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PAKISTAN: Govt must ensure recovery of four rights defenders

PAKISTAN: Government must ensure the safe recovery of four abducted human rights defenders

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the abduction of four human rights defenders in broad daylight by persons said to be from an outlawed religious organization. The unknown armed persons abducted six workers of a NGO including, two lady workers. However, after some time they threw the two women out of the vehicle and took away four persons including the car of the HAND’s NGO.

It is feared that the abducted workers would be assassinated as has happened in the past. Many health workers and human rights defenders have been killed after their abduction by the religious groups.

The NGO, ‘HAND’, works under the UN programme. The abducted persons and female workers who were working in the Noor Mohammad Village Goth, Mauripur, Karachi, where they have been distributing medicines and rations to the residents for some time. The male abductees were Engineer Amjad Ali Siyal, Mohammad Ashfaq, dispenser, Khurram Ahmad Abbas, dispenser and driver Humayun Ahmad, driver. The released women, Miss. Shakila and Miss. Rashida told police that the kidnappers had taken the four abducted workers in a car towards Balochistan. The police claim that they were abducted by one of the banned Muslim extremist groups who are opposed to the polio vaccination programme and this incident due to the campaign against NGO volunteers. It is believed that the abductors are convinced that they are working for the interests of America or the West.

Pakistan has become a most dangerous country for human rights defenders. Balochistan has the highest number of incidents where human rights defenders and journalists were abducted and killed by members of the the law enforcement agencies and militant groups. The non state actors like the Taliban and extremist Muslim groups are also playing a major role in abduction for ransom and killings of the human rights defenders and the government has yet not started any proper legal mechanism for the protection of these workers.

It is to be mentioned here that the definition of human rights defenders is accepted at international level that whoever working for the rights and welfare of the people are ‘human rights defender.’ This includes journalists, volunteers serving at the community level, social workers, health workers, lawyers, medical practitioners, teachers, writers, NGO staff and the activists.

In the recent past eight polio health workers, including lady health workers, were killed and many were injured in different violent attacks in the country. There are also other cases of Malala Yousufzai, her friends and many others who were working for imparting education particularly for girls.

In Pakistan it is intentionally perpetuated through the State and military governments and also from Muslim religious groups that the volunteers working for social organizations and NGOs are serving the interests of the West, particularly the USA. The aim of such smear campaign against the social workers serving the cause of welfare and uplifting the social standard is to stop the concept of welfare from the society and the country must be governed by the dictates of supra constitutional forces and extremist Muslim groups. These types of actions are also aimed to deny the people from their fundamental rights of education, health and access to justice.

The freedom of expression in the country is already very much restrained through blasphemy laws, the national security concept, ideology of Pakistan, contempt of court, sacred status of armed forces and judiciary and judges and the self censorship by the media houses. The abduction and killings of the human rights is also aimed to undermine the freedom of expression, freedom of movement and freedom of choice.

The violence against human rights defenders and civil society organizations is rising by the state and Muslim groups which indicates a failure on the part of the government to provide protection to the human rights defenders. The government must immediately take action for the safe recovery of the abducted volunteers of the HAND, a NGO, the Government must also provide protection to human rights defenders and develop a legal mechanism for their protection. Not to do so would be yet another indication of the government's policy of appeasement towards the military and fundamentalist groups that are trying to rule the country.

ENDS

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