PAKISTAN: Ms. Benazir Bhutto should desist from demonstrating fire arms at her meetings

Ms. Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister and Chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party, after returning Pakistan from self exile of seven years, is holding mammoth gatherings and welcoming receptions in her new election campaign, with large contingents of armed persons who make no effort to conceal their weapons.

During October 18, at her welcoming reception at Karachi, two bomb blasts killed more than 143 persons and injured many more, solely because of the government’s negligence to provide her security. Despite the passing of so many days the government has not apprehended the culprits and the government of General Musharraf is showing a poor response to the bomb attacks on her procession. They have consistently declined to provide her security. On the contrary, the leaders of the ruling alliance are criticizing Ms. Benazir Bhutto for putting the government in a difficult position by coming to Pakistan for the general elections.

Ms. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, not having received protection from the government, has decided to arrange her security by instituting an armed organization with the name of “Jan Nisaran-e-Benazir”. The volunteers of Jan Nisaran are fully equipped with guns and other fire arms which they openly demonstrate during her visits to several places.

The demonstration of arms and ammunition openly throughout the processions and mammoth crowds provokes the other groups and political parties to have their own armed groups. Particularly the previously disbanded militant groups are joining such parties before the general elections. The most dangerous point in demonstration of the arms in public is that it will encourage the youth to take up arms in the belief that it is a show of strength and power. This in turn will destroy the very fabric of civil society.

Pakistan is such a country where hundreds of militant groups are operating which, in the past, had the protection of the state. But now it is difficult for the state to control them after spending huge amounts not only from domestic resources but also from international community. These militant groups are so powerful that they abduct law enforcement officers including officers from the powerful army of Pakistan.

The act of demonstrating arms in public by the largest political party will generate a kind of atmosphere in which an armed solution to the negligence of the government is seen as necessary. This will also charge the environment of intolerance which already exists and not allow the political process to take its own course.

The Asian Human Rights Commission appeals to Ms. Benazir Bhutto, the chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party, to desist from demonstrating fire arms in public places. The AHRC also appeals to Ms. Bhutto to start a reconciliation process, promote tolerance, and involve more groups in the move for an arms free society and national consensus for political dialogue, instead of following the pattern of what the militant groups want.

The AHRC also urges that the Musharraf government takes responsibility of providing security to high profile personalities like Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders and show its courage to fight militancy in the country.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-252-2007
Countries : Pakistan,