Pakistan: Plot to assassinate Asma Jahangir, human rights lawyer | Letter

Asif Ali Zardari
President’s Secretariat

Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani
Prime Minister House
Islamabad, Pakistan
Fax:                 011 92-51-9213780
011 92 51 922 1596

Chief of Army Staff
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
c/o Inter Services Public Relations,
Hilal Road,Rawalpindi, 46000
Fax:                 011 92-51-9271682


Dear President, Prime Minister and General Kayani:

Re: Plot to assassinate Asma Jahangir, human rights lawyer

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of Canadian lawyers providing support internationally to advocates whose rights, safety, or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy.

LRWC is deeply concerned about reports from Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) about Pakistan’s security forces plotting to kill Asma Jahangir, the founder of HRCP and a prominent human rights lawyer. HRCP has voiced concerns that this is an attempt not just to silence one human rights defender, but to intimidate all human rights defenders in Pakistan. LRWC urges Pakistan’s President, Prime Minister, Attorney General and police to act immediately to ensure the personal and professional safety of Asma Jahangir.

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.

Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency has been implicated in extrajudicial executions in the past. A notable recent example involved journalist Saleem Shahzad, who was found dead with signs of being tortured on 31 May 2011, after having been missing for two days. He had told colleagues in October 2010 that he felt he had been threatened in a meeting with the ISI. Such reports reflect poorly on Pakistan’s human rights record, and are not in keeping with international law obligations or Pakistan’s own constitution.

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.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns; we await your response.

Yours sincerely,


Charles R. Davidson, Lawyer


Gail Davidson, Executive Director Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada



His Excellency Akbar Zeb
High Commissioner for Pakistan
10 Range Road
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 8J3
Fax:                 (613) 238-7296