Assassination Plot Against Pakistani Women Human Rights Defender Threatens The Country’s Human Rights Commitments
Asma Jahangir, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, has revealed that there is a credible plot against her life for her work in the human rights movement.
Ms. Jahangir has been a vocal and outspoken leader of the human rights movement in Pakistan for over 30 years, advocating for women’s human rights. These threats are reported to be in retaliation for her efforts to highlight human rights violations by security forces in Balochistan province, which is facing civil unrest.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said a "highly credible source" had provided information about a serious threat to Ms. Jahangir. HRCP said in a statement, "What makes the reported conspiracy to liquidate Asma Jahangir especially serious is, firstly, the environment of target killings in which dissident persons' dead bodies are being dumped all over, and, secondly, the fact that the finger of accusation has been pointed at the extraordinarily privileged state actors". HRCP believes that “this is not a conspiracy against one individual alone, as it is obviously a plot against Pakistan's future as a democratic state”.
Ms. Jahangir exposed the threats at a recent press conference in Lahore. She believes that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies are behind the plot to kill her, and she reported that lawyers detained two persons who were part of a group that tried to attack her at a court complex. The two persons were reportedly carrying identity cards from government intelligence agencies.
She also alleges that a group of lawyers recently tried to book a venue for a meeting in which she was to participate, but were barred from doing so by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
APWLD strongly condemns any such threats and demands the Pakistani government immediately conduct an investigation into security threats against Ms. Jahangir and take action to the fullest extent of the law against those responsible. We also call on the government to ensure the security and freedoms afforded to her and her family under the Constitution of Pakistan, which guarantees fundamental freedoms, including security of person, and promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils. The government of Pakistan must fulfill its international human rights obligations as a signatory to international human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Spokesperson to President Asif Ali Zardari recently admitted that complaints of human rights violations have been surfacing. The government must ensure that these threats are taken seriously and that all human rights defenders are protected and their freedom to conduct human rights activities is enforced.
“This is an especially important time for the government of Pakistan to protect and uphold fundamental human rights with its recent signing of the National Commission for Human Rights Bill 2012. The Pakistani government has a crucial opportunity to actively demonstrate its commitment to the protection of human rights and those who defend them, including women human rights defenders,” said Kate Lappin, Regional Coordinator of APWLD.
APWLD calls on the Government of Pakistan to:
- Provide protection to Asma Jahangir and her family, and any other human rights defenders under threat
- Launch a comprehensive investigation into the threats against Ms. Jahangir and take action against perpetrators to the fullest extent of Pakistani law and other human rights instruments to which Pakistan is a signatory
- Fulfil its commitments under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities
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