Mon, 29 May 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], May 24 (ANI): Amnesty International and other allied rights organisations have urged the Pakistani government authorities to release immediately all those detained only for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to stop cracking down on the political opposition through mass arrests, arbitrary detention, and charging people under nebulous anti-terrorism laws, reported The News International.

Amnesty International, Equidem, CIVICUS, and Forum Asia released a joint statement on Tuesday.

According to the statement, Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir was quoted in media reports as saying that a list of 25,000 people had been compiled using video and CCTV footage, geofencing, and WhatsApp surveillance, of whom 5,000 would be detained for having a direct role in the May 9 attacks on government and military property, as per The News International.

The News International is one of the largest English-language newspaper in Pakistan.

According to the joint statement, 800 of them would be tried in military courts and anti-terrorism courts, raising serious human rights concerns about due process.

As many as 4,000 people have reportedly been arrested, while the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered the release of 123 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political workers on May 21.

The statement said, "Those who are suspected to have committed a crime during the violent clashes following the short-lived arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan may only be charged using Pakistan's ordinary criminal laws, consistent with international human rights standards, without resorting to overly broad and vague anti-terrorism provisions, and authorities must guarantee their constitutional right to a fair trial.""A pall of fear hangs over Khan's supporters following the arbitrary arrests of many opposition leaders, some of whom have been re-arrested outside the jail after being released and others from the court premises themselves. People's homes have been raided in the middle of the night, and people who participated in the protests have been arrested without a warrant," the statement added.

"Alarmingly, Imran Riaz Khan, a prominent journalist known for his support of the PTI was arrested at the Sialkot airport on 11 May and has not been heard from since. Despite court orders, police have failed to produce him, and his fate and whereabouts remain unknown. On 22 May, the police told the Lahore High Court that there is no trace of him in any police department in the province. This constitutes an enforced disappearance under international human rights law," as per the statement.

For many years, Pakistan has witnessed a trend of punishing dissenting voices using enforced disappearance which must be ended, said Amnesty International and allied bodies, The News International reported.

They said, "Former Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari was arrested on May 17, and minutes after being released on the orders of the Islamabad High Court, was re-arrested under fresh charges. Her lawyer says that Dr Mazari requires immediate medical attention owing to her health condition. On May 22, the Lahore High Court ordered her immediate release, but she was detained again for the fourth time. We call upon authorities to release her, unless she has been charged with a legally cognizable offence, and ensure access to medical care without delay."The joint statement added, "Those arrested in connection with the recent protests must have their fair trial, rights respected, including the presumption of innocence, and independence and impartiality of the tribunal. They should not be tried in military courts or special counter-terrorism courts. Respect for the right to liberty also requires a presumption that they are granted bail.

"Pakistan has an obligation to recognise, respect, and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ongoing crackdown is at odds with Pakistan's international human rights commitments," the joint statement said, The News International reported. (ANI)

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