Pakistan: Plot to assassinate Asma Jahangir, prominent human rights lawyer

Asif Ali Zardari
President’s Secretariat
Islamabad, Pakistan
Fax:                 011 92 51 920 4974

Rajaz Pervaz Ashraf
Prime Minister House
Islamabad, Pakistan
Fax:                 011 92 51 921 3780
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
c/o Inter Services Public Relations
Hilal Road, Rawalpindi, 46000
Fax:                 011 92 51 927 1682

Dear President, Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff;

Re: Plot to assassinate Asma Jahangir, prominent human rights lawyer

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights. LRWC campaigns for advocates in danger because of their human rights advocacy, engages in research and education and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

I am writing, as a member of LRWC, in response to information obtained from Amnesty International indicating that the safety of Asma Jahangir, the founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and a prominent human rights lawyer, is gravely at risk.

Pakistan made a commitment to protect human rights by signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 17 April 2008, which provides in Article 6, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

Article 2(b) of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders requires Pakistan and other states:

  • To ensure and support the creation and development of independent national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, such as ombudsmen or human rights commissions; and,
  • To take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the Declaration.

The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers sets out international norms obliging states to provide lawyers the personal and professional protection necessary to enable them to carry out their professional duties free from fear of reprisals. Article 16 states part of that duty as follows:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Further, the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states at section 17, “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan states in Article 9 that “No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law.”  Article 10A guarantees the right to a fair trial providing, “For the determination of his civil rights and obligations or in any criminal charge against him a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process.” These provisions clearly prohibit extrajudicial killings and obligate Pakistani authorities to follow due process when detaining a citizen.

LRWC calls on Pakistan to:

  • Immediately provide protective measures to ensure Asma Jahangir’s safety.
  • Publicly condemn the reported plot to kill her.
  • Promptly conduct a full investigation into the alleged plot to kill her, including an investigation of all individuals and institutions accused of involvement including the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
  • Bring to justice all suspected perpetrators of attacks on human rights defenders, in trials that meet international fair trial standards.

Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the government of Pakistan is taking to:

  1. ensure the present and future safety of Asma Jahangir and other members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and;
  2. investigate the threats against this human rights defender with the goal of identifying the person(s) responsible and bringing them to trial.

LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.



Kumail Karimjee, Barrister and Solicitor

Karimjee Greene LLP



His Excellency Akbar Zeb

High Commissioner for Pakistan

10 Range Road

Ottawa, Ontario  K1N 8J3

Fax:                 (613) 238-7296