Violence by cop at Nairang Art Gallery: Curator attacked for wearing sleeveless

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious alarm and disgust at a policeman ‘raiding’ a renowned art gallery in Lahore

Lahore, August 03: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious alarm and disgust at a policeman ‘raiding’ a renowned art gallery in Lahore, beating the woman curator there and harassing others on the premises.

HRCP said in a statement: “HRCP is appalled by the vigilante actions of the Shadman Police Station House Officer (SHO), who visited the Nairang Art Gallery in Lahore on Tuesday, brutally assaulted the woman curator there, accusing her of running a place of fahashi, and harassed others present at the gallery. The SHO’s merciless beating of a woman is something that cannot be expected of any civilized human being and is all the more revolting because the offender is an officer of a force tasked with protecting people from the sort of excesses he committed. The policeman had no warrants, nor any legal authority to barge into the art gallery like he did along with a police party, which advised the curator to leave the room after her beating rather than intervening to save her from the assault.

Excesses by policemen are hardly an anomaly in Pakistan but since when have policemen assumed responsibility of the Taliban? HRCP sincerely hope that its revulsion and contempt for the policeman’s actions is shared by the Punjab government and hopes that a case would be promptly registered against the offender, and that he would be effectively prosecuted for his repulsive actions. Lack of due punishment for such uniformed vigilantes would only encourage others to follow suit. HRCP also urges the government to make a formal apology to the curator for the actions of a government agent.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson
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Statement of HRCP Mission to Balochistan

Deeply concerned by the rapidly deteriorating situation in Balochistan, the Human Rights Commission organised a fact-finding mission to the province between 4 & 7 May. The teams visited Khuzdar, Turbat and Quetta, meeting a wide cross-section of people, including government representatives.

At the outset, HRCP would like to express its deep anger and sadness at the killing of two of its activists, Siddique Eido and Naeem Sabir. Siddique Eido went missing in December 2010; his body was recovered from Ormara on 28 April. HRCP had thrice brought the case of his disappearance to the authorities’ attention. Naeem Sabir was shot dead in Khuzdar in March this year.

The key findings of the HRCP mission are:

1. Enforced disappearances continue to be a matter of great concern. The Commission set up to investigate the case of missing persons has been largely ineffective, leading to people’s frustration

2. It has been noted that dead bodies recovered have had signs of extreme torture. 33 bodies have been found in Khuzdar; at a rate of 1 body every 3 days

3. All authority seems to vest with the security forces. The civil administration, elected by the people and meant to represent them, appears to have ceded its powers

4. There is strong evidence of the complicity of security forces in killings which are found to be deliberate. One specific instance: on 1 Dec, 2010, in Kech, the FC started attacking a house at 4 a.m. & continued the attack till 2 p.m the next day, despite the civil administration’s request to the FC Colonel that the family members were willing to get all those present in the house to surrender. They killed 5 members of the family, including a boy. This represents a case of deliberate extra-judicial killings. In some cases, FIRs were registered in Turbat. The FC local commander in Kech agreed to talk only after permission was received from IG FC which was not ultimately received.

5. There was widespread complaint against the attitude of the FC personnel at checkpoints

6. The sectarian attack of 6 May in Quetta is highly condemnable. It happened while the HRCP Mission was present in the city. Six people died and many were injured in spite of the presence of the police nearby and the FC check posts. It is regrettable that findings of inquiry commissions into sectarian killings have not been released. No effort has been made at reconciliation of the communities, either

7. Members of the minority communities narrated the heightened sense of insecurity they are living in. There have been targeted killings, as well as kidnappings for ransom. In some cases, victims were killed in spite of ransom being paid. In some instances, children have been taken out of school.

8. There is migration of some communities, including Hindus, Hazara/Shias, who are being targeted

9. Targeted killings are rampant – these include professionals such as teachers & doctors, as well as traders

While a detailed report will be issued later by HRCP, the following are some main recommendations:

» · The system of enforced disappearances must end; it is a total negation of rule of law that mutilated bodies are found of missing people – instead of their production before courts of law
» · Any operation conducted by law enforcement agencies must be within the framework of rule of law, and under civilian oversight. The provincial government must meet its obligation of ensuring law & order
» · The Frontier Corps should act only in aid of the civilian forces & under civilian control. There should be an immediate end to the complete impunity from the process of law the FC currently enjoys in Balochistan
» · The provincial government, representing all political parties of the province, needs to assert its authority and act in the interest of the people that brought it to power
» · The higher judiciary must instruct the subordinate judiciary to actively pursue cases of human rights violations
» · The police must exercise its responsibility of recording FIRs & actively investigating cases of enforced disappearances, targeted killings and discovery of mutilated bodies, as well as of kidnappings
» · Places of worship of minorities must be protected and freedom of worship be ensured. Members of minority communities should be assured of their safety
» · It should be noted that internal security can never be guaranteed by violation of rights
» · Victims of violence must be compensated immediately
» · The government must ensure protection of all teaching staff and that educational institutions function properly in a peaceful manner, meeting a wide cross-section of people, including government representatives.

At the outset, HRCP would like to express its deep anger and sadness at the killing of two of its activists, Siddique Eido and Naeem Sabir. Siddique Eido went missing in December 2010; his body was recovered from Ormara on 28 April. HRCP had thrice brought the case of his disappearance to the authorities’ attention. Naeem Sabir was shot dead in Khuzdar in March this year.

The key findings of the HRCP mission are:

1. Enforced disappearances continue to be a matter of great concern. The Commission set up to investigate the case of missing persons has been largely ineffective, leading to people’s frustration

2. It has been noted that dead bodies recovered have had signs of extreme torture. 33 bodies have been found in Khuzdar; at a rate of 1 body every 3 days

3. All authority seems to vest with the security forces. The civil administration, elected by the people and meant to represent them, appears to have ceded its powers

4. There is strong evidence of the complicity of security forces in killings which are found to be deliberate. One specific instance: on 1 Dec, 2010, in Kech, the FC started attacking a house at 4 a.m. & continued the attack till 2 p.m the next day, despite the civil administration’s request to the FC Colonel that the family members were willing to get all those present in the house to surrender. They killed 5 members of the family, including a boy. This represents a case of deliberate extra-judicial killings. In some cases, FIRs were registered in Turbat. The FC local commander in Kech agreed to talk only after permission was received from IG FC which was not ultimately received.

5. There was widespread complaint against the attitude of the FC personnel at checkpoints

6. The sectarian attack of 6 May in Quetta is highly condemnable. It happened while the HRCP Mission was present in the city. Six people died and many were injured in spite of the presence of the police nearby and the FC check posts. It is regrettable that findings of inquiry commissions into sectarian killings have not been released. No effort has been made at reconciliation of the communities, either

7. Members of the minority communities narrated the heightened sense of insecurity they are living in. There have been targeted killings, as well as kidnappings for ransom. In some cases, victims were killed in spite of ransom being paid. In some instances, children have been taken out of school.

8. There is migration of some communities, including Hindus, Hazara/Shias, who are being targeted

9. Targeted killings are rampant – these include professionals such as teachers & doctors, as well as traders

While a detailed report will be issued later by HRCP, the following are some main recommendations:

» · The system of enforced disappearances must end; it is a total negation of rule of law that mutilated bodies are found of missing people – instead of their production before courts of law
» · Any operation conducted by law enforcement agencies must be within the framework of rule of law, and under civilian oversight. The provincial government must meet its obligation of ensuring law & order
» · The Frontier Corps should act only in aid of the civilian forces & under civilian control. There should be an immediate end to the complete impunity from the process of law the FC currently enjoys in Balochistan
» · The provincial government, representing all political parties of the province, needs to assert its authority and act in the interest of the people that brought it to power
» · The higher judiciary must instruct the subordinate judiciary to actively pursue cases of human rights violations
» · The police must exercise its responsibility of recording FIRs & actively investigating cases of enforced disappearances, targeted killings and discovery of mutilated bodies, as well as of kidnappings
» · Places of worship of minorities must be protected and freedom of worship be ensured. Members of minority communities should be assured of their safety
» · It should be noted that internal security can never be guaranteed by violation of rights
» · Victims of violence must be compensated immediately
» · The government must ensure protection of all teaching staff and that educational institutions function properly in a peaceful manner

By HRCP, Quetta, 7 May 2011

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Shahbaz Bhatti murder: Churches announce 3-day mourning

Shahbaz Bhatti murder: NCJP update
March 2, 2011
by Citizens for Democracy

Churches announce three-day mourning: all missionary schools closed. Sunday March 6 to be observed as a day of prayer and fasting.

March 3: demonstration in Faisalabad , 11 am, starting from Catholic Church Railway Road to Press Club.

The Mirror Update (from the National Commission for Justice and Peace)

Assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti (1968-2011), Federal Minister for Minority Affairs

Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti Federal Minister for Minority Affairs was assassinated by unknown assailants on March 2, 2011, near his residence in I/8 Sector, Islamabad. He received 30 bullets fired by two gunmen with automatic rifle(s). He was rushed to a Hospital by his driver, and pronounced dead by the doctors.

While the Taliban claimed the responsibility, the attack was widely condemned at national and international level. President, Prime minister of Pakistan, Chief Minister Punjab, Muthida Qaumi Movement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Germany, Pakistan Muslim League N, Civil Society of Pakistan and Christian leadership has strongly condemned the assassination of Mr. Bhatti. His funeral is expected to take place on March 4, with the burial in Khushpur, his native village near Faisalabad.

The backdrop of the assassination is the need and demand to bring about changes in the blasphemy laws of Pakistan with their known abuse and discrimination.

After the assassination of Governor Salman Taseer who expressed sympathy for Aasia Bibi a Christian convicted under the blasphemy law, this is another attack on the freedom of expression and conscience of the people of Pakistan and sovereignty of the state. The extremist forces want to silent all enlightened and moderate voices. The country has lost a patriot, and a progressive voice.

Public reaction

* Demonstrations were held in Islamabad, Lahore Karachi, Multan, Quetta and other cities of Pakistan condemning the incident.

* The Churches have announced the closure of Christian schools, etc. throughout the country for three days mourning, while the Sunday (6th March, 2011) will be observed as a day of prayer and fasting.

* There will be a demonstration in Faisalabad on 3rd March, 11 am, starting from Catholic Church Railway Road to Press Club.

NCJP Team
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US frame-up of Aafia Siddiqui

US frame-up of Aafia Siddiqui begins to unravel
Pakistani victim of rendition and torture
By Ali Ismail
1 February 2010

Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui went on trial in a federal courtroom in New York City on January 19, charged with the attempted murder of US personnel in Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province in 2008. The case against Dr. Siddiqui, 37, is rapidly unraveling due to lack of evidence and discordant testimony from witnesses.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the charges amount to a frame-up that has been staged to cover up the fact that Siddiqui, along with her eldest son, had been held without charges in the US military’s notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008 where they were subjected to torture. Two of Dr. Siddiqui’s younger children are still missing.

According to the account given by US authorities, Aafia Siddiqui was taken into custody by Afghan security services in July of 2008 after they alleged having found a list of US targets for terrorist attacks as well as bomb-making instructions and assorted chemicals.

Despite these claims, Siddiqui is not charged with any terror-related offenses. Instead, she is indicted for allegedly having seized an automatic weapon and fired on her Afghan and American captors when a group of FBI agents and US Army officers arrived to collect her. The most serious charge against her is using a firearm in committing a felony, the gun in question being a US soldier’s rifle.

Siddiqui was shot twice in the stomach and barely survived after medics at Bagram air field had to make an incision from her breastbone to her bellybutton to remove the bullets. It was reported that part of her intestines had to be removed to save her life.

The accusations against Siddiqui strain credulity and have been fervently denied by her relatives, her defense attorneys, and human rights organizations, all of whom claim that she had been held in secret US detention facilities where she was physically and sexually abused ever since she disappeared off the streets of Karachi in the spring of 2003 with her three children, then seven, five, and six months old.

According to the German weekly, Der Spiegel, just a few days before she disappeared, Affia Siddiqui had contacted her former professor, Robert Sekuler, at Brandeis University in search of a job, complaining that there weren’t any job opportunities in Pakistan for a woman of her educational background.

Dr. Siddiqui is a Pakistani national who was educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University. In July of 2001, she and her husband at the time were scrutinized by the FBI for their alleged association with Islamic charities. Following the events of September 11, 2001 the couple returned to Pakistan at a time when hundreds of Pakistanis and other Muslims were rounded up for questioning across the US. The family resided in Karachi where Aafia Siddiqui was employed at Aga Khan University.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Aafia Siddiqui and her children were kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence agents on their way to the airport in Karachi. Their whereabouts remained unknown until Aafia Siddiqui and her eldest son, Ahmed, were reported detained in Afghanistan in July of 2008, several years after their disappearance. While the Pakistani Interior Ministry had initially confirmed that the abduction had taken place, it later claimed to have been mistaken and stated that Siddiqui was not in Pakistani custody. This about-face was an attempt to conceal the complicity of Pakistani intelligence services in the US government’s rendition of Siddiqui to Afghanistan and her subsequent ordeal.

Aafia Siddiqui’s sister, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, had informed the press that she and her mother had journeyed to the US in 2003 to meet with FBI officials, who had claimed that Aafia Siddiqui would soon be released. In Pakistan, Siddiqui’s family was repeatedly harassed and received numerous death threats from sinister forces within the Pakistani ruling elite. The family was ordered not to make any public appeals in support of Aafia and her three children.

Between 2003 and 2008, when Siddiqui’s whereabouts were still unknown, the US claimed that she was working on behalf of Al Qaeda. In May of 2004, she was listed by US officials as one of the seven “most wanted” Al Qaeda fugitives. The US has also spuriously claimed that she is married to Ammar al-Baluchi, who is reported to be the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the so-called “mastermind” behind the 9/11 attacks. The claim that Siddiqui was married to al-Baluchi was based solely on coerced statements made by Mohammed, who has been repeatedly tortured.

The US military and the FBI have consistently denied that Siddiqui had been in US custody prior to her arrest in 2008. In reality, Aafia Siddiqui spent the years between 2003 and 2008 at the detention facility at Bagram air base, where many referred to her as the “Grey Lady of Bagram.”

Around the same time as her staged arrest, the British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, had been bringing attention to an unknown female detainee in Bagram prison who was known as Prisoner No. 650. In his book, “Enemy Combatant,” Moazzam Begg recalled hearing the woman’s piercing screams as she was being tortured while he was imprisoned in the same facility. According to Ridley, in 2005 male prisoners at the facility were so disturbed by her screams and sobs that they staged a hunger strike that lasted for six days.

When she was arrested in 2008, her then 11 year-old son Ahmed, a US citizen, was by her side. The traumatized boy has since been repatriated to Pakistan, where he is now living with his aunt, Dr. Fawzia Siddiqui. According to his aunt, Pakistani authorities have forbidden Ahmed from speaking to the news media.

Siddiqui’s appearance has changed markedly since 2002, according to her lawyers. She has suffered a broken nose, is deathly pale, and extremely frail, weighing about 100 pounds. When she arrived in the US, she was suffering from acute trauma, according to her lawyers who were outraged that she did not immediately receive the urgent medical attention. Siddiqui had been suffering from agonizing pain from the wounds she had sustained in Afghanistan and was slumped over in her wheelchair when she arrived in court in August of 2008.

Her trial was delayed as her lawyers argued that she was mentally unfit to participate in her own defense. However, prosecutors eventually found mental health experts to allege that she was faking her condition to escape punishment. Judge Richard Berman ruled that she was mentally fit for trial.

The paucity of media attention given to the trial is noteworthy, particularly given that Siddiqui was listed as a top Al Qaeda suspect. The tabloid press in New York City, where the proceedings have received limited attention, press has taken her guilt for granted, cynically dubbing her “Lady Al Qaeda.” The trial is being closely watched in Pakistan, where Siddiqui’s ordeal has outraged many and has sparked protests around the country.

From its beginning, the trial has been marked by questionable irregularities, and the judge has gone out of his way to accommodate the prosecutors. Not a single Pakistani journalist was granted press credentials for the opening statements last Tuesday. Defense attorneys protested the robust security measures put in place during the trial, which obviously reinforces the notion that Siddiqui poses a security threat to the US.

In a clear violation of her rights, Judge Berman has repeatedly thrown Siddiqui out of the courtroom for what he called her “outbursts”. The “outbursts,” were Siddiqui’s anguished claims of innocence and protests that she was tortured.

“Since I’ll never get a chance to speak,” she had told the court. “If you were in a secret prison, or your children were tortured…Give me a little credit, this is not a list of targets of New York. I was never planning to bomb it. You’re lying.”

The trial has also been marked by contradictory testimony from prosecution witnesses, which has undermined the case against Siddiqui.

On the third day of the trial, Assistant US Attorney Jenna Dabbs displayed several photographs of the room where the prosecution claims the shooting occurred. However, Carlo Rosatti, an FBI firearms expert who investigated the case, acknowledged last Friday that he had found “no shell casings, no bullets, no bullet fragments, no evidence the gun [the soldier’s M-4 rifle] was fired.” The only shell casing from the scene was from a 9-milllimeter pistol with which Siddiqui was shot. On the fourth day of the trial, another FBI agent testified that the FBI never found Aafia Siddiqui’s fingerprints on the M-4 rifle.

The warrant officer who shot Siddiqui also took the stand, recounting the version of events laid out by the prosecution. He claimed that on the day he and his colleagues went to collect Siddiqui, she suddenly got a hold of his rifle and aimed it at US personnel, at which point he opened fire with his 9-millimeter pistol.

When Siddiqui yelled out, “I never shot it,” she was tossed out of the courtroom for the remainder of the day.

The unnamed warrant officer, who had hobbled to the stand using a cane, was also permitted to recount how he was wounded in a recent and totally unrelated roadside bombing in Afghanistan, shedding tears as he did so. While having absolutely no relevance to the trial, the soldier’s wounds were invoked as part of a brazen attempt by prosecutors to sway the jury. Judge Berman’s allowing the testimony demonstrates the rigged character of the trial.

Sensing that Siddiqui was indeed emotionally unstable, prosecutors moved to force her to testify in the hopes that she would incriminate herself. Defense attorneys argued that she wasn’t mentally fit to take the stand. Once again, Judge Berman sided with the prosecution.

Berman warned Aafia Siddiqui that she is not permitted to speak about events prior to her arrest in July of 2008. Nevertheless, on Thursday Siddiqui repeatedly told the jury that she was held in secret prisons by US authorities, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan. She told the jury how she was shot just after she peeked through a curtain in search of an escape route. She added that it would be ludicrous to believe that a soldier would leave his gun where an allegedly dangerous suspect could get a hold of it.

“It’s too crazy,” she said. “It’s just ridiculous. I didn’t do that.”

When asked by a US Attorney about the contents of her purse which allegedly contained chemicals, bomb-making instructions, and a list of US targets, Siddiqui said, “I can’t testify to that, the bag was not mine, so I didn’t necessarily go through everything.” Siddiqui’s lawyers have claimed the bag and its contents were planted evidence. Her attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, said back in 2008 that Siddiqui had been carrying what amounted to “conveniently incriminating evidence.”

“Of course they found all this stuff on her. It was planted on her. She is the ultimate victim of the American dark side,” another one of her attorneys had told the Associated Press in 2008.

Siddiqui also told the jury that her children were constantly on her mind and that she was disoriented at the time of her arrest in 2008.

On Friday, the prosecution called Gary Woodworth of Braintree Rifle and Pistol Club in Massachusetts to testify. Woodworth claimed that Siddiqui had taken a 12-hour pistol course at some point in the early 1990s. The Associated Press of Pakistan reported that Woodworth was noticeably distressed when the defense team demanded to know how it was possible for him to recall a specific individual from two decades earlier, when he’d had hundreds of students. Woodworth admitted that he had no records or documentation to back up his assertions, insisting that he was good at remembering faces.

Also on Friday, FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman testified that Siddiqui grabbed the assault rifle in a fit of rage. However, he appeared to be flustered when one of Siddiqui’s attorneys produced his hand-written notes in which there was no mention of her grabbing the gun.

In spite of the obviously fabricated character of the prosecution’s case, there is no guarantee of an acquittal.

Even if she is found not guilty, the fate of Aafia’s Siddiqui’s other two children, Mariam and Suleman, remains unknown. Siddiqui recounts that, while she was held in solitary confinement for five years, she was endlessly forced to listen to recordings of her screaming, terrified children. Her baby, Suleman, she said, was taken away from her immediately, never to be seen again. She said her daughter Mariam was occasionally shown to her, but only as an obscure figure behind a sheet of opaque glass.

The horrifying case of Aafia Siddiqui and her three children is but one example of the criminal and inhuman practices of US imperialism and its ally, the Pakistani bourgeoisie. Hundreds if not thousands of Pakistanis have been kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence services and handed over to US personnel to be dispatched to Bagram, Guantanamo and other “black site” torture chambers around the globe. While the Pakistani government now claims to be doing everything in its power to bring Siddiqui back to Pakistan, its supposed efforts are little more than damage control.

www.wsws.org

Information provided by IJAZ SYED

Blast at Rehman Baba’s mausoleum shocks HRCP

Press Release, March 5

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned a bombing at the mausoleum of renowned poet Rehman Baba on the outskirts of Peshawar.

In a statement issued on Thursday, HRCP said: “The bombing at the mausoleum cannot be condemned strongly enough. Rehman Baba is the national poet not only of the Pashtun people, but of the whole of Pakistan. It is ironic that the mausoleum of a poet revered for opposing oppression and advocating peace and tolerance has been targeted by the militants. But then may be it is not that strange after all. The bombing demonstrates the kind of country Taliban fanatics want to turn Pakistan into.

Militants had apparently asked people to stop women from visiting the shrine. Barring women stepping out of their houses is apparently something that no agreement with the government can talk the militants out of. Today it was Rehman Baba’s mausoleum. Tomorrow it will be girls’ colleges. Girls’ schools are already a regular target.

The deterioration of the security situation across the country is alarming. It is not a simple law and order issue any more, but needs much greater attention and urgency.”

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

Ahmadis held without any evidence of blasphemy: HRCP

Press Release, February 12, 2009

LAHORE: Five Ahmadis detained on charges of blasphemy in Layyah district have been held without virtually any proof or witnesses, the Human Rights Commission (HRCP) said on Thursday.

The commission, which had sent a fact-finding team to Layyah district last week, said its findings concluded that an investigation, mandated by law prior to the registration of a blasphemy case, was also not held.

The HRCP team learned that a prayer leader in the village had allowed Ahmadi students from a nearby tuition centre to offer prayers in his mosque. The students were later threatened by a government schoolteacher and never went to the mosque again. Around 10 days later, some villagers claimed finding blasphemous writings in the mosque’s toilet.

In the First Information Report (FIR), the complainant said: “Since these Ahmadis are the only non-Muslims coming to the mosque, therefore they must have committed the offence.” The ‘argument’ was heard time and again during the HRCP team’s interviews with the mosque administration, some villagers and the local police.

The police and villagers conceded that there were no witnesses or evidence of the Ahmadis’ involvement. The HRCP team found elements belonging to banned extremist organizations and a relative of the National Assembly member from the area had pressurised the police to register a case. “It is clear that a local politician has also used his influence” to book the Ahmadis, the commission’s report said.

HRCP said the complainant and his extremist supporters are adamant that the Ahmadis should be punished on the basis of presumption.

HRCP has demanded a prompt and transparent investigation into the matter to ensure that innocent people are not victimised. It has also demanded the government must ensure that the Ahmadiyya community in the village is not harassed or ostracized. The Commission has also asked the government to take prompt measures to rule out misuse of the blasphemy law.

The detailed fact-finding report can be accessed at the HRCP website: http://www.hrcp-web.org

FACT-FINDING REPORT: Filing of blasphemy charges against 5 Ahmadis in Layyah district

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

Failure to nab perpetrators of Shia killings worries HRCP

Press release, February 11, 2009

Lahore: The recent string of target-killing of Shias in Balochistan and the government’s failure to bring any of the perpetrators to justice is a cause for growing alarm, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Wednesday.

A press statement issued by the Commission said: “The killing of Shia notables in Quetta has sadly become a frequent occurrence. Some of the killings have been owned by an extremist organization flying a religious standard. The number of the Shia community members killed there over the recent years has exceeded 300. The government’s failure to track down the culprits has understandably enraged the targeted community, and it has also emboldened the perpetrators to kill with impunity. Besides religious figures, liberal politicians, businessmen and government officials have been targeted.

The government must surely now know that the community is exasperated with the government’s inability to perform one of its basic functions, that of ensuring that the lives of the people are protected. The Sunni population also fears that unhindered killings of the Shias might cause sectarian strife in an area where the sects have generally coexisted peacefully for centuries.

HRCP fears that the state agencies’ consistent failure to track down the killers may prompt the targeted community to retaliate against members of other sects, which is perhaps the sort of violence those behind the target-killings want to trigger.

The province, which has been in the grip of an insurgency for many years and now faces a growing threat from the Taliban, cannot afford that. The government must act decisively to investigate the killings in an efficient manner before the situation slips into further chaos.”

Asma Jahangir
Chairperson

138 suicides in one month: HRCP

Press release, February 10, 2009

LAHORE: At least 138 people committed suicide in the country in one month ending January 25, 2009, according to statistics available with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and published in its monthly journal.

Of those committing suicide between 26th December 2008 and 25th January 2009, 98 individuals were male and 40 female. Twenty-nine people committed suicide over their failure to find employment or on account of poverty. Thirty-two people shot themselves, indicating the access to firearms. Fifty-four people took their own lives by consuming poison, insecticide or various chemicals.

The youngest person to commit suicide was 13-year-old and the oldest was 65. The age of the victims could not be ascertained in many cases of suicide.

Between 26th December 2008 and 25th January 2009, there were also 78 incidents of attempted suicide. The registration of a First Information Report (FIR) by the police for attempted suicides could only be confirmed in six cases.

In the previous month – from 26th November to 25th December 2008 – at least 117 people had committed suicide and 80 others had attempted to take their own lives.

I. A. Rehman
Secretary General

Govt fiddling as Swat burns: HRCP

Press Release, January 27

Lahore: Swat Taliban summoning politicians and citizens to their so-called sharia courts is further testimony, if testimony was needed, of the absence of state’s writ and growing boldness of militants, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

A press statement issued by HRCP on Tuesday said: “Repeated official vows of regaining control of the security situation in the Swat valley have been laid bare by extremists’ call to politicians from the restive valley to appear before Taliban courts. The situation has worsened to this extent largely because of the government’s denial and appalling inability to even jam a radio station broadcasting propaganda by the Taliban.

It is all very well to issue statements vowing not to allow parallel justice, but increasingly it seems that Taliban’s justice and rule has no competition in the Swat region.

Government claims of having control over the area are impossible to believe when citizens continue to be killed in brazen attacks and the illegal Taliban radio station even announces the names of the people that they would kill later in the day.

Provincial and national lawmakers have conceded the government has no control over the area. Yet surprisingly, the urgency in the government’s approach towards addressing the issue is conspicuous by its absence. The government must immediately share a frank assessment of the security situation with the people instead of watered down claims of control. It must also share an objective analysis of any progress, or lack thereof, during the military operation. The government’s strategy to restore law and order in Swat has clearly not worked and need to be revised promptly and in a transparent manner.

The efforts and responsibility to restore order must be shared by all political entities, especially those with representation in the legislature. Also, all segments of the society, including the religious communities, must no longer remain mere spectators to this shocking breakdown of the state apparatus and must pressurise the government to handle the situation in a more transparent and comprehensible manner.”

Dr. Mehdi Hassan
Vice-chairperson

hrcp-web.org

Lawyers, civil society appreciate LHC ruling on honour killings

Staff Report

LAHORE: Legal experts and members of the Civil Society have cautiously appreciated a Lahore High Court (LHC) ruling declaring murder to protect a woman’s honour as ‘no crime’.

Two men who were accused of killing a man, who had tried to commit rape, were acquitted by the LHC on Thursday. The accused, Ghulam Nabi and his son Iftikhar, residents of a village in Daska, had murdered Yasin who had forcefully entered their house and tried to rape their female relative. Previously, the trial court had sentenced them both to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000 each.

Criminal law expert Advocate Aftab Bajwa told Daily Times that the order would help reduce the victimisation of women, adding that a similar decision had been made by the LHC in Ashiq Ali versus the state in 1972. He said Article 96, 97 and 100 of the Pakistan Penal Code also provided for the right to self-defence and the defence of one’s property.

Licence to kill: Free Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (FLAAS) Chairman Advocate Anis AA Saadi appreciated the order and said criminals should be discouraged at every level. He said such judgements would discourage attackers in a society where incidents of sexual assault were increasing every day. He said murder was an inhuman act, but the right of self-defence must be present with the woman and her relatives. However, he said the case had presented a particular situation that was complex: the judgement must not be taken as a ‘licence’ to kill a man under the garb of honour.

Similar rulings: Representatives of the civil society said the case did not present anything new, adding that thorough investigations were necessary before the defence of self-defence was allowed.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) member Dr Mehdi Hassan told Daily Times the LHC ruling was not new and many such cases had yielded similar rulings in the past.

Proper procedure: Women Action Forum (WAF) convener Gulnar Tabassum said there was a proper procedure to establish self-defence. “If there is proper evidence, and the investigation is completed, then surely a person who murdered someone in self-defence can be declared innocent,” she said.

However, she maintained that it was the responsibility of the police to establish law and order, and citizens should not take the law into their own hands. ASR Resource Centre Executive Director Nighat Saeed Khan said murder in any situation was a crime, but there was an entire process to determine whether a person did it in self-defence.

dailytimes.com.pk