PAKISTAN: Appeal to the international community to take a firm stand for democracy and human rights

November 05, 2007

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Appeal to the international community to take a firm stand for democracy and human rights

The imposition of a state of emergency by the military government of Pakistan on November 3, 2007, is nothing less than the thinly disguised imposition of martial law.  Following the declaration by General Pervez Musharraf’s government there was an immediate round up of opposition members and activists. About 60 judges of the superior courts are under house arrest, their telephone lines cut off and heavily armed detachments of the police force encircling their houses. Among them are 14 judges of the Supreme Court and 46 judges of high courts of four provinces. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Iftekhar Choudhry was forcibly taken out from Supreme Court building by elements of the military High Court in a helicopter and also remains under house arrest.

Through the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), which has replaced the Constitution of Pakistan, several fundamental rights have been suspended — among them are article 9, which relates to security of persons. Following the suspension of article 10, the government can arrest any persons without charges and hold them in custody for an indefinite period; articles 15, 16, 17, 19 and 25 have also been suspended and these pertain to freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and equality of citizens. The press has also been put under severe censorship and received instructions about the publication of photographs, cartoons and news about the workings of judges, who have taken new oaths under the PCO. It is interesting that the Islamic clauses in the constitution have been kept intact, given that one of the major reasons for declaring the emergency was cited as violence perpetrated by Islamic extremists.

The broadcasting equipment of two FM radios, one in Karachi and the other in Islamabad, has been confiscated and permission to broadcast suspended until further notice. Three television channels were attacked by the police, and one television channel in Multan city, Punjab province, was also prevented from putting out its telecast. All the private channels, including radio and television, went off the air on the implementation of the emergency but their transmissions outside the country could not be stopped by the government.

The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association along with 40 other activist lawyers who led the movement for the restoration of the suspended Chief Justice were arrested. Furthermore, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and about 15 political leaders of different political parties are under arrest. A crackdown against lawyers, human rights organizations and political parties continues. Some 70 human rights activists including 30 women were arrested from the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Lahore, where they were holding a meeting to decide how to react to the emergency. In Islamabad some 30 activists were beaten and baton charged at a peaceful demonstration.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) believes that the implementation of the emergency is an indication of the total failure of General Musharraf’s government to run the country after having had absolute power for more than eight years. The implementation of the emergency is actually aimed at concealing its failure to control the law and order situation of the country. It is indicative of the response of the Musharraf government that failed to reply to the constitutional requirements in cases against him, pertaining to his candidacy as president of Pakistan. It is a clear indication of the might of his military dictatorship over the constitution and the judiciary. The imposition of emergency rule is an attempt to pre-empt the court decision that was likely to declare it illegal for a serving general to contest presidential elections.

The AHRC salutes the 11 Judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan who rejected the imposition of emergency rule and denounced it as ultra vires the powers of the president, unconstitutional and against the very fundamental rights of the citizens. The AHRC also salutes the 46 judges of the high courts of different provinces who have refused to take the new oath under the PCO.

The AHRC rejects the supra constitutional actions of the Musharraf government and terms the imposition of martial law under the guise of an emergency as illegal and unconstitutional. The emergency must be withdrawn and all arrested person released immediately. The constitution and the judiciary must be restored. The general elections proposed for January must proceed without hindrance under the National Government of Consensus. It is time for the citizens of Pakistan to show that they do not want to live under a dictatorship.

The AHRC appeals to the international community to take a firm stand and show that it stands for democracy.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-257-2007
Countries : Pakistan,