and must be collectively challenged by all political elements and sincerely backed by the security forces if the country is to overcome this ultimate peril. The recent attack on Marriott Hotel in Islamabad is one serious example in which many innocent people lost their lives. In the conflict zones in Swat and FATA this is a regular feature. The disruption of electricity supply in Swat accompanied by scarcity of water and edibles has made the life of the people incredibly unbearable. So far, the government’s plan of action, if there is one, does not inspire confidence. HRCP finds the government’s crude claims of having saved the lives of the country’s leadership in bad taste. Such statements only reflect officials’ lack of sensitivity and maturity.

The government has not taken any notice of incitement to violence against religious minorities through popular media. This not only adds to the growing sense of vulnerability among the minorities, but has also resulted in several wanton killings.

The issue of enforced disappearances cannot be allowed to hang fire and the democratic government must release all missing persons, or disclose their fate and whereabouts.

The government is yet to put in place implementing legislation to ensure that a human rights treaty it ratified and two others that it signed earlier in the year become legally enforceable in Pakistan.

Above all, HRCP earnestly pleads for abandoning ad hoc relief measures in favour of properly thought out strategies to fight poverty, hunger and joblessness.

Issued on behalf of HRCP Council members

By Asma Jahangir

Chairperson