PAKISTAN: AHRC condemns arrests of campaigners in support of the Chief Justice in Punjab

Hundreds of political activists and ordinary citizens have been arrested in Pakistan in an attempt to prevent people from participating in a welcoming rally in honour of the Chief Justice Mr. Iftekhar Choudhray who is scheduled to visit Faisalabad, an industrial city in Punjab province, on June 16, 2007.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan is to address the Faisalabad Bar Association on the eve of the golden jubilee ceremonies of the Supreme Court. The bar associations of Pakistan have announced that lawyers will bring the Chief Justice in a big procession to Faisalabad city. Expecting the participation of hundreds of thousands of people welcoming the Chief Justice in protest against the General MusharrafÂ’s treatment of the independence of the judiciary, the government of Pakistan has so far arrested more than one thousand activists from different part of the Punjab province.

According to the information received through political parties and media reports about 400 people were arrested in Lahore, the capital of the Punjab province, 300 people on June 11, from Toba Tek Singh, Jhang and Faisalabad, 100 from Mutan city, 55 from Bahawalpur, more than 100 from Rawalpindi city and more than 100 activists from Sahiwal, Okara and Jaranwala during the space of a week. Among the arrested persons were some leaders of different political parties including the Peoples Party, Muslim League (N), MMA and the Labour party. The Punjab High Court on June 12, 2007, has declared the detention of six political activists from Multan city as illegal but the provincial government has still not released them.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the arrests of the political workers and citizens before the visit of the Chief Justice. The AHRC is of the view that these arrests at such a mass level shows that the government of General Musharraf has given up all rational means by which to resolve the judicial crisis which started on March 9, 2007 with the Chief Justice being made non-functional. The arrests are a kneejerk response to a situation that the government has allowed to go out of control. The very real fear is that they will use the public unrest to bring about more draconian emergency laws giving sweeping authority to the state to deal with a situation brought about by their own opposition to the independence of the judiciary.

The AHRC urges the government of Pakistan to immediately release all the arrested political activists. The government must also provide protection and safety for the Chief Justice during his visit to Faisalabad and ensure that the political parties and religious militants compliant to the state do not instigate any violence.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-122-2007
Countries : Pakistan,