HRCP slams killing of civil society activist in FATA, ‘mob justice’ in Bahawalpur

Lahore, July 5: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the assassination of Farida Afridi, who worked for an organisation working for women’s welfare, in Jamrud, Khyber Agency, as well as reports of a man accused of desecrating religious texts being snatched from police custody and burned to death.

In a statement on Thursday, HRCP said: “It is a matter of grave concern that the risks facing human rights defenders and those working to ameliorate the lot of marginalized segments remain very high across the country. HRCP is shocked at the targeted killing of Farida Afridi, whose only crime was working for the uplift of women in the area. Two armed men riding a bike shot her in the head and fled. The threats to human rights defenders in FATA are as worrisome as the impunity the killers enjoy. On December 8, 2011, Zarteef Afridi, a well known human rights defender and HRCP coordinator in Khyber Agency, had also been shot dead by two men on a motorcycle. His killers remain at large.

“HRCP would like to remind the government of its obligation to provide a safe working environment to human rights defenders all over the country, but particularly more so in the FATA region, which faces about the worst turmoil in the country. In such places, journalists, human rights defenders and workers of civil society organisations who strive to provide essential needs or awareness to the people at personal peril, have faced perils only because of their role in promoting rights or highlighting violations.

The killings of journalists, rights defenders and civil society activists in FATA is the latest addition to the prevailing hurdles for those working in the region for the uplift of the marginalized people, especially women.

“The threats human rights defenders face are well known and government officials are expected to do more than turn up at a rights defender’s funeral, pray for the departed soul and condole with the bereaved family. The government must prioritise protection for them in FATA and elsewhere, given that they face more serious threats that other citizens. It must take more interest in not only highlighting the contribution that human rights defenders make to society but also in investigating the attacks and bringing the culprits to justice. Civil society must also keep reminding the government of its obligation to protect and facilitate the rights defenders’ work.

HRCP also strongly condemns not only the burning to death of man in Bahawalpur, who had been accused of desecrating pages of the Quran, but also the authorities’ failure to prevent a horrendous crime that was not at all unexpected. A credible inquiry should be launched and its findings made public. The government must not only compensate the family of the deceased for its failure to protect the life of a man in police custody from ‘mob justice’, but also take concrete measure to avoid such unfortunate incidents in the future. HRCP welcomes the registration of a case against members of the mob and demands that the killers and all others are held to account for their role in the coldblooded murder.”

Zohra Yusuf

Chairperson

Shia pilgrims’ killing exposes state’s criminal negligence

 

Lahore, June 29: The killing of Shia pilgrims in Balochistan on Thursday again demonstrates that terrorists persist with their vicious and systematic campaign to target citizens on account of their religious beliefs as state has either been unwilling or increasingly unable to prevent the blatant killings, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said: “HRCP shares the grief of the families of those killed and injured in Thursday’s terrorist attack in Quetta that targeted a bus of Shia pilgrims. After the brazen attack on a bus of Iran-bound pilgrims in Mastung district of Balochistan last year, it was certain that unless the culprits were brought to justice they will strike again. They did so on Thursday. This time the bus had a police escort and yet, as in the Mastung attack, neither the attack could be foiled nor perpetrators captured. About the only difference was that those dead and injured were taken to hospitals relatively quickly. The number of Shias killed in systemic and targeted attacks in Balochistan in 2012 alone has exceeded 60. Everyone knows who the perpetrators are. With each attack, allegations of the attackers enjoying sympathy and support among the security forces gain more credence, at least in the views of the targeted community. In the circumstances, the Shia population of Balochistan, and the Iran-bound pilgrims in particular, understandably feel like sitting ducks. Little wonder then that many young people from the community are prepared to take their chances to flee the country in search of safety, often risking travel in rickety boats in shark-infested waters to do so. At least 70 young men from the community had drowned in one such attempt in Indonesian waters in 2011.

“HRCP unequivocally condemns the attack and is shocked by the authorities’ inability or unwillingness to act against terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has repeatedly claimed responsibility for these attacks. The promised probe into the attack must also look into charges of support for the terrorists among the security agencies. It has also been alleged that the Iran-bound pilgrims targeted on Thursday were originally sitting in various buses but the authorities asked them all to go in one bus, which was later targeted. Some members of the community have interpreted that as proof at least some elements in the law enforcement agencies working hand in glove with the terrorists. HRCP cannot vouch for the veracity of this claim but that too should be investigated. The government should try and imagine the plight of the community whose systematic targeting is now little short of naked persecution. HRCP is sure that unless unambiguous will of the state to bring the killers to justice is demonstrated Pakistan will become an even more unlivable place than it already is.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

Call for renewed zeal to end bonded labour

Lahore, June 25: Bonded labour remains one of the most reprehensible and widespread forms of exploitation in Pakistan even 20 years after the promulgation of a law to abolish it, and therefore the state and civil society both must redouble their efforts to eliminate the evil. This was the consensus at a two-day wide-ranging consultation among organisations working for the elimination of bonded labour that concluded in Lahore yesterday. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had organised the consultation.

 

The participants agreed that since bonded labour was universally recognised as a slavery-like practice the state had an obligation to attach top priority to its eradication. The way the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1992 had been left unimplemented did not suggest that the gravity of the problem, that affects the rights of several million people, had been adequately realised.

 

The meeting noted that following the devolution of the subject of labour to the provinces only Punjab had adopted a slightly amended version of the 1992 Act. The other provincial governments were asked to expedite issuance of their own laws on the subject. However, it was necessary to ensure that no provincial enactment on abolition of bonded labour offered the bonded workers less than what the 1992 Act did.

 

The participants appreciated the decision of the Punjab government to allocate for the second time funds out of its development budget for its bonded labour elimination programme and extend it to four new districts. The meeting hoped that it would be possible soon to bring the whole of the province under the project. The other provincial governments were requested to draw up similar or improved programmes for the uplift of bonded workers.

 

The meeting scrutinised the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992 and made a number of  recommendations, including the following:

 

  • The law relies heavily on district officials and lacks an effective mechanism to oversee their performance. It is proposed that each provincial government should have a duly empowered implementation cell, including senior department heads (home, labour, police et al) to regularly monitor implementation of the law and take action against any functionaries that fail to discharge their responsibilities.

 

  • The rules under a new provincial law must be issued as soon as a law is made.
  • Quite a few functionaries do not take up their assignments for want of a notification. The system of notifying implementation authorities should be scrapped and the relevant officials clearly designated in the law/rules.
  • All district administrations must be told to create Vigilance Committees by a fixed date. The committees must meet every month, as required under the law, the quorum should be on the low side and the committee members who do not take their duties seriously should be replaced.
  • The penalties for keeping the workers in bondage should be enhanced and enforcement ensured.
  • The law has not been invoked to punish its violators mainly because the victims – the bonded labour – do not have the strength and resources to prosecute the offenders. The state should assume the responsibility for prosecuting the violators of the law and their offences should be made non-bailable.

 

The participants received a detailed briefing on the International Labour Organization (ILO) projects in the area of bonded labour and expressed the view that the government of Pakistan must fully implement the ILO conventions ratified by it. Further, bonded labour issues must be included in all new policies and on the agenda of tripartite labour conferences.

 

The meeting called upon the government to strive to meet the conditions on good governance imposed by the European Union to qualify for Generalised System of Preferences for the matter concerned the people’s vital socio-economic interests.

 

The meeting was of the view that the issue of bonded labour had to be seen in the context of the rights and problems of labour as a whole. The trade unions in particular, and all other civil society associations in general, must accept bonded labour’s concerns as their own. It was also necessary to put reform aimed at ending bonded labour and at the uplift of workers and peasants on the agenda of political parties.

 

The meeting also discussed the difficulties created by ignorance of the law against bonded labour even in judicial circles, the hardships faced by bonded workers in getting their identity cards, the problems in securing the minimum wage, and in pursuing cases under laws about minimum wages or payment of wages.

 

The participants resolved to carry out the decisions of the meeting collectively and severally and to hold rallies throughout the country on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

 

Prominent amongst the participants were representatives of PILER, SPARC, Bhandaar Hari Sangat, Green Rural Workers Development Organisation, Bonded Labour Liberation Front, Mehergarh, ILO, HRCP, and several lawyers.

(I. A. Rehman)
Secretary-Generala

Removal of elected PM sad day for democracy: HRCP

 Lahore, June 20: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called the removal of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani a sad occasion in a country where democratic traditions have perpetually been denied the nourishment they need to take roots.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, HRCP said, “The Supreme Court judgement was perhaps not unexpected. The removal of the elected prime minister, especially in a country like Pakistan where democratic traditions are very weak, is saddening and certainly not a matter for rejoicing. Nobody can deny the imperatives of legal dispensation, but the implications of the judgement in a far from stable society and the severe crisis that it seems to give rise to have perhaps not been taken into consideration. It needs to be remembered that after repeated spells of dictatorship the state’s capacity to sustain the democratic system cannot be expected to be very strong. In such a situation, democratic institutions need to be nourished and helped to grow through advice and persuasion rather than punitive action that often does more harm than good.

“The principle that judges should be extra careful in deciding matters regarding their own contempt demands much greater respect than has apparently been accorded to it in this instance. The judgement will raise questions about the whole concept of contempt of court in the country and the nature and extent of the punishment that can be awarded, especially imprisonment.

“At this critical time, the threats to democracy require the maximum possible understanding among political parties and the country’s democratic future will be undermined if they continue to fight among themselves for narrow partisan ends. Ultimately, the people have to decide who governs them and we hope that the environment will not be polluted to the extent that a fair determination of electoral will becomes impossible.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

HRCP calls for help to Pakistanis held in Malaysia

Lahore, June 20: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take immediate steps to extend help to the three Pakistanis being detained in Malaysia under the Internal Security Act. HRCP was informed about these detainees by Mr James Nayagam, a commissioner with the Malaysian Human Rights Commission. He had found the three Pakistanis in the Malaysian internal security detention centre. According to him the Pakistanis are accused of falsifying documents and trafficking of persons which, Mr Nayagam believes, “is not a national threat”. He therefore thinks the Pakistanis are being wrongly held under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act.

In a communication to the Secretary Foreign Affairs, HRCP has said that the matter requires the immediate attention of the Foreign office. The Pakistan mission in Kuala Lumpur should be asked to contact the Pakistani detainees and ensure that they are not denied their legal rights.

(Zohra Yusuf)

Chairperson

 

People’s plight in Lyari needs urgent attention: HRCP

Lahore, April 30: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced concern over the acute difficulties of the civilian population in Lyari, Karachi, where law enforcement agencies’ operation against organised crime has been going on for several days.

 In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission said: “HRCP is not in a position to comment on the nature and utility of the operation being carried out in Lyari, but it must express its utmost concern over the unbearable ordeal of the people living in the area. Reports have emerged of shortage of essentials and of Lyari residents having no access to electricity, water and other basic provisions, including milk for children. The fact that many people have been forced to migrate amid clashes between law enforcement personnel and their targets and that there are no arrangements to provide them shelter is intolerable. The education of children has been completely disrupted. It is regrettable that the problems of the people that could not have been too difficult to imagine beforehand have not received due attention. Relief bodies must continue to supply food and other basic provisions to the people, access to hospitals and transport should be ensured, and precautions taken to save the people from being caught up in the crossfire. The authorities must make sure that the operation does not add to the miseries of the peaceful residents of the area. They must also be transparent about the operation and its strategy, achievements and timeframe, amid accusations that the operation is one-sided. HRCP calls upon the government and all political parties to work towards bringing peace to the violence-hit area of Karachi at the earliest and notes, with regret, that gunbattles have taken 19 lives, including those of three policemen and injured many people, including two journalists. Larger questions of how the miscreants in the area came to be so organised and got their hands on sophisticated weapons on a large scale must also be answered and the reasons for any law breaker’s ability to repeatedly take a stranglehold on Karachi and what countermeasures are planned must be explained to the people. The most essential point is that any operation that causes innocent citizens and their families more loss of life and misery than the outlaws is unacceptable.”

( Zohra Yusuf )
Chairperson

Threat to Asma’s life condemned

We the undersigned citizens, belonging to various sections of Pakistan’s civil society, express our serious concern and alarm at the information-leak from a responsible and highly credible source…
Lahore, 4 June 2012: We the undersigned citizens, belonging to various sections of Pakistan’s civil society, express our serious concern and alarm at the information-leak from a responsible and highly credible source that there is a serious threat to the life of the country’s leading human rights activist and one of the most influential leaders of the bar, Ms Asma Jahangir. What makes the reported conspiracy to liquidate Asma Jahangir especially serious is, firstly, the environment of target-killings, in which dissident persons’ dead bodies are being dumped all over, and, secondly, the fact that the finger of accusation has been pointed at the extraordinarily privileged state actors. We wish to make it clear to all and sundry, especially those who preside over the security apparatus, that they must not under-estimate the consequences of any harm being caused to the life of Asma Jahangir. This is not a conspiracy against one individual alone; it is obviously a plot againstPakistan’s future as a democratic state, of which the threat to Asma Jahangir may be only one, though crucial, part. What the duty of the state in this matter is and how the civil society must face the challenge thrown to it need no elaboration.

 

1.      Justice ® Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim

2.      Dr. Mubashir Hassan

3.      Mr. I. A. Rehman

4.      Mr. Yasmin Azad, President SCBAP

5.      Akhtar Hussain President Pakistan Bar Council

6.      Ali Ahmad Kurd, former President SCBAP

7.      Mr. Tariq Mahmood former President SCBAP

8.      Mr. Muneer A Malik, former President SCBAP

9.      Lt. General ® Talat Masood

10.  Air Marshal ® Zafar Chaudhry

11.  Mr. Ahmed Rashid, author and senior journalist

12.  Mr. Latif Afridi, President High Court Bar Peshawar

13.  Mr. Shahryam Sarwar Chaudhry, President Lahore High Court Bar Association

14.  Mr. Zahoor Ahmad Shawani President Balochistan High Court Bar Association

15.  Sher Muhammad, President Malakand High Court Bar Association

16.  Mr. Azam Nazir Tarar, Member PBC

17.  Mr. Ehsan Bhoon Member PBC

18.  Justice ® Malik Saeed Hassan

19.  Mr. S.M. Masood former Law Minister

20.  Mr. Ehsan Wyne General Secretary, ANP

21.  Prof. Salima Hashmi

22.  Hina Jilani, Advocate

23.  Munir Kakar President Executive Committee Balochistan Bar Council

24.  Jugnu Mohsin, Editor Friday Times

25.  Mr. Kamran Shafi

26.  Kamran Arif Co-Chairperson HRCP

27.  Rashid Rehman, Editor Daily Times.

28.  Fareeda Shaheed

29.  Samina Rehman

30.  Prof. Dr. Mehdi Hassan

31.  Dr. Haroon Ahmed

32.  Saleem Asmi, former editor, Dawn

33.  Tahir Hassan vice Chairperson HRCP, Quetta

34.  Neelam Hussain

35.  Kishwar Naheed

36.  Khawar Mumtaz

37.  Nazish Ataullah former Principal NCA

38.  Ms. Shahtaj Qizilbash coordinator, Joint Action Committee.

39.  Nasreen Azhar

40.  Mr. Abbas Rashid

41.  Ms. Nighat Saeed.

42.  Mr. Sajid Bashir former President Lahore Bar Association

43.  Shahzad Hassan Sheikh former President Lahore Bar Association.

44.  Muhammad Tahseen, South Asia Partnership

 

Issued by

 

Zohra Yusuf

Chairperson, HRCP

 

I. A. Rehman

Secretary-General