South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a network of human rights defenders based in seven countries in South Asia, vehemently condemn the assassination of Mr. Rashid Rehman Khan, a prominent human rights defender and Supreme Court Advocate of Pakistan.
Mr. Khan was gunned down on 7 May 2014 in his office in Multan by two unidentified men, whilst also injuring two others. Mr. Khan, a coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), was representing Junaid Hafeez, who is accused of blasphemy, and had received death threats which was reported to the relevant authorities. The HRCP also expressed serious concern over the threats to his life in a letter to the Punjab Government in April. It is reported that no action was taken for these threats.
SAHR regrets that the current environment in Pakistan is least conducive to the protection of rights and fundamental freedoms. This assassination comes months after two prominent lawyers, Mr. Malik Jarrar and Mr. Mian Muhammad Tariq were shot dead in February 2013. Such assassinations of prominent human rights defenders further highlights the level of impunity in Pakistan and the failure of the government to uphold the rule of law in the country. Further, the unchecked growth of religious militancy has also affected the work of non governmental organisations, civil society and human rights defenders. The level of impunity enjoyed by religious militancy for targeting human rights defenders, legislators, intellectuals and journalists is even a greater cause for concern.
SAHR calls upon the Government of Pakistan to conduct an independent unbiased investigation to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and further to take immediate measures for protecting the lives of Pakistani citizens especially ensuring their safety in conducting any activity for the protection of human rights or exercise of their freedoms. We remind the Government of its responsibility, under its own laws and under international human rights instruments it has signed, to provide protection to its citizens. These commitments must be met in letter and spirit. It is imperative that the government, the political opposition and the media join hands with the civil society to curb elements that incite violence publicly and are carrying out a campaign of terror in the country.
On behalf of South Asians for Human Rights
Hina Jilani – Chairperson
Dr. Nimalka Fernando – Co-Chairperson