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




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


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

Text of proposed constitutional package


We are sharing with you the complete text of the proposed constitutional package so that you may also be able to examine it according to your perception and further be able to use it for research and reference usage.


You might also like to see our previous blog post HRCP’s study of the proposed constitutional packagefor our comments and input.





The provisions of the following Articles are subject to Decision after consu1tation with the Coalition Partners

(1) Tenure; of Judges (Article 179 and 195)

(2) Article 243 and 243A.

(3) Restoration of Judges (270CC)

(4) Validation of Ordinances (Article 270AAA)


Note: This is not a Sacrosanct Document and can be changed or altered  by Coalition Partners in the Parliament and others.

A Bill further to amend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of  Pakistan Whereas it is expedient further to amend the Constitution of the  Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the purposes hereinafter appearing;

It is hereby enacted as follows:- Continue reading

HRCP’s study of the proposed constitutional package

Press Release, June 7, 2008


The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has studied the proposed constitutional package floated by the Pakistan People’s Party. There is no doubt that the present Constitution, which contains several amendments, particularly those inserted through the brute force of dictators require wide ranging amendments so that the country can embark on a constitutional rule. At the same time, the package does not fulfill a number of requirements and is tailored to suit the interests of the current set-up, rather than to deepen democratic governance. HRCP wonders how the PPP proposes to secure support to their package as clearly they do not have the two-thirds required for Constitutional amendments. As such the few pressing issues, including of the restoration of the judges will painfully linger to the detriment of the country and the democratic transition.


There are a number of positive amendments. The change of name of NWFP to Pakhtoonkhwa, the demise of Article 58(2) B, reserved seats for minorities in the Senate and the restoration of the executive authority with the Prime Minister are steps in the right direction. HRCP also welcomes the amendments regarding the selection and appointment of judges to the superior courts and in restricting sitting judges from taking on other high official assignments. There is though a contradiction. Sitting judges cannot be appointed as a Chief Election Commissioner or to other non-judicial posts but can still be members of the Election Commission.


HRCP rejects the requirement of the Prime Minister of being a Muslim as added by the Package amendment to Article 91. It is disappointing that a party who prides on its democratic credentials should discriminate amongst citizens on the basis of religion. The package has also not touched upon Articles 62 and 63, that require members of the parliament to be “pious” and their qualification is based on vague and subjective criteria of the “goodness” or otherwise of an individual. Similarly, the restriction on the election of a person for more than two terms to be Prime Minister is kept intact.


The suo motu powers of the Federal Shariat Court to take up any law and strike it down, as being repugnant to Islam is being kept intact, while the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear matters of public importance with reference to the enforcement of Fundamental Rights is severely curtailed by the Package. Under it, the Supreme Court can only pass a declaratory order under its inherent powers and will be not be able to enforce its rulings providing relief to the victims. HRCP is mindful that judges must act and select cases of “public importance” with due care and through well-reasoned judgments, yet the Package amendment will be a serious blow to the enforcement of fundamental rights of vulnerable groups and individuals in Pakistan.


HRCP rejects the wording of “reappointment” of the pre 3rd November judges as recommended under Article 270 CC of the Package. It could also be misconstrued especially as the two consecutive terms of the Chief Justice appear to have been deliberately kept vague. As such the Package leaves an impression that the formula of minus-one and plus-one has been adopted, which has firmly been rejected by the lawyers community and civil society. It will lead to a worse judicial crisis that will have long-term repercussions.


The intention of the package appears to undermine the independence of the superior courts. The composition and powers of the Judicial Commission are arbitrary. The Commission has the potential of turning itself into a menacing watchdog rather than an impartial tribunal. By allowing, the Judicial Commission to make a code of conduct for the superior judiciary the authors of the Package have subjugated the Supreme and High Courts to a body of retired persons. The requirement of Commission members to be “non-politicized” is vague and absurd. Who decides what is “non-politicized” and how can any person of knowledge and standing be politically empty? HRCP is amazed that a political party should frown upon anyone who is “political” and prefers to hand their destiny in the hands of those who are bankrupt of political thought. Such train of thinking usually originates from military bases rather than from political parties.


HRCP hopes that the PPP will take on board the suggestions made to it by all political forces and make clear decisions on the Constitutional direction it wishes to pursue. Priorities must be set as several issues are at stake and must be resolved through the Parliament, but the Package must not keep all of them hostage to a collective decision in a single Package. The present draft of the Package is totally unconvincing, both in its intent and substance, in dealing with the political crisis left behind by Musharaf and his military predecessors.


Asma Jahangir