Verdict vindicates demand for independent judiciary: HRCP

Press Release, February 25, 2009

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday regretted the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualifying Mian Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif by a short order.

A statement by HRCP said: “This apparent politicisation of the rule of law has further devalued the respect of the superior judiciary of the country. The people of Pakistan are sharp enough to distinguish between judgments based on justice and those delivered for ulterior political motives. The writing was on the wall. Pakistan is going through a critical period and further destabilisation of Punjab can only add to the country’s woes.

Political parties including the PPP have suffered at the hands of judicial pronouncements that selectively victimise political parties and their leaders. The judicial assassination of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the hounding of late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as well as leaders of the ANP and the PML-N are now established historical facts. These errors continue at huge costs to the country.

HRCP hopes that political parties will remain united in giving precedence to the mandate of the people over dubious judicial pronouncements. This motivated judicial interference has vindicated the demand of the lawyers’ movement for an independent judiciary. It is now quite apparent that the democratic process will not move forward unless the nexus between the judiciary and the executive is not severed.

HRCP warns that the country needs political reconciliation rather than polarization that will leave a vacuum for adventurism. National and international players concerned with political progress in Pakistan must take note of this disturbing development. Woefully, Pakistan’s rulers misinterpret the US support for them as license to play havoc with their opponents and democratic norms.”

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

Avoid War Hysteria

From South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) network

Dated: 05-01-2009

 

There are times like the present, when truth must be told to powers, however, unpalatable it may be, and however one may be viciously misunderstood. But nevertheless speaking has to be done because in times like this, to keep silent is a sin and to speak is a duty.

 

There was justifiable anger, anguish at Mumbai Terrorist attack; and indignation at Pakistan government refusing to even acknowledge that terrorists came from Pakistan added to serious Indo-Pak tension. The instant denial by Pakistan that its territory had been used by LeT connected terrorists could, though regretful would have been allowed to pass. One could understand Pakistan denying that ISI had any hand in it – but to have gone to the shameful length of suggesting that Mumbai attack was a ‘ploy of India’ or was stage managed by India government not only by those in government, but even in media & disappointingly even by some of those who have been part of third track group, was indeed shocking and hurtful to friends of Pakistan in India.

 

Similarly the reaction of sober Indian government ministers openly suggesting that India was prepared to take any options, (impliedly even war) so egged on by media and rival political establishment was certainly regretful and not a sign of mature statesmanship.

 

The situation has got further heated up by the irresponsible and provocative suggestion of BJP President Raj Nath Singh that India could consider the option of military blockade of Karachi and Indian Government should take international community into confidence and persuade the launch of joint military action under UN Security supervision against the terrorists in Pakistan.  The provocative speech of the BJP President has been allowed to quietly pass off not only by the party but even the media at large, because somehow an atmosphere is being created where to call for restraint and dealing with sanity Indo-Pak relations is considered anti-patriotic. 

 

Equally irresponsible and provocative and no doubt instigated by unworthy consideration of political one man up ship was statements by Digvijay Singh, General Secretary of the Congress and Jaiswal, Minister of State for Home, who both boasted publicly that Mumbai terrorists had demanded the release of the hostages but the Government of India had rejected it, unlike yielding by the BJP Government in the Kandhar episode.  But soon thereafter they had to eat their own words because neither the Maharashtra Government nor the Central Government accepted its truthfulness.  The irresponsible and shamelessness of such provocative remarks, specially by Jaiswal, Minister of State for Home in the Central Government ( who is expected to know better provided of course if he is attending to his job) taking an indefensible plea of relying on non existent media story, beats all limits.

 

Similar unfortunate and indefensible attitude was reflected in the public stand of Pakistan President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, who instead of accepting the obvious proof of Pakistan territory having been used by the terrorists, chose to deny it and raising war cries instead. And this inspite of U.S.A. media saying that FBI has accepted the conclusion of Indian authorities that Mumbai Massacre shows the involvement of Laskar, its leaders Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, who are based in Pakistan. It would be understandable if Pakistan government was to deny the involvement of I.S.I. (India may have felt saying “tell that to marines”; but could have lived with these normal diplomatic cover ups). But Pakistan must at least accept that what it describes as non actors (including Kasab, the terrorist held by India) are from Pakistan. This will immediately reduce the mutual tension and one upmanship by India and Pakistan. The further question whether these terrorists in Pakistan should be handed over to U.S.A. (because amongst killed were USA nationals) or to India or Pakistan will try them itself are though important but still secondary question. This approach by both the countries would have immediately dispelled the clouds of danger of war. But sad that both the countries are willing to hold closed door conferences with U.S.A. but not even official open business like meetings with each other. This is cliff hanging game and puts both the countries in danger of becoming surrogates of U.S.A. Imperialist design.

 

Unfortunately saner counsel in India in coming under pressure by the nearness of General Elections to the Parliament which are to be held by May at the latest.  I feel that if further downward slide in Indo – Pak relations is to be avoided it is essential that General Elections be held, if possible, in February but the latest by the first week of April.  I say this because it is now commonly accepted that because of the nearness of the General Elections, parties otherwise sober become the victims of “vote bank politics” as pointed out by our Prime Minister in his recent Bhim Sen Sachar Memorial lecture in December, 2008 – in fact the Prime Minister has commendably made it absolutely clear “that there was never a question of war, but only of terrorism”. Should not President Zardari, Nawaz Shariff reciprocate the agony of India and help to defuse the warlike tension being builtup in India and Pakistan, and horror of horror, both countries may become victims of unintended war like the First World War started, just because some mischief maker shot down the Prince of Austria.

 

However it is somewhat of a relief to know the welcome news that India and Pakistan, only a few days back exchanged a list of their nuclear facilities – a further reiteration of President Zardari speech that Indo – Pak dialogue can ease tensions shows recognition of stark truth that military confrontation can have disastrous consequences for the region.

 

I feel that both government should immediately allow TV, Radio channels to operate freely in both the countries. The people at large should know that apart from hawkish governments posture, there are innumerable seasoned sensible leaders, organizations in both countries who do not approve of their respective governments stand. Overwhelming number in both the countries realize the disastrous consequence of Indo – Pak war. Let this silent majority be allowed to interact with each other – may be in a little short time people to people contact between the two countries be allowed as of before – because this alone will act as impregnable shield against the vagaries and moods of hawks in both the countries.

 

Rajindar Sachar

New Delhi, India

CPJ: U.S. military frees Afghan journalist from Bagram

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465‑1004 Fax: (212) 465‑9568 Web: www.cpj.org E-Mail: media@cpj.org

U.S. military frees Afghan journalist from Bagram

New York, September 22, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the U.S. military’s release of imprisoned journalist Jawed Ahmad from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Sunday, 11 months after he was first detained. But CPJ calls again on the U.S. military to end its practice of holding journalists without charge on an open-ended basis.

Ahmad, 22, was never charged with a crime, and military officials have never explained the basis for his prolonged detention. Ahmad, who is known by his nickname Jojo and also uses the surname Yazemi, does not know why he was freed, according to an interview with the Canadian Globe and Mail. Ahmad worked most recently as a field producer for the Canadian broadcaster CTV and had several other freelance clients in the past.

Ahmad said he was detained at a NATO airfield near the southern city of Kandahar where he worked, after being invited there by someone who said he was a U.S. public affairs officer, according to the Globe and Mail. He was later transferred to the U.S.-operated air base at Bagram, he said. He told the newspaper he was beaten, that two of his ribs were broken, and that he was deprived of sleep.

“We are relieved that Jawed Ahmad has been freed and we wish him the best with his return to work,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator. “But he has lost almost a year of his life being held without charge and says he was brutally treated by his captors. His case adds to the U.S. military’s appalling record of detaining working journalists in conflict zones, without a modicum of due process, based on allegations which are shrouded in secrecy and have apparently proved to be unfounded.”

The U.S. military detained Ahmad on October 25, 2007. CPJ publicized his case after being alerted by Carlotta Gall, The New York Times reporter based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who had worked with him. A Pentagon spokesman told CPJ in February that Ahmad had been classified as an “unlawful enemy combatant” but did not provide information about the allegations or evidence against him.

A statement issued today by Capt. Christian Patterson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said Ahmad had been released because he “was no longer considered a threat.” The statement offered no explanation for the 11-month detention. Ahmad told the Globe and Mail his U.S. interrogators were suspicious of his reportorial contacts with local Taliban. 

CTV News President Robert Hurst issued a statement today to CPJ. “It is startling that U.S. military authorities released Jojo Yazemi on Sunday morning without any explanation about why he was apprehended in the first place and then declared an enemy combatant,” Hurst said. “CTV News is also concerned about his health after he recounted his treatment while in U.S. custody. Our priority now is to get Jojo Yazemi back to Kandahar and reunited with his family.”

CPJ research shows that at least one other journalist remains in U.S. military custody. Freelance photographer Ibrahim Jassam, who was working for Reuters in Iraq, was detained September 2 by U.S. and Iraqi forces; he has not been charged. The U.S. has held dozens of journalists in Iraq, at least 10 of them for prolonged periods, according to CPJ research. Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was released in April after a two-year detention on unsubstantiated allegations of collaborating with local insurgents.  

On May 1, Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was released from the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after six years in detention. Al-Haj, also designated an “enemy combatant,” was never charged with a crime.

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

Bob Dietz  bdietz@cpj.org

Asia Program Coordinator

Madeline Earp mearp@cpj.org

Asia Program Researcher

Committee to Protect Journalists

330 Seventh Ave, 11th floor

New York, NY 10001

+1 212 465 1004

www.cpj.org

HRCP for concrete steps to stop FATA raids

Press Release, September 9

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has asked the government to take meaningful steps to prevent loss of life and property in the Tribal Areas in raids by US-led coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.

A statement issued by the Commission on Tuesday said: Attacks in the Tribal Areas, the killing of civilians and violation of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty by the US-led coalition forces have assumed the form of a regular series. Each attack is followed by stereotyped official protests by Islamabad, threats of ‘befitting replies’, statements of condemnation by all and sundry and the occasional summoning of the US envoy to the Foreign Office. Such gestures achieve little, nor do they convince the people of the government’s keenness to protect innocent lives or to assert its sovereignty.

Securing the life of its people is a responsibility the government owes to all its citizens, including those living in the Tribal Areas.

Pakistan must urgently hold earnest negotiations with its allies in the so-called war on terror to ensure that such attacks on its territory and killings of innocent Pakistanis in the Tribal Areas cease. The issue is much too serious to be addressed only through angry and reactive statements after every attack.

It must be emphasised in these talks that such attacks are counter-productive. The killing of innocent people creates hatred and militants faster than any military action can eliminate.

Iqbal Haider

Co-chairperson

Pakistan must ensure justice to Dr. Aafia; probe her children’s disappearance: HRCP

Press Release, August 12

 

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan urges the government of Pakistan to fulfil its duty of ensuring that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui receives full justice, necessary facilities and immediate medical attention. HRCP demands an official investigation into Dr. Siddiqui’s, and her children’s, disappearance and details of their detention – from the point of being picked up in 2003 till the present. HRCP also emphasises that Dr. Siddiqui should not be repatriated to Pakistan against her wishes and be given the full opportunity to contest her case in the US. The fear is that once she has been repatriated to Pakistan she will be pressurised by the intelligence agencies to maintain silence and she will not be able to secure justice. Though it may be a relief that she has been traced there is no information about Dr. Siddiqui’s children. The government must also disclose the whereabouts of her children.

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been following the case of disappearance of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her three children since early 2003. The information collected by HRCP at that particular time was that in March 2003 Dr. Siddiqui, along with her three children, left her mother’s house in a taxi on her way to the Karachi airport and was picked up by an intelligence agency. What she was accused of when picked up has not been made public. Strangely, the only charge against her is an alleged assault against her captors while in custody.

 

A statement was issued expressing concern on this most heinous violation of human rights and HRCP demanded an explanation from the government. The parents of Dr. Siddiqui were also contacted, who were under sever threat of the intelligence agencies and warned not to speak either to the press or any human rights organization. At one point office bearers of the HRCP contacted the family of Dr. Siddiqui and arranged to meet but at the last minute they expressed their “inability” to see the office bearers despite the fact that the meeting was arranged at their request. Since then HRCP representatives have been in touch with the family and filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court which is still pending. The petition was heard on the 8th of March 2007 and at several subsequent hearings the government expressed their ignorance of the whereabouts of Dr. Siddiqui and her children.

 

HRCP is convinced that Dr. Siddiqui and her three children were picked up from Karachi as is evident from the initial reports and urges the government to now play a positive role in insuring that she gets full justice, fair trial as well as compensation from the government of United States for the mistreatment meted out to her. HRCP appreciates that the Pakistan mission has sought consular access to her yet these belated efforts can only be compensated if the Pakistan government is able to intervene in the courts in the US and submit an honest investigation report

 

HRCP will remain in touch with the legal team defending Dr. Siddiqui and will make all efforts to submit its own reports through her lawyers.

 

The violation of the rights of Dr. Siddiqui and her children, and countless other missing persons, is squarely the responsibility of the government of Pakistan. There is enough evidence indicating that she was initially picked up by the intelligence agencies in Pakistan and therefore it is not only the government of the United States but also the government of Pakistan that must be made accountable for this crime.

 

HRCP fears that the fate of Dr. Siddiqui will be the same as hundreds of others who have disappeared, been tortured and rendered to third countries without following the legal process. Regrettably petitions of hundreds of people in almost similar circumstances are pending in the courts of Pakistan and not in one single case has full justice been delivered. No one has received compensation neither have the perpetrators been brought to justice.

 

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson