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    PAK 001 /9901/ OBS 023
    Death threats

    Pakistan-13th April 1999.
    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and the OMCT, requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Pakistan.
    Brief description of the situation :
    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders has been informed by an international coalition of women's organisations of death threats made to prominent Pakistani human rights defender, Ms. Asma Jahangir.
    According to the information, members of the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce in Pakistan and a section of religious groups have demanded that she be arrested and hanged, claiming that she "takes the small problems of Pakistan to international forums and creates a bad name for Pakistan." Furthermore, they also argue that she encourages women and girls to rebel against their families.
    These groups have warned that if the government of Pakistan does not take action, they will kill her themselves. Moreover, it is alleged that they have announced a monetary reward for anyone taking her life.
    Asma Jahangir is at the forefront of human rights work in Pakistan and in addition to her work for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (an affiliate of FIDH), she is UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. She also runs a shelter for women, Dastak headed by her sister Ms. Hina Jillani. It is believed that it was her involvement, as a lawyer, in the case of the murder of Ms. Saima Sarwar (one of the phenomenon of honour killings - killings carried out by the family of the victim to protect the honour of the family) - see OMCT case Violence Against Women case 120499 - that has brought events to a head.
    Ms. Asma Jahangir is currently attending the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, where she presented her first report as UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. The Observatory is gravely concerned about the safety of Ms. Asma Jahangir when she returns to Pakistan because of this threat and the fact that she has previously been the victim of other such threats.
    Action Requested :
    Please write to the authorities urging that they :
    i take appropriate measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Asma Jahangir and those organisations and individuals working with her, including her sister and head of Dastak Ms. Hina Jillani ;
    ii. ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9 1998 (Declaration concerning the rights and responsibilities of individuals, groups and institutions to promote and protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental liberties ) in particular its Article 1 which provides that Every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international level.
    iii. guarantee the effective respect of fundamental human rights and freedoms in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the universal and regional Pacts and Covenants ratified by Pakistan.
    Office of the President, Islamabad, Pakistan.Fax : + 92 51 811 390
    Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Office of the Prime Minister, Islamabad, Pakistan Fax : + 92 51 920 889 /92 1545
    Pakistan Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Fax : 0041 22 734 80 85
    Geneva- Paris 13 April 1999.
    Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken quoting the code number of the present appeal.
    The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
    1998 Human Rights Prize of The French Republic.

    Hmmmm...lets see...


    What about posting e-mail addresses of the PM and the President. It might be easier to e-mail these morons then faxing them.

    Then again, I am skeptical about the response we might get from this endeavor! When has any PM ever listened to what the majority of Pakis really want?!

    Good day!


      I recieved an email in regard to this case about a month ago. A portion of it read:

      "The death threats were issued by a number of religious groups, most notably the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and backed by a group of individuals who are members of the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce. The threats follow upon the "honor killing" of twenty-nine year old Samia Sarwar, daughter of Haji Ghulam Sarwar, president of the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Sarwar was seeking a divorce and was shot to death in the chambers of Jilani and Jehangir, her lawyers. The killer was retained by her family and came to the office with her mother and paternal uncle. He also shot at Jilani, narrowly missing her. In the wake of the attack, Jilani and Jehangir have received death threats from Mr. Sarwar and his supporters, who have reportedly offered a reward to anyone who assassinates them."

      Now this is obviously something which should not be condoned. Unfortunately, social and political activists around the world are targets of death threats on a daily basis. The government of Pakistan should provide both Ms. Jahangir and her sister Ms. Jilani, with protection. And those who killed Ms. Sarwar should be brought to justice.

      Is this a human rights abuse though? I think thats debatable. Its definitely an abuse, its definitely a crime. But it seems to be perpetrated by individual(s) not the state. The same abuses occur all around the world. They are the actions of individuals, I don't think they should be confused with 'human rights abuses'. Whats happening in Kosovo is a 'human rights abuse' - state sponsored. Whats happening in North America with abortion clinics and doctors being targetted (and threatened and killed) is a 'crime'. A 'crime' committed by individuals. Similar to the threats on the lives of Jahangir and Jilani.

      At any rate, it would be worthwhile to pressure the Pakistani government to protect its activists. Ghalib's pessimism is understandable, in light of the governments past performance.

      The other issue, which is worthy of discussion is 'honor' killings. Where did these come from? How can we get rid of them, or should we get rid of them?




        Haven't seen you around lately buddy.... whats up?

        I don;t think you can compare the plights and dangers human rights activist face in the west to those that are faced by activists in Pakistan. First of all, the activists out here, when speaking out, very well know that their freedom of spech is guaranteed. The most these activists go through is arrest for civil disobedience or other petty confrontations from groups of opposite agendas.

        Now, in pakistan, we have these activists arrested, tortured and sometimes killed by groups who are sheltered by the gov't. Hence, the atrocities could be blamed on the gov't.

        After much thought, I think there are only three (3) groups that exsit in pakistan:
        1) The group in power
        2) The group that is not in power
        3) The group which has no hope of ever coming into power.


          I agree with you Ghalib. Its unfortunate, many (most) activists in the 'developing world', have difficulty working without being hindered by those in power. Mostly because they challenge those very people in power.

          I guess I'm having trouble defining the term 'human rights abuse'. I always thought a human rights abuse was something sanctioned by the government. A direct abuse at the hands of those in power. Other instances of abuse, I've always thought were just crimes (heinous as they may be).

          For example, the recent High School violence in Denver would be considered a criminal offense, while the imprionment of dissidents in China would be a human rights abuse. This particular example we are discussing, (seems to me at least) to be the action of a few individuals (idiots), and not the government of Pakistan. If indeed they're actions have been sanctioned by government officials, than it is a 'human rights abuse', but if not, its just a crime. Perhaps if we want to stretch the definition of 'human rights abuse' a little, we can argue that the lack of government attention paid to the protection of these women, may constitute a 'human rights abuse'. Or perhaps my definition is off. I'm not sure.

          Why does it matter, you might ask. Because Human Rights activists often cite 'crimes' assoicated with a actions of individuals and confuse them with 'human rights abuses' (in particular when refering to the 'developing world'). I don't see any 'Human Rights Abuse' groups in the 'developing world' reeling at the work of rapists, killers and murders' in the West.

          The work of Western Human Rights activists is often further undermined by the resentment of those living in the 'developing world' who often feel that they're culture, religion, or way of life is compromised - viewed as 'unworthy' - when compared to the 'Western' way of life.

          I know that many of the governments in the 'developing world' are run by despots who are quite vocal about their opposition and willing to exterminate any threat to their power base. I'm not arguing in favor of them, they disgust me. Just offering a little bit of criticism for western 'human rights activists' who seem to confuse crimes with human rights abuses and offend people in the process.



            Ghalib bhai:
            I am sorry I could not find any e-mail addresses; but I did find a Govt. of Pakistan Official website where you may post messages:
            2) From this page please select from bottom left:
            or, alternatively, enter online discussion directly by:



              Ghalib bhai,
              The website mentioned above has an e-mail site for the Prime-Minister; the E-MAIL address, anyways, is:
              [email protected]

              Under SUBJECT, one has to clearly specify one of the following four categories: