South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2014

KARACHI: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern over what it terms undermining of civilian institutions in the country soon after the general elections and coming of the new government to power.

“Parliament and media are being undermined,” said eminent lawyer and HRCP’s former chairperson Asma Jehangir at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Friday.

Accompanied by Hina Jillani, Asad Iqbal Butt and other HRCP leaders, Ms Jehangir said politicians had been ‘forced’ to support the Pakistan Protection Act. However, the law was not good even for security forces because when they would be involved in civilian affairs they would be asked by the judiciary to explain their position.

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Ms Jehangir said she believed that the purpose of the PPA was two-fold, to ‘whitewash’ past disappearances of people carried out by security forces and to give extra powers to them.

She said the law was not passed to deal with Fata or Pata because such draconian laws already existed there. She said she feared that the PPA might be used against Baloch and Sindhi nationalists and other politicians, journalists, progressive activists and people like herself.

Criminal lawyers are of the view that the PPA was unlikely to ensure a speedy trial; besides there would be ‘problems’ to get a fair trial under this law.

Talking about the current political situation in the country, Ms Jehangir said certain political forces were ostensibly pushing the country towards mid-term polls and the issue of alleged rigging in four constituencies had gone beyond the demand for re-polling in them and now the credibility of the entire elections was being questioned.

She said Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim was a noble man, but now it appeared that no gentle person would be willing to become the chief election commissioner.

“If mid-term polls were held, its outcome would be determined by the establishment.”

Ms Jehangir regretted that this year was not good for the democratic process in the country.

In an oblique reference to the present government, she said political matters were being dealt with through administrative measures and nepotism was being promoted in transfers and postings. It is a matter of ‘concern and surprise’ that the political party which got the people’s mandate appears to be worried.

She said if the rulers were perturbed over the political situation, then questions would arise about their mandate. “The mandate should not be used for arbitrariness.”

The rights activist said that slogans like ‘save state, not politics’ were being raised and the revolution was being brought from Canada.

Without naming the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its leader Imran Khan, she said people, who had suffered and fought against dictatorships for over 50 years, would be informed about revolution by the ‘burger class’.

“These ‘burger people’ would tell the masses about the change who have been fighting against despots in the country since its very beginning,” she said.

The HRCP team was in Karachi for ‘fact-finding’ about the Karachi operation. They also held a meeting with media persons to seek their input about the operation.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2014