Friday, March 21, 2008

Days of martial law over, Iftikhar tells lawyers

(Courtesy DAWN)

LAHORE, March 20: Deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said on Thursday there was no room now for imposition of martial law and abrogation of the Constitution in the country.

Addressing the Lahore Bar Association by telephone ahead of a weekly protest rally, he said the judiciary had been under pressure since the inception of Pakistan.“But now things have changed drastically because people have rejected the dictatorship and supported independent judges,” he said.

The barroom echoed with slogans in favour of the deposed chief justice and against President Pervez Musharraf. Justice Chaudhry said the Supreme Court’s seven-member bench verdict against the imposition of emergency and PCO still held the ground.“A decision violative of the Constitution, neither has constitutional and legal significance nor required a fiat for setting it aside. It should be ignored completely,” he said.“The SC in its decision had restrained superior court judges from taking the oath under the PCO. Therefore, the judges who took the oath under the PCO on Nov 3 could not undo the verdict of the seven-members bench against the Nov 3 emergency,” he added.

He said the people of Pakistan had given their verdict on Feb 18 in favour of the supremacy of the Constitution, making it obligatory for the political leadership to respect their mandate. “Only the parliament, the supreme body, has the power to amend the Constitution with a two-thirds majority but it also could not disturb the Islamic provisions and basic structure of the Constitution,” the chief justice said.

Justice Iftikhar said the parliament should evolve a system of maintaing a balance among various state institutions. He said it should be ensured that the executive followed directives of the legislature and the judiciary in letter and spirit. Justice Chaudhry said that under Article 199 of the Constitution it was the duty of the executive to assist the SC in getting its orders implemented. But regretfully, the executive did not act upon the Supreme Court’s Nov 3 order and surrendered before an individual.

Defending his decision of not taking oath under the PCO, the deposed chief justice said: “We (the judges) could not become part of a process where the sacred book (Constitution) is trampled upon under boots of the army, by virtue of our oath of allegiance to the Constitution.”

He said he would have betrayed the people, who cared for him in the hour of need, had he involved himself in any way with the subversion of the Constitution.“No one is above the law. Nations who do not respect their constitutions are wiped of the world map,” he added.

He paid tribute to his colleagues, who declined to take oath under the PCO on Nov 3 and said that they had remained true to their allegiance to the Constitution. He said all extra-constitutional steps taken on Nov 3 were meant to perpetuate the illegitimate rule of an individual.

Justice Iftikhar said the country stood at a critical juncture and the new political leadership needed to handle the situation prudently. He lauded the civil society, students, doctors and people from different walks of life for supporting the lawyers’ movement.

Religious minorities in India feel unsafe: Asma

By Jawed Naqvi
(Courtesy DAWN)
21st March 2008
NEW DELHI, March 20: Unacceptable delays in delivering justice to victims of communal violence across India, the state’s occasional culpability in fomenting intolerance and exploitation of religious fault lines for politics were some of the issues listed on Thursday by UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Asma Jehangir that she said required immediate attention.
“By and large, the Indians respect the diversity of religions and beliefs. At the same time, organised groups based on religious ideologies have unleashed the fear of mob violence in many parts of the country,” Ms Jehangir told a news conference at the end of a rare 18-day visit as the UN rapporteur. “All individuals I met recognised that a comprehensive legal framework to protect their rights exists, yet many of them -– especially from religious minorities -– remained dissatisfied with its implementation.”
Ms Jehangir’s mission follows a similar one undertaken by her predecessor in 1996. “My forthcoming report will also be a follow-up on developments during the past twelve years, in order to analyse what has changed and why.”She said she was concerned at the extended timeframe of investigations in cases of communal riots, violence and massacres such as those which targeted the Sikhs in 1984, or the ones that followed the demolition of the Babri mosque and the most recent one in Gujarat in 2002.
“Any inquiry should not be done in indecent haste but it should be accorded the highest priority both from the investigation, the judiciary and any commission appointed to study the situation. Unreasonable protraction of the inquiry only keeps tensions simmering and devalues justice."
“I was astonished to learn that just before I arrived in India, the Liberhan Commission -– probing the circumstances leading to the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya – got the 44th extension to conclude its inquiry,” she said.
The level of action of the government to protect its citizens in terms of freedom of religion or belief varies according to the states concerned. It was thus that the potential for greater harm to Kashmiri Pundits when they were forced to flee their homes was contained by the state’s prompt intervention, while the same could not be said about the protection of religious minorities in Gujarat, who continue to live in ghettoes and in fear.
“The de-escalation of violence in Jammu and Kashmir has had a positive impact on freedom of religion there,” Ms Jehangir said. “Places of worship are now more accessible and the tensions are reducing. There have been public statements inviting the Hindu Pundits to return to Kashmir. However, many interlocutors have confirmed a continuing bias amongst security forces against Muslims who also face problems with regard to exit controls lists and discrimination when renting hotel rooms outside Jammu and Kashmir,” she noted.
She urged the state of Orissa, where the Hindutva drive is intensive and widespread, to reconsider its anti-conversion legislation.Less than three months ago, there was widespread violence in the Kandhamal district of Orissa, targeting primarily Christians in Dalit and tribal communities. The attacks could have been prevented since the Christian community alerted the authorities before the incident.
“The tensions are still prevalent and the state should rethink its anti-conversion legislation which has been used to vilify Christians in general,” she said.In UP, communal violence continues to occur while perpetrators are dealt with sympathy by the law enforcement agents. “Some of the cases are still under investigation and I hope that justice will prevail.”
In Gujarat, the wounds of the 2002 massacre, where by all accounts more than a thousand people -– mostly Muslims -– were killed, have not healed, she said. “In my discussions with victims I could see their continuing fear which is exacerbated by the reported complicity of the state government and the distress that justice continues to evade most victims and survivors.
“It is also critical for the state government to recognise that development without a policy of inclusiveness of all religious communities will only add to aggravate resentments. The same is true for the increasing ghettoisation of Muslims in certain areas.”
Ms Jehangir said her predecessor, Mr Abdelfattah Amor, “unfortunately was prophetic when he expressed his fears that something in the nature of the 1992 Ayodhya incident will recur in the event of political exploitation of a situation. In my opinion, there is today a real risk that similar communal violence might happen again unless incitement to religious hatred and political exploitation of communal tensions are effectively prevented."
She urged the government and for non-state actors to diffuse tensions and address the root causes beforehand. The sincerity of the central government to implement the Sachar Committee report will be very much seen on the ground because state governments have been given direction to follow-up on the recommendations of the report.

PPP to announce name for PM on Saturday or Sunday

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PP) is expected to announce the name for premiership on Saturday or Sunday.

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said here that 19-year son Benazir Bhutto and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on behalf of his party and coalition partners would announce the name of the PPP’s candidate for premiership on Saturday or Sunday.

President Pervez Musharraf called the parliament session for the election of PM on March 24.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhuto Zardari has arrived here from London to announce the name for PM’s slot.

March towards army house if judges not restored: Aitezaz

ABBOTABAD: President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Chaudhry Aitezaz Ahsan on Thursday said that the lawyers will go for a long march towards Army House if the new government failed to restore deposed judges within 30 days of its formation. Addressing a lawyers’ convention here, Aitezaz said conspiracies are being hatched against the Murree summit but “I have confidence in Pakistan People’s Party, Muslim League-N and Awami National Party.”

Sacked judge of Peshawar High Court, Dost Muhammad Khan, President High Court Bar, Abdul Latif Afridi and other lawyer leaders also spoke on the occasion.“Those emphasizing the need for two-third parliamentary support for restoration of judiciary are in fact trying to validate the post November 3 steps,” Aitezaz Ahsan maintained.

Referring to his meeting with the US Ambassador, he said he persuaded the US administration to see the ground realities and stop its support to the dictatorship.“We will march to army house if judges are not restored,” he reiterated, adding however that the parliament house will not be surrounded because lawyers want to see a strong parliament.

(Courtesy GEO)

Mubarik Ali's talk on Student Movement of Pakistan

Sunday Group Talk
By Dr. Mubarik Ali
Topic: History of the Student Movement of Pakistan
Date: 23rd March (Sunday)
Time: 6 p.m. Sharp
Venue: Nairang Art Gallery (Second Floor)(101 – Habitat Flats, Jail Road, Lahore – opposite Kinnaird College)

For more information, call: 0323-4021894 (Umer) or

The Sunday Group
Sunday Group is a weekly study-circle/discussion forum with the under-lying idea that any firm movement for the change of society requires guidance from a deep and clear understanding of the continuously changing social and political facts. Such understanding can only evolve with a collective effort where a variety of perspectives can be entertained. The need for a thorough comprehension of events around us is also necessary to raise awareness in other sections of the society and to mobilize them in the struggle for their rights.

A young woman abducted and gang raped by guards of the Mohammad Ali Jinnah mausoleum

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

A young woman of 18 years was abducted and gang raped continuously over a period of three days by the guards employed at the mausoleum of Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Father of the Nation, known as "Mazar e Quide". A guard has been arrested without proper identification as the victim is still semi-conscious. This arrest is seen as an attempt to protect the real perpetrators who are allegedly members of the armed forces. The mausoleum is guarded by the armed forces.

According to the information received the rape victim who is the wife of a resident of a village in Lodhran, Punjab province, came with her family to visit Karachi. On Sunday, March 16, 2008, they went to visit the mausoleum. Both, she and her husband, were stopped at the gate by two guards and told to obtain tickets from another gate which is at least 600 meters away from where they were. The husband went to purchase the tickets asking his wife to wait for the other relatives who were coming in a vehicle. After purchasing the tickets the husband returned and discovered that his wife was missing; her slippers, however, we lying nearby. That whole night her family searched for her and the next day they filed a police report. However, the police failed to take any action.

Then, on the night of March 18, she was found on the stairs of the mausoleum. She was taken to two different hospitals of the city where it was confirmed that she had been repeatedly raped. The mausoleum is under the tight control of the three arm forces of Pakistan and there have been many reported cases of rape and sexual harassment of women. It is due to this that the people of Karachi are avoiding visiting the mausoleum. It is believed that the police and city administration are not willing to conduct investigations and arrest the offenders as the suspected rapists are guards from armed forces personnel. They are now putting pressure on the family of the victim not to pursue the case.This is a shocking incident and the attitude of the city government of Karachi city in trying to tone down the incident is deplorable. An enquiry into this incident should immediately be instituted and the perpetrators arrested and prosecuted forthwith. The victim must be provided with protection, all medical assistance and compensation.

Many reports regarding rape are received from Pakistan. Women's organisations in particular have often spoken out about this. However, the authorities in the country do not show much concern to deal with this serious crime. The rape done by personnel of the armed forces is an even greater problem. In this particular case a family went for a visit to a national monument and the woman was raped within its premises after being abducted. We particularly urge the Ministry of Women's Development to inquire into this case and take appropriate action.

# # # About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.