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PAKISTAN: Attempted rape of a girl by the Karachi university staff and continuous impunity of the perpetrators due to protection of Pakistan Rangers

August 2, 2006

[NOTICE: The AHRC have developed a new automatic letter-sending system using the "button" below. However, in this appeal, we could not include e-mail addresses of some of the Pakistan authorities. We encourage you to send your appeal letters via fax or post to those people. Fax numbers and postal addresses of the Pakistan authorities are attached below with this appeal. Thank you.]

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal

2 August 2006
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UA-258-2006: PAKISTAN: Attempted rape of a girl by the Karachi university staff and continuous impunity of the perpetrators due to protection of Pakistan Rangers

PAKISTAN: Sexual assault at educational institution, no rule of law, law enforcement agencies are protecting the culprits.
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from a reliable source that a female law student from the S.M. Law College, Miss R (the name was withheld to safeguard victim’s identity), was nearly raped by three staff of the Islamic Learning Department of the Karachi University where she went to take an exam on 28 July 2006. Even though the three perpetrators were caught by the students and were brought before the Vice Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor suspended them a few days later only after the incident was widely publicized in the newspapers. He also allegedly told the victim not to lodge a complaint regarding the incident to the police station. Meanwhile, the perpetrators sought help from the officials of the Pakistan Rangers (paramilitary group) and as a result, the victim's family is under threat from the perpetrators and the Pakistan Rangers. To date, no serious disciplinary and legal action has been taken against the perpetrators.  It is alleged that this is not the first case of sexual harassment (Some of them are relating to rape and physical assaults) against female students by the staff of the same department of the university and officials of Pakistan Rangers.  

Miss R (the name was withheld) went to Karachi University in Karachi on July 28 to take an examination in constitutional law. She is a student of the S.M. Law College in Karachi and Karachi University was her examination center. The examination was supposed to start at 2:30pm but she reached the university at 1:30pm to avoid disturbances in the city streets owing to protest rallies against Israel's attack in Lebanon. As July 28 was Friday, Juma prayers (the week's biggest religious congregations) and most of the students and teachers were not present at the university at this time as they all went to mosques to attend the prayers. Miss R was sitting on a bench outside the classrooms. One computer operator named Mr. Mansoor Riaz of the Islamic Learning Department then approached her and asked why she was sitting there. After learning that she was to appear in examinations, he asked her to show all the relevant documents, even though only invigilators had authority to check them. When Miss R showed the documents, he said that they were false and she had to follow him to his office.

Mr. Riaz then took Miss R to his office and again started checking the papers while two more staff of the same Islamic Learning Department came and locked the door. Miss R felt that something was going wrong and ran towards the door. However, the three staff attacked her and started stripping off her clothes.  Miss R cried out and shouted asking for help. Some students of the S.M. Law College who also arrived early to the university for an examination heard her screams, rushed to Mr. Riaz's office and forcibly opened the door. When students saw that Miss R was overpowered by the three staff, they beat them and immediately produced them before the Vice Chancellor of the university.

After hearing of the incident from the victim and students, the Vice Chancellor postponed the examination scheduled for that day and promised to hold an inquiry into the incident. However, he allegedly told the victim not to lodge a complaint to the police station saying that she would earn a bad name and be further harassed. He also let Mr. Riaz and his two colleagues go home. 

After being released by the Vice Chancellor, the three perpetrators went straight to officials of Pakistan Rangers [paramilitary armed group] stationed within the university and complained that they were beaten by the outsiders of the University. The Pakistan Rangers have been deputed by the government authorities to guard some education centers and universities in Karach, including the Karachi University, in order to control the escalations of violence between different student groups. According to the local people, the residence of the members of the Pakistan Rangers is located near the hostel of female students and there were several alleged cases of sexual harassment against female students by the staff of the same Islamic Learning Department of the university and officials of Pakistan Rangers. The cases reportedly include rape and physical assaults but the victims most likely did not reveal their incidents due to fear and humiliation.   

Officials of the Pakistan Rangers then advised the three staff to complain to the employee's union of the university regarding their assault by the students and resort to strike. They followed this advice and consequently the union went on strike for two days insisting that the three staff were innocent and that the students must be punished for assaulting them.  Meanwhile, the university authority did not take any action against the perpetrators or inquire into the incident despite the Vice Chancellor's earlier promise to the victim and the students.

The incident was widely and continuously publicized in local newspapers and at that point, the Vice Chancellor merely suspended the three staff responsible for the incident on July 31. However, the university authorities did not attempt to take measures for dismissal of the three staff or lodge complaints for legal action against them.

As a result of all the actions taken by the university authority and the perpetrators backed up by the Pakistan Rangers, a complaint has yet been lodged to the police station regarding this case. Meanwhile, the victim's parents are reportedly under serious threat from the perpetrators and officials of Rangers who reportedly told them that the victim will face more consequences if they did not retract their complaint to the Karachi University authority.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 

There have reportedly been several complaints about similar incidents since the Pakistan Rangers have been stationed within Karachi University on the pretext of preventing violence and controlling the law and order within the university. However, the victims generally do not report such incidents due to the objection of their parents who are scared that their children would earn bad names.

Pakistan Rangers have been stationed within the Karachi University for more than 10 years and during this period, several students including female students were allegedly beaten, raped and molested by its officials. But none of them could file a case against those officials as they were required to get permission from the Vice Chancellor/pro vice chancellor before lodging the complaint.

Over the decade, the Pakistan Rangers have also developed a good nexus with the university employees who take the advantage of their power for their own benefit. The three staff of the Islamic Learning Department are most likely under this category. The expected consequence is that the university authority won't take any serious action against the perpetrators as they have the patronage of Pakistan Rangers. The Vice Chancellor is allegedly under huge pressure from the Pakistan Rangers so that he can not take any actions against the perpetrators.


SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the relevant authorities listed below and urge them to ensure that a proper and thorough investigation be immediately conducted into this case by the Karachi University authority as well as the police. The police should register the case against the perpetrators relating to this attempted rape and launch an investigation into the case. Please also urge them to order an investigation into the allegation of threats and intimidation by the Pakistan Rangers to the victim's family and the university authority to protect the perpetrators. If it is found to be true, those responsible officials should also be punished by law. Effective measures should be taken to ensure the security of the victim and her family who are allegedly under threat by the perpetrators and the Ranger officials.  

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Sample letter:

PAKISTAN: Attempted rape of a girl by the Karachi university staff; Pakistan Rangers' interference to protect the perpetrators

Name of the victim: Miss R (the name was withheld to safeguard victim’s identity), the student of S.M. Law College in Karachi
Alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Mansoor Riaz, a computer operator of the Islamic Learning Department of the Karachi University
2. Two more staff of the Islamic Learning Department
3. Officials of the Pakistan Rangers posting at the Karachi University
Date of incident: Between 1:30pm to 2:30pm on 28 July 2006 at the time of Juma prayers
Place of incident: Mr. Riaz's office room

I am shocked to learn of the attempted rape of a female student of S.M. Law College, the most prestigious law college of Pakistan, by the three staff of the Islamic Learning Department of the Karachi University on 28 July 2006.

According to the information I have received, at around 1:30pm on July 28 (Fri.) Miss R arrived in the Karachi University which was her examination center. Because of Juma prayers (the week's biggest religious congregations), most students and teachers went to mosques and were not present in the university at that time.  The victim was then approached by one computer operator named Mr. Mansoor Riaz of the Islamic Learning Department, who asked her to show the relevant documents for the examination. When she showed him the documents, he said all of them were fictitious and ordered her to come to his office.

After taking the victim to his office, his two other colleagues from the same department soon joined with him, locked the door and tried to strip off her clothes. She could barely escape from being raped by the students who came to rescue her upon hearing her cries for help. The students beat the perpetrators and produced them before the Vice Chancellor of the university, who promised the victim and the students that the University authority would inquire the incident. However, he stopped the victim lodging a complaint to the police station saying that she would gain a bad name and face further humiliation. He also released the perpetrators without taking any action.

As soon as they were released by the Vice Chancellor, the perpetrators reportedly sought the help from the officials of Pakistan Rangers posted in the university, who advised them to complain to the employee's union regarding the assault by the students and go on a strike. Consequently, the employee's union went on strike for three days insisting the innocence of the three staff and urging action by the university authority against the students. Meanwhile, the university authority did not take any action to inquire into the incident and merely suspended the three concerned staff a few days later on July 31, only after the incident was widely publicized in the local newspapers. It is alleged that the Vice Chancellor is allegedly under huge pressure from the Pakistan Rangers so that he cannot take any actions against the perpetrators.

I was also informed that the victim's parents are reportedly under serious threat from the perpetrators and officials of Rangers who reportedly told them that the victim will face more consequences if they did not retract their complaint to the Karachi University authority. As a result of all actions taken by the perpetrators and the perpetrators being backed up by the Pakistan Rangers, a complaint has yet been lodged to the police station regarding this case.

It is also came to my attention that there have been reportedly several complaints about similar incidents since Pakistan Rangers have been stationed in Karachi University for more than 10 years with responsibility of preventing violence and controlling the law and order within the university. However, for more than 10 years, several students including female students were allegedly beaten, raped and molested by its officials. But none of them could file a case against those officials as they were required to get permission from the Vice Chancellor/pro vice chancellor before lodging the complaint.

In light of the above, I strongly urge you to order a proper and thorough investigation into this attempted rape. The police should register the case against the perpetrators relating to this incident and launch an investigation into the case. I also urge you to conduct an investigation into the allegation of threats and intimidation by the Pakistan Rangers to the victim's family and the university authority protecting the perpetrators. If it is found true, those responsible officials should also be punished by law. I also urge you to ensure that effective protection be provided to the victim and her family who are allegedly under the threat by the perpetrators and the Ranger officials.  Finally, I recommend the Pakistan government to pull out the Pakistan Rangers from the university premises and set up an inquiry commission by the judiciary to probe the misuse of power by the Pakistan Rangers in the educational institutions.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Pervez Musharraf
President
President¡¦s Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
Email: (please see - http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx)

2. Mr. Ashfaq Gondal
Principal Information Officer to President of Pakistan
President Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 927 008

3. Mr. Muhammad Wasi Zafar
Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights,
S Block,
Pakistan Secretariat,
Islamabad,
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 920 2628
E-Mail: minister@molaw.gov.pk 

4. Justice Iftekhar Choudhry
Chief Justice of Pakistan
Supreme Court building
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 921 3452

5. Justice Sabih Uddin
Chief Justice of Sindh High Court
High Court Building
Saddar
Karachi
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 921 3220
Email: info@sindhhighcourt.gov.pk 

6. Mr. Ishrat-ul- Ibad Khan
Governor
Government of Sindh
Governor House Karachi
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 21 920 1201
Email: governor@governorsindh.gov.pk 

7. Dr. Arbab Abdul Rahim
Chief Minister of Sindh
Chief Minister House
Karachi
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 21 9202000

8. Joint Secretary for Law, Justice and Human Rights
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 51 920 2819
Fax: + 92 51 920 3119

9. Dr. Peerzada Qasim
Vice Chancellor
University of Karachi
Tel: +92 21 9261337
Fax: +92 21 9261340
E-mail: vcku@cyber.net.pk 

10. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
Attn: Mara Steccazzini
Room 3-042
c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9615
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN)
Email: msteccazzini@ohchr.org 


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org
 
   

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-258-2006
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.