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PAKISTAN: The life of another human rights defender faces threat to her life 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the harassment and threats received by the frontline human right Defender Ms Noor e Maryam Kanwer. Ms Kanwer is the Chairperson/Director of Pakistan Youth Alliance, an NGO working in fields of counter-extremism, peace-building, conflict resolution and social welfare. Since the past one year she has been constantly harassed and pursued by the intelligence agencies for supporting Voice of Baloch Missing Person (VBMP) and for actively taking part in the Baloch rights movement. Since the murder of Ms Sabeen Mahmood

Ms Kanwer is receiving threats to her life and had to leave the country immediately. Currently she is in US to attend a conference. Her visa will expire in three days after which she will have to go back to Pakistan where her life is in imminent danger.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Freedom of expression and assembly is increasingly being curbed in Pakistan. The intelligence agencies are curbing any movement to support the Baloch rights. The supporters of the movement are targeted, harassed and threatened to disassociate and remain silent. The Members of academia, journalists, human right defenders and activists are increasingly been targeted for speaking up against fundamentalism and militarization of Pakistan. Those who dare speak up against the military atrocities are labeled as RAW agents and endure harassment and threats for raising their voice.

Ms. Noor e Maryam Kanwer in Balochistan ( File Photo) 

Ms Noor e Maryam Kanwer a front line defender and Chairperson of Pakistan Youth Alliance has been receiving threats since she has associated herself with Mama Qadeer and his organization Voice of Baloch missing person (VOBM). Ms Kanwer was deeply moved by the earthquake that wrecked havoc in Awaran Distric of Balochistan province and no NGO was allowed to initiate relief work. The military atrocities in the area deeply moved her and one year on she decided to join long march in support of the Baloch missing persons. She organized a demonstration in Islamabad when the march started from Quetta and later on the demonstrators joined the main demonstration when it reached Karachi, walked with them till Sukkar and joined them in Okara till Islamabad. Ms Kanwer also arranged accommodation for the demonstrators she even took some of them to her parent’s house for a night’s stay. Later one of the host in Patoki,Punjab province was threatened by the intelligence agencies who asked them to immediately send away the guests. Throughout the duration of the demonstration the agencies chased and monitored every development. During her stay in Islamabad Ms Kanwer reports that one person was always stalking her outside her apartment building. Her parents were also harassed to divulge their daughter’s connection with the Baloch separatists and why they were allowed to stay in the house. The agencies allegedly harassed every student, every activist and any other person who joined the march even for a day or for a few hours.

Ms Kanwer further received threats from Lashkar e Jhangvi , a banned militant outfit when she decided to join the Hunger strike camp of Lateef Johar, an activist of BSO Azad which is Baloch student organization striving to raise awareness for Baloch right to independence. The interior ministry didn’t take any action upon complaint of the threatening phone calls by the banned group. As a result Ms Kanwer was forced into hiding and left her hometown Karachi Sindh province, for a few weeks. Upon her return she was arrested for protesting outside Chief Minister House, Sindh against militant extremist organization like Sipha Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi etc. She was subsequently released and no FIR was registered against her. Following the incident the extremist outfits initiated a campaign against her on social media where she was portrayed as a traitor and foreign agent working towards disintegration of Pakistan. she was targeted for being an ardent critic of military intervention in political matters.

https://www.facebook.com/Jamia.Hafsa2/photos/pb.328588510681275.-2207520000.1431793360./354215371451922/?type=3&theater

Recently some very objectionable satirical cartoons appeared on social media terming her support for the Baloch right movement as a pretext to obtain asylum. She was portrayed in a very distasteful manner by cartoonist Naazgul Baloch https://www.facebook.com/600891413386716/photos/pb.600891413386716.-2207520000.1432045853./601886853287172/?type=3&permPage=1

Moreover the state too jumped into the bandwagon of mudslinging when the state owned PTV Bolan aired a programme criticizing her fellow defenders namely Mr Taimur Rehman and Ms Beena Sarwar. The programme was highly critical of her movement terming it a conspiracy against the state.

Since the murder of Ms Sabeen, Ms Kanwer is increasingly being threatened by intelligence agencies she is being followed and her activities are being closely monitored. Her office staff is receiving calls from agency officials enquiring about her whereabouts. the staff is also threatened to immediately disassociate themselves from the Pakistan Youth Alliance. Currently Ms Kanwar is in US in connection with a Conference her visa will expire in three days following which she will have to go back to Pakistan where her life is in imminent danger. Meanwhile her parents are being pressurized to force her to stop criticizing the military and ISI.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Freedom of expression as guaranteed under the Constitution has been time and again suppressed in the name of national security, glory of Islam, etc by the military as well as the civil government. Speaking against the military, the ISI in particular, has always been considered a taboo. Pakistan. The state seems to be bend upon muzzling the voice of the moderate faction of society who are propagating free speech and freedom of expression. Freedom of speech and expression form the bedrock upon which the pillars of democracy stand. The freedom of expressing one’s though is taken as a fundamental right in every democratic society yet in Pakistan the right exists in paper only. This muzzling of freedom to air one’s view is a direct violation of Article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan which states.

“Article 19- Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, or incitement to an offence”

Not allowing the people to demonstrate and associate themselves with any movement is also an infringement upon the fundamental right as enshrined in article 16 of the constitution which states

ARTICLE 16- Freedom of assembly.- Every citizen shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order.

Use of force to stop peaceful protest and not allowing space for the same is also a contravention of the ICCPR to which Pakistan is a signatory. Under Article 21, it is stated.

The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities listed below urging them to immediately take notice of the threats received by Ms Maryam Kanwer and to appoint an enquiry committee to probe the matter in detail. Ms Kanwer must be provided with fool proof security to ensure her safety. Please urge the authorities to take down the objectionable cartoons and prosecute the military outfits responsible for threatening her and her family. It is apprehended that her visa of USA will expire at the end of June and as she will arrive Pakistan she will assassinated by the “unknown persons” which is the common phenomenon in the cases of murder of human rights defenders. Please also urge them to appoint an enquiry committee to probe the matter in detail. Ms Kanwer must be provided with fool proof security to ensure her safety.

The government of Pakistan must be asked as a member of the United Nations, to follow the obligations to ensure the equal enjoyment by all people within its territory of the personal and advocacy rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Discharge of these obligations entails the right to Freedom of Expression and safety and security of the journalists, which the Human Rights Committee has determined applies to both criminal and civil proceedings.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, and on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, calling for their intervention into this matter

To support this case, please click here:    

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ………………..,

PAKISTAN: The life of another human rights defender faces threat to her life

Name of victim:

Noor e Maryam Kanwer, daughter of Kanwar Tassawar Hussain, resident of F-161-Block 4, Clifton Karachi, Sindh

Names of alleged perpetrators: 

Intelligence Agencies,

Jamia Hafsa, Islamabad

Moulana Abdul Aziz, chief of Laal Masjid, Islamabad

Date of incident: 24 April 2015

Place of incident: Karachi, Sindh

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding regarding the harassment and threats received by the frontline human right Defender Ms Noor e Maryam Kanwer. Ms Kanwer is the Chairperson/Director of Pakistan Youth Alliance, an NGO working in fields of counter-extremism, peace-building, conflict resolution and social welfare. Ms Kanwer is receiving threats to her life and had to leave the country immediately. Currently she is in US to attend a conference. Her visa will expire in three days after which she will have to go back to Pakistan where her life is in imminent danger.

It is appalling for me that freedom of expression and assembly is increasingly being curbed in Pakistan. The intelligence agencies are curbing any movement to support the Baloch rights. The supporters of the movement are targeted, harassed and threatened to disassociate and remain silent. The Members of academia, journalists, human right defenders and activists are increasingly been targeted for speaking up against fundamentalism and militarization of Pakistan. Those who dare speak up against the military atrocities are labeled as RAW agents and endure harassment and threats for raising their voice.

According to the information received by me, Ms Noor e Maryam Kanwer a front line defender and Chairperson of Pakistan Youth Alliance has been receiving threats since she has associated herself with Mama Qadeer and his organization Voice of Baloch missing person (VOBM). Ms Kanwer was deeply moved by the earthquake that wrecked havoc in Awaran Distric of Balochistan province and no NGO was allowed to initiate relief work. The military atrocities in the area deeply moved her and one year on she decided to join long march in support of the Baloch missing persons. She organized a demonstration in Islamabad when the march started from Quetta and later on the demonstrators joined the main demonstration when it reached Karachi, walked with them till Sukkar and joined them in Okara till Islamabad. Ms Kanwer also arranged accommodation for the demonstrators she even took some of them to her parent’s house for a night’s stay. Later one of the host in Patoki,Punjab province was threatened by the intelligence agencies who asked them to immediately send away the guests. Throughout the duration of the demonstration the agencies chased and monitored every development. During her stay in Islamabad Ms Kanwer reports that one person was always stalking her outside her apartment building. Her parents were also harassed to divulge their daughter’s connection with the Baloch separatists and why they were allowed to stay in the house. The agencies allegedly harassed every student, every activist and any other person who joined the march even for a day or for a few hours.

Ms Kanwer further received threats from Lashkar e Jhangvi , a banned militant outfit when she decided to join the Hunger strike camp of Lateef Johar, an activist of BSO Azad which is Baloch student organization striving to raise awareness for Baloch right to independence. The interior ministry didn’t take any action upon complaint of the threatening phone calls by the banned group. As a result Ms Kanwer was forced into hiding and left her hometown Karachi Sindh province, for a few weeks. Upon her return she was arrested for protesting outside Chief Minister House, Sindh against militant extremist organization like Sipha Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi etc. She was subsequently released and no FIR was registered against her. Following the incident the extremist outfits initiated a campaign against her on social media where she was portrayed as a traitor and foreign agent working towards disintegration of Pakistan. she was targeted for being an ardent critic of military intervention in political matters.

https://www.facebook.com/Jamia.Hafsa2/photos/pb.328588510681275.-2207520000.1431793360./354215371451922/?type=3&theater

I was distressed that recently some very objectionable satirical cartoons appeared on social media terming her support for the Baloch right movement as a pretext to obtain asylum. She was portrayed in a very distasteful manner by cartoonist Naazgul Baloch https://www.facebook.com/600891413386716/photos/pb.600891413386716.-2207520000.1432045853./601886853287172/?type=3&permPage=1

Moreover the state too jumped into the bandwagon of mudslinging when the state owned PTV Bolan aired a programme criticizing her fellow defenders namely Mr Taimur Rehman and Ms Beena Sarwar. The programme was highly critical of her movement terming it a conspiracy against the state.

Since the murder of Ms Sabeen, Ms Kanwer is increasingly being threatened by intelligence agencies she is being followed and her activities are being closely monitored. Her office staff is receiving calls from agency officials enquiring about her whereabouts. the staff is also threatened to immediately disassociate themselves from the Pakistan Youth Alliance. Currently Ms Kanwar is in US in connection with a Conference her visa will expire in three days following which she will have to go back to Pakistan where her life is in imminent danger. Meanwhile her parents are being pressurized to force her to stop criticizing the military and ISI.

I therefore urge upon you to provide the protection to a human rights defender, MissNoor e Maryam Kanwer from the life threats she is receiving from persons from intelligence agencies and Muslim extremists who are belong to the banned religious organisations. It is apprehended that her visa of USA will expire at the end of June and as she will arrive Pakistan she will assassinated by the “unknown persons” which is the common phenomenon in the cases of murder of human rights defenders. I also urge you to appoint an enquiry committee to probe the matter in detail. Ms Kanwer must be provided with fool proof security to ensure her safety.

As a member of the United Nations, follow the obligations to ensure the equal enjoyment by all people within its territory of the personal and advocacy rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Discharge of these obligations entails the right to Freedom of Expression and safety and security of the journalists, which the Human Rights Committee has determined applies to both criminal and civil proceedings.

Yours sincerely,
……………….
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister
Prime Minister House
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Tel: +92 51 920 6111, +92 51 920 6111
E-mail: [email protected][email protected]

  1. Mr. Syed Qaim Ali Shah
    Chief Minister of Sindh
    The Government of Sindh Province
    Karachi, Sindh Province
    PAKISTAN
    Fax: +92 21 920 2000
    Email: [email protected]

  2. Mr. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan
    Minister
    Ministry of Interior of Pakistan
    R Block, Pak Secretariat
    Islamabad
    PAKISTAN
    Tel: +92 51 9212026
    Fax: +92 51 9202624
    Email: [email protected]com[email protected]

  3. Mr. Pervez Rashid
    Minister
    Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights of Pakistan
    Old US Aid building
    Ata Turk Avenue
    G-5, Islamabad
    PAKISTAN
    Fax: +92 51 9204108
    Email: [email protected]

  4. Mr. Tahir Shahbaz
    Registrar
    Supreme Court of Pakistan
    Constitution Avenue, Islamabad
    PAKISTAN
    Fax: +92 51 9213452
    Email: [email protected]

  5. Chief Justice of Sindh High Court
    High Court Building
    Saddar, Karachi
    Sindh Province
    PAKISTAN
    Fax: +92 21 9213220

Thank you.

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