A long march for democracy and the rule of law

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) releases today the report of an international fact-finding mission in Pakistan, entitled « Pakistan, a long March for Democracy and the Rule of Law ».

The mission, organised in close cooperation with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the FIDH affiliated league in the country, was carried out in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. The FIDH mission experts Ms. Délou Bouvier, judge, and Fatma-Boggio-Cosadia, human rights lawyer interviewed judges, lawyers, journalists, diplomats, members of civil society and political parties.

The state of emergency imposed by General Musharraf on 3 November 2007 triggered an unprecedented mobilisation of judges, lawyers and civil society in general – a long march for democracy and the rule of law. That movement reflected the aspiration of the most disadvantaged joined by the middle class, for profound change of a socio-economic situation that has become unbearable, and for an independent judiciary. The results of the 2008 election confirmed that the population rejects the obscurantist logic of repression that people in power and religious extremists want to impose.

"Ignoring the need for the introduction of a legitimate judiciary and a commitment to defend fundamental rights would be a grave mistake. The Zardari government has not restored the dismissed President of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudry, and is thereby legitimating a serious blow to the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan. The status quo would be a signal to any government that judges can be removed at convenience", said the FIDH mission members.

Widespread violations of economic and social rights provide a fertile ground for strengthening terrorist militant groups. If the fight against terrorism is legitimate and necessary in Pakistan, the current illegal practices favour violent responses and prevent the strengthening of democratic practices and the rule of law. Aggravated by anti-terrorist laws and courts, by practices systematized under the "war on terror," and encouraged by policies pursued by the United States in Pakistan for over thirty years and particularly since September 11, 2001, forced disappearances, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, illegal detention and ill-treatment in prison are currently perpetrated on a daily basis by the army, the police, intelligence services, prisons and other state officials.

"Rather than responding to the rise of terrorism used by fundamentalists to oppress the population, these practices fuel a total loss of confidence of people in the state, promote the use of violent responses, severely undermine any democratic alternative, and undermine considerably human rights defenders ", added Delou Bouvier and Fatma Cosadia, who carried out the fact-finding mission in Pakistan. Local NGOs assess to several thousands the total number of persons disappeared since 2001.

FIDH calls upon the government of Pakistan to ensure the independence of the judiciary, immediately halt practices of torture and enforced disappearances, notably perpetrated in the framework of the fight against terrorism, and commit to protect fundamental human rights. In addition, FIDH calls upon the international community to make the recommendations included in the report part of its dialogue with Pakistan.

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