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

 

Judges’ restoration a good first step: HRCP

Press Release, March 16, 2009

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has welcomed the restoration of judiciary as a first step towards strengthening democracy and rule of law and said the people of Pakistan have sent a clear message that they will not settle for a sham democratic process.

A statement issued by the Commission on Monday said: “The HRCP welcomes the restoration of superior court judges and congratulates lawyers, the civil society, political parties – including the Pakistan People’s Party – and above all the people of Pakistan, who again demonstrated their ability for a worthy cause whenever they found one. We wish Monday morning’s decision had been taken earlier. Still the announcement revealed the difference of approach between a military regime and a civilian democracy. This is a clear message from the people to leaders of all political parties that they will not settle for a sham democracy.

However, this is merely the first step. Real challenges now begin and the people expect that they will get not only an independent judiciary but also justice. This will not come about automatically but will require some doing. The people also expect that the restoration of judges will ensure the rule of law and independence of judiciary and also that the parliament will make earnest efforts to save the judiciary from the harmful effects of politicization.

The HRCP has all along been concerned about the lack of independence of the Election Commission and of a satisfactory mechanism for the appointment, tenure and terms of service of members of the superior judiciary. An independent Election Commission is crucial for the democratic system to go forward in a smooth and non-contentious manner. Similarly, mechanisms for appointments and accountability of judges must enjoy the confidence of the legal fraternity and the people. The people expect speedy progress on federation-making, guarantees of provincial autonomy and priority to economic concerns of the people, specially their need for relief from unemployment and poverty. In addition, just as people from all schools of thought had come together for the cause of the judiciary and democracy, the people expect all political parties to get together to promote democratic governance and improve the level of social justice in the country.”

Asma Jahangir Chairperson

Peace activists disturbed over Kashmir violence

Press Release, August 26

 

Peace activists disturbed over Kashmir violence

 

A meeting held by leading human rights activists at Lahore on 26th August, 2008, expressed serious concerns at the developments taking place in Srinagar and Jummu. The participants denounced the arrest of Kashmiri leaders Mr. Yasin Malik, Mir waiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Gilani. They called for their immediate release. In addition the participant endorsed the Washington Declaration signed by peace activists concerned with the region. They called upon South Asian human rights activists to play a role in reaching reconciliation and rights in the region.

 

The participants unanimously endorsed the following.

  1. That the people of Jammu and Kashmir are central to the India-Pakistan peace process and representative dialogue and affirms that a sustainable and just solution of the Kashmir dispute can be achieved only through democratically established procedures for ascertaining the will of the people of the state  (as existing on 14/15 August 1947).
  2. That, in the context of the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh’s pledge for zero tolerance of human rights abuses, an independent and credible investigative commission should be set up to probe human rights abuses including the issue of mass graves recently discovered in the state.
  3. That the pace of India-Pakistan dialogue, particularly in relation to Jammu and Kashmir should be accelerated and given a realistic time frame. The dialogue should be inclusive and Kashmiris should be an integral part of this process.
  4. Urges that more Kashmir specific confidence buildings measures should be adopted, which will help in conquering fear and creating a congenial environment for a positive forward movement.
  5. Demand that all political prisoners languishing in jails, interrogation centres and detained under emergency laws should be immediately released.
  6. Demand that all draconian laws should be withdrawn and peoples’ fundamental freedoms and basic rights should be restored.
  7. Urges that all those elements who have tried to vitiate and communalize the state’s polity need to be identified and punished. While welcoming the withdrawal of the order to transfer land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, the conference condemns all efforts to communalize the situation.
  8. Demands that all internally and externally displaced people of Jammu and Kashmir, including Kashmiri Pandits, should be facilitated to return to their homes in safety and dignity.

 

Dr. Mubashir Hasan

Mr. I.A. Rehman

Asma Jahangir

Iqbal Haider

Salima Hashmi

Dr. Mehdi Hasan

Mr. Hassain Naqi

Hina Jilani

Zohra Yousaf

Shahtaj Qizilbash

Kamran Arif

Farooq Tariq

Nadeem Anthony

Munizae Jahangir

HRCP hails event

Press Release, August 18

 

Lahore: While hailing General (R) Pervez Musharraf’s resignation from presidentship as the logical result of the people’s verdict of February 18, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has stressed the sobering effect of the development and reminded the coalition partners that satisfaction of the people’s heightened expectations will now demand greater sincerity and resoluteness than before. In a statement issued here today, the HRCP chairperson, Asma Jahangir, said:

 

Although General (R) Musharraf’s decision to quit before getting impeached will be considered one of his rare acts of kindness to the people, no tears will be shed for him. If he really cared for Pakistan as much as he claimed in his long peroration today, he should have resigned much earlier, as soon as the February 18 results were out. Indeed he might well have desisted from subverting the constitution nine years ago. But while the coalition partners and the people at large have good reason to celebrate their victory, the present is a sobering moment. Now the people’s expectations, already high after February 18, will soar even higher. The government will be tested to the extreme in meeting these expectations. Unity of democratic forces, effective supremacy of parliament, and consolidation of institutions of governance, the judiciary foremost among them, will be essential for pulling the state out of the mire created by a dictatorship. The issues that will brook no delay are: steps to fight ongoing insurgency in the north and the plight of the internally displaced persons as a result thereof; a crash programme to deal with the economic crisis, especially the rising cost of living and unemployment; and the urgency of guaranteeing the security of life and liberty. The people also must not forget that constant vigil is the price of liberty. And of progress too.

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

SAARC states urged to attend to people’s rights and needs

Press Release, July 31

 

Lahore: While welcoming the SAARC Summit in Colombo (August 2-3, 2008), the South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional body of human rights activists, has commended the SAARC governments’ decision to address people’s daily concerns – food, water, energy and environment, and urged the member states to ensure social justice by ensuring the promotion of people’s fundamental rights.

 

In a statement issued by the SAHR chairperson and co-chairperson, Mr. I.K. Gujral (India) and Dr. Hameeda Hossain (Bangladesh), the organization drew SAARC members’ attention to several grave situations in the region. It said: Continue reading