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


HRCP wants Karachi deweaponised, causes of violence addressed

Press Release, December 1


Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed shock at the loss of life in recent violence in Karachi and urged the government to ensure that the city is deweaponised and no one is allowed to fan ethnic strife there.


A statement issued by the HRCP on Monday said: “The loss of life and property in Karachi in acts of indiscriminate violence in the past two days is truly alarming. Deployment of paramilitary force in the sensitive areas to help control the situation is needed, but such deployment and shoot-at-sight orders do not address the causes of violence. Talibanization is no doubt a serious threat not only in Karachi, but for the whole of Pakistan, however, that cannot be justified as a pretext to fan ethnic violence.


It is shocking and beyond comprehension that some political leaders were urging Karachites to buy weapons. Also disappointing have been the slogans for expulsion from Karachi of citizens from other provinces. The Constitution guarantees every citizen’s right to live in any part of the country, and this right cannot be compromised.


The extent and use of weapons in the hands of non-state actors in the city in the last few days has been horrific. The government should ensure deweaponisation of the city in a truly unbiased manner. The possibility of the government achieving that depends to a large extent on it convincing the citizens of its ability and willingness to protect all so that they need not keep private arms to protect themselves. The significance of impartial action cannot be emphasized enough. Picking favourites must be avoided as that could lead to disastrous consequences.”


Iqbal Haider


Swat: Respect for life first, says HRCP

Press Release, September 25


Lahore: While endorsing the need for using effective force to fight terrorism in NWFP, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the authorities to avoid aggravating the already unbearable plight of the civilian population.

In a statement issued here, the HRCP Chairperson said:


The human rights situation in Swat is alarming and is getting worse every day. HRCP is shocked and grieved at the loss of life as a result of firing by security forces on a crowd that was only drawing attention to their unbearable suffering.


Information available to HRCP reveals that the situation in Swat is harrowing for more than one reason. One the one hand the population is facing a serious threat from militants and on the other hand disruption of electricity, gas and water supply and shortage of edibles have compounded their misery.


While the citizens have to put up with the rigours of extended curfew, at some places round the clock, they must have protection against criminals and lawless elements who appear to be enjoying a free hand. In this situation, the people of Swat’s decision to demonstrate in Mingora is a measure of their courage as well as their despair, for which they deserve to be respected and not fired upon.


The anxieties of the local community have been fueled by reports that the militants have been able to strengthen their domination in the areas falling under the Matta, Khawazakhela and Kabal police stations and that the authorities themselves appear to be skeptical about the outcome of the operation against them. Almost everywhere the people are astounded by the inability of the law enforcement agencies to track the apparently unhindered movement of the militants.


The ordeal of the people can be judged from the killing of at least three individuals, namely Abdul Kabeer Khan, Musa khan and Muhammad Amin for their affiliation to the government. In one case, the victim, brother of a sitting minister, resisted the militants throughout the night and consistently called for help but his cries for help went unheeded. Eventually, he and his family was mercilessly slaughtered. Equally hair-raising is the story of another victim whose child was killed in front of his eyes before he himself was liquidated.


HRCP calls for investigation of such cases and for justice to be done. HRCP has no doubt that such murderous acts do not enjoy any religious sanction and their perpetrators deserve to be dealt with collectively. They are themselves responsible for inviting use of force against them. However, it is necessary to ensure that the cost of operation to the civilian population must be drastically controlled and the needs of the internally displaced persons addressed with diligence and sincerity.


HRCP believes it is certainly time to seek the help of the UNHCR and the ICRC in mitigating the suffering of the displaced people.


This also applies to displaced persons in other parts of the country.


There is no gainsaying the fact that hardship caused to non-combatant population and perception of use of disproportionate force, which targets militants and civilians alike, will create more problems than it solves.


Asma Jahangir


HRCP strongly condemns Rangers brutality on PTCL workers

Press Release, July 16, 2008


Karachi: In a statement issued to the press, Iqbal Haider, the Co-Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) strongly condemned Rangers brutality on a peaceful demonstration of the workers of PTCL, protesting against the Unified Pay Scale Scheme (UPS), outside the PTCL Headquarters, Islamabad on July 15, 2008.   


HRCP would like to know that under what law, the peaceful demonstrators were beaten up, baton charged, and tear-gassed.  HRCP would also like to remind the Government of Pakistan that peaceful demonstrations and raising voice for the rights, are fundamental human rights.


HRCP was shocked to note that instead of sympathizing and helping the working class, listening to their grievances, the administration decided to attack on the peaceful demonstrators.  HRCP was further pained when the elected Federal Government added insult to the injury by stating that Government would not allow the protesting labourers to take law in their hands.  Federal Government has totally ignored and forgotten that to protest, is an alienable fundamental right of every citizen.  To deprive them with this right and to use force to prevent them from protesting, is an inhuman act and is not only a shameful violation of the Constitution but also an abuse of authority in an oppressive manner.


Mr. Haider called upon the Government that instead of baton charging and tear-gassing, or preventing them from protesting for their demand, the Government should make every effort for acceptance of the demands of the workers of PTCL.


HRCP also demanded to take strict disciplinary action against all the concerned officials who are responsible for the lathi charge, tear gassing and injuring the peaceful demonstrators of PTCL.

Iqbal Haider, Secretary General


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