Acting in his capacity as army chief of staff, General Musharraf suspended the bulk of the Constitution, including the rights not to be arbitrarily deprived of life and to be guaranteed a fair trial. Members of the judiciary are now effectively suspended unless they take a new oath to uphold the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), which was issued by General Musharraf without any parliamentary procedure. Hundreds of lawyers, human rights activists and political workers have been arrested or arbitrarily detained.
Among these are Asma Jahangir, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), who was placed under house arrest on November 3rd, 2007, where she remains. Ms. Jahangir is also a leading human rights activist and lawyer, as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
There has also reportedly been a 90-day detention order issued against Hina Jilani, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights defenders. Her house has been surrounded by police, and there is concern she will be detained on her planned return from London.
There were also various reports indicating that at least 55 civil society activists were arrested November 4th, 2007 when they attended a meeting at the Commission’s office in Lahore to discuss the situation in the country following the state of emergency. Among those detained included: Iqbal Hiader, HRCP Secretary General and former attorney general of Pakistan; I.A. Rehman, HRCP Director; Brigadier (retired) Rao Abid Hameed and Shahtaj Qizilbash, human rights activists associated with HRCP; and Imran Qureshi, a lawyer with the Women’s Rights organization Shirkat Gar.
Fortunately, of these 55, 53 were released on bail on November 6th, 2007. However, both Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani still face house arrest.
Letter by Cara E.I. Gibbons sent on November 6, 2007.