South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) a regional network of Human Rights Defenders condemns and is extremely concerned regarding news that the National Security Council of Pakistan has endorsed military trials of civilians involved in recent political protests that turned into vandalism.

On 16 May 2023, it was reported that Pakistan’s top security body – the National Security Council – had endorsed the Pakistan Army’s decision to try protesting arsonists and vandals under the Army Act and Official Secrets Act instead of under traditional courts.

The decision comes in the aftermath of country-wide protests that erupted after the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on 9 May 2023.  Khan was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau in relation to an investigation of alleged corruption.  While Khan secured bail two days later, protests erupted throughout Pakistan, many of which turned into acts of vandalism and arson.

SAHR supports the exercise of the right of political expression and free speech but condemns any form of violence, acts of arson and vandalism.

The protests that erupted after Khan’s arrest saw the ransacking and burning of the Corps Commander House in Lahore, as well as many other installations related to the Pakistan Army.

In response, top commanders of the Pakistan Army decided that action against protestors would be taken under Pakistan’s Army and Official Secrets Acts.  This decision was endorsed by the National Security Council – which consists of the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency and other relevant officials.

Military Courts have been used to try Pakistani civilians in the past.  But in 2018, the Peshawar High Court set aside the convictions of over 70 people tried by military courts on various terrorism related charges. The Court observed the process of military courts was in violation of the Constitutionally protected right to a fair trial.

SAHR condemns any decision to try civilians in military courts and calls for protesting vandals and arsonists to be prosecuted in the criminal courts in Pakistan.

On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights

Dr. Roshmi Goswami

Dr. P. Saravanamuttu,
Bureau Member