GENERAL APPEAL(Pakistan): State sanctioned attack on justices, lawyers and activists challenging the emergency


Urgent Appeal Case: UG-008-2007
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Judicial system, Rule of law, State of emergency & martial law,

Dear friends,

In addition to what has been widely reported, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the plight of justices, lawyers and activists who had been unlawfully placed under house arrest and detained following the state of emergency in 3 November 2007. The justices and lawyers had been targeted to suppress any form of demonstration challenging the imposition of emergency rule. The justices who refused to take allegiance to the provisional constitution being proposed by President Pervez Musharraf have been under intense pressure.

Justices house padlocked; ailing children denied treatment

Forty-six court justices, including Chief Justice Iftekhar Choudhry of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, have continuously been placed under house arrest. Padlocks were placed on their houses by security forces. Chief Justice Choudhry could not even buy medicine for his seriously ill son, who required regular medication from a pharmacy, because the security forces guarding his place have prevented him from going out. Those inside the house are also not allowed to contact doctors to attend to the sick. They padlocked the doors inside and outside the house.

Another justice, Sardar Raza Khan, was also prevented from getting his seriously ill son the medical attention he required. SC justice Rana Bhagwandas, who has a heart ailment, has also not been allowed to go outside his house for his daily walk. Bhagwandas’s 2-year-old grandson, who is together with him inside the house, has been refused from going outside.

The son of Justice Sabih Uddin Ahmed of Sindh province has also been brutally beaten and arrested when he refused to take the oath on Provisional Constitution Order (PCO). Sources from the Pakistan Bar Council and other Bar Associations also indicate that other justices of Supreme Court and courts in different provinces who refused to take oath under the provisional constitution have been facing intense pressure from the military government. Other houses of justices had their supply of water cut off.

The siblings of justices, particular those who are lawyers, have also been arrested to put pressure on justices into taking the oath under provisional constitution. Justices were also prevented from entering their own courts.

Hundreds of lawyers attacked, arrested

On November 5, security forces brutally beat and used teargas against a crowd of lawyers holding demonstrations in different places in the country. Over 400 lawyers were injured, including women, and over 3,500 lawyers have already been arrested in the past three days since the emergency was imposed.

In Lahore City, Punjab, about 350 of the 1,700 lawyers in the province have already been arrested. In Karachi City, Sindh about 650 lawyers were arrested. In Balochistan province, about 250 lawyers were arrested, including those in the city of Quetta. In the North West Frontier, including in the city of Peshawar, about 300 lawyers were arrested. In Punjab, female lawyers are being detained even in toilets. The lawyers are kept in different jails, in bad conditions and are denied visits by their family members.

Arrest of human rights defender, journalists

Ms. Asma Jehangir, head of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Pakistan, has been placed under house arrest after the state of emergency was imposed. Jehangir is also the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief. She will remain under arrest in the next three months under the public order ordinance. Reports indicate that security forces came to her house, surrounding it and told her she could not leave.

Jehangir’s arrest has effectively ceased the HRC from functioning independently, denying any remedies for victims of human rights violations. It has given the assurance of impunity to the security forces to whatever act of atrocities they have committed and would have to commit in the coming days as the emergency rule continues to take effect.

More than 15 journalists have also been arrested for covering news events, three of whom were brutally beaten and injured by security forces. The arrest of journalists is obviously aimed at suppressing the flow of information. It has become difficult to get information reflecting the real state of the Pakistani people in the country in recent days.

Reports of news event can only be viewed at media outlets operated and run by the government. Private and independent media institutions have been prevented from broadcasting as they were allowed to do before. Several television and radio stations have ceased to broadcast freely. Censorship on newspapers has prevented them from printing news and photographs critical of President Musharraf and his government.


On November 3, President Musharraf imposed a state of emergency on the pretext of the escalating extremism in the country. He is also the chief of Pakistan’s army. He has suspended the Constitution and fundamental rights.

Soon after the emergency state was imposed, the military took over the Supreme Court of Pakistan building and arrested 75 justices. The first casualty of the emergency rule, however, is not the extremists but the justices, lawyers and the media. The justices and lawyers have recently been the target by the military government for being vocal in challenging President Musharraf’s government and for actions undermining the judiciary.

You can also read previous statements on this:

AS-223-2007: AHRC gravely concerned about the safety of lawyers and journalists

AS-171-2007: Historic verdict reinstates chief justice, challenges dictatorship

AS-167-2007: AHRC condemns the attack at the venue of the meeting at which the Chief Justice was to speak and calls for an inquiry into the incident

AS-122-2007: AHRC condemns arrests of campaigners in support of the Chief Justice in Punjab

Please write letters to authorities demanding for the unconditional release of justices, lawyers, activists and others who are placed under house arrest and in detention under the state of emergency. The welfare of the ailing persons requiring regular medication must be ensured. The families of the detainees must be allowed visits.

Please also write letters to your own government, embassies and consulates of Pakistan in your country expressing grave concern on the targeted attack on justices, lawyers, activists and demanding for the lifting of state of emergency.

You may consider this sample letter below as template in writing letters to the concerned government authorities.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear __________,

PAKISTAN: State sanctioned attack on justices, lawyers and activists challenging the emergency

I am writing to express my grave concern regarding the plight of court justices, lawyers and human rights activists who have been under house arrest and detained after the state of emergency was imposed on November 3. I trust that you are aware of the events in Pakistan as this has been widely reported.

I particularly draw your attention to the unlawful arrest and detention of 46 court justices and 3,500 lawyers all over the country. One of those placed under house arrest is Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftekhar Choudhry. Some of these justices and their children on regular medication have been denied of treatment as a result of their arrest. They were not allowed to contact their physicians and some of the houses of justices had their supply of water cutoff.

As you are aware, the hundreds of lawyers from different places all over the country were arrested for demonstrating against the state of emergency. They were brutally beaten in public and tear gas was used against them by security forces. Some of the female lawyers in detention were detained in toilets of the police station. They too were denied the right to be visited by their relatives and their families.

It is shocking that justices, lawyers and human rights activists have instead been targeted by security forces rather than “extremists” or “terrorists”, of which the imposition of emergency should have been based upon. This has instead affirms the military government’s intolerance to the maturing judicial independence and rule of law in the country. By suspending the Constitution and systematically attacking agents of the judicial institutions and civilian institutions, the country has been pushed towards lawlessness.

With the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Pakistan now no longer functioning and the government’s established institutions now ceasing to operate independently, it has left the victims of violations no remedies at all. I am deeply concerned by the further risk of torture and maltreatment these lawyers and those persons detained will have to suffer. Pakistan has had records of systematic and routine uses of torture as a form of investigation and punishment by their security forces.

To deny the fundamental rights of persons, particularly by unlawfully arresting and detaining them and threatening their right to life by denying them access to medical treatment, is completely unacceptable. There are certain rights to which the government must afford its people, regardless of the existing condition. This, however, ceased to exist there with the state-sanctioned persecution of justices, lawyers, activists and its critics.

Furthermore, I urge you to demand for the unconditional release of the justices, lawyers, activists and persons arrested and under detention. Those under house arrest and in detention should be treated humanely pending their release. The state of emergency should be lifted without further delay, in order for established civilian institutions to function, particularly in addressing the enormous violation of human rights in recent times.

I trust that you will take appropriate action over these concerns.

Yours sincerely,



1. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary General
Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General
United Nations
S-378 New York
NY 10017
Tel: +1 212 963 5012
Fax: +1 212 963 7055 or 2155 (ATTN: SECRETARY GENERAL)

2. Ms. Louise Arbour
High Commissioner
UN High Commission on Human Rights
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Fax:  +41 22 917-9006 (ATTN: HIGH COMMISSIONER)

3. Mr. Doru Romulus Costea
UN Human Rights Council
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10

4. Ms. Leila Zerrougui
Working Group on arbitrary detention
1211 Geneva 10

5. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Room 1-040
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88

6. Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo
Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression
c/o J Deriviero
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9177

7. Homayoun Alizadeh
Regional Representative
OHCHR Regional Office for Southeast Asia
Room 601, Block A, 6th Floor
UN Building
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue
Bangkok, 10200
Tel: + 662 288 1496/ 1235
Fax: +662 288 3009

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (