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CIVICUS Calls On President Musharraf of Pakistan to Uphold Civil Rights

NOVEMBER 13, 2007
11:06 AM

Micha Hollestelle at
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CIVICUS Calls On President Musharraf of Pakistan to Uphold Civil Rights

WASHINGTON. - November 13 -Kumi Naidoo General Secretary of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation has written an open letter to General Musharraf, President of Pakistan regarding the recent attacks on civil society in Pakistan. This letter to General Musharraf written raises concerns on the current abuse of civil and human rights in Pakistan.

Kumi Naidoo and Clare Doubé, CIVICUS Civil Society Watch manager, will raise the threats to Pakistani civil society at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Uganda, starting 23- 25 November 2007. The letter has been sent ahead to relevant stakeholders and decision makers in anticipation of CIVICUS’ encounters with heads of states and civil society representatives attending CHOGM. CIVICUS will do its utmost to make General Musharraf adhere to the call of civil society to safeguard civil rights and guarantee citizen participation in solving the governmental challenges facing Pakistan.

Please, for your kind consideration, find the letter below.

General Pervez Musharraf,
President of Pakistan
Pakistan Secretariat

Cc: Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations
Cc: High Commissioner to South Africa
Cc: United Nations Secretary General
Cc: Commonwealth Secretary General
Cc: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Cc: SAARC Secretary General

12 November 2007

Dear President,

I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international organisation working to support and strengthen civil society around the world.[1] I write to express our deep dismay at the recent disintegration of governance in Pakistan and the escalating attacks on civil society and dissenting forces in the country. We call on you as President of Pakistan and Chief of the Army Staff, to take urgent actions to immediately halt such violations of human rights and restore democratic and constitutional order.

We take this opportunity to raise with you some particular areas of deep concern.

Imposition of Emergency Rule

The suspension of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and imposition of emergency rule is a tragedy for Pakistan. Such actions are ineffectual in responding to threats of terrorism and insurgency; and put the people of Pakistan at greater risk of violation of their human rights. Tragically, numerous grievous violations have been documented in this period.

CIVICUS calls for the immediate lifting of the state of emergency and restoration of the constitutional order and fulfilment of the promises of free and fair elections under a neutral and caretaker government according to the schedule announced.

Attacks on civil society

Civil society forms an essential wing of society, with independent but complementary roles to government and the private sector. Restoration of democracy and genuine development require the existence of civil society that is able to operate freely without fear, intimidation or attack. The current situation for civil society groups is dire and requires urgent attention. Reports we have received from our members and partners in Pakistan are deeply disturbing, with thousands of members of civil society reported detained without fair judicial trial, many in unknown locations. That a United National Special Representative, Asma Jahangir, is one of those detained, reflects a disturbing lack of respect for the institution of the United Nations, as well as for her vital work. Likewise, attacks on the judiciary and legal fraternity are unconstitutional, short-sighted and violate the fundamental democratic principle of the independence of the judiciary.

CIVICUS calls for the release of all those detained without charge. In addition, we reiterate that, under international law, civil society in Pakistan must be allowed to operate freely without intimidation or attack and that all the fundamental rights according to the constitution of Pakistan and other international covenants that Pakistan is signatory of must be restored without further delay.

Restrictions on freedom of expression

We have noted your efforts in recent years to increase media freedom in Pakistan. It is therefore particularly disappointing to witness the reversal of this, evidenced by the blacking out of television networks, threats of detention of journalists, as well as arrests, raids on radio studios and printing presses, the prevention of publication, and new regulations for print and broadcast media. Such actions stifle free expression, violate human rights and destroy your recent record on media freedom.

CIVICUS calls for media freedom in Pakistan, including the repeal of new regulations, release of all media personnel detained, and that radio, print, television and electronic media be allowed to operate freely.

Actions have purported to prevent violent extremism, but in reality the targets have so far been the judiciary and legal community, civil society activists, the media and all voices of independent and democratic dissent. For the promotion of the well-being of all Pakistanis, these communities must be supported, not stifled. We appeal to you to immediately reverse recent actions that undermine democracy, freedom and fundamental rights; and instead act in the interest of all Pakistanis and support the vital work being conducted by civil society in your country.

Yours sincerely,

Kumi Naidoo
Secretary General
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


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