Pakistan: Journalist Sikander Ali Bhutto sentenced to death

Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Pakistan.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory was informed that Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto , a prominent journalist and human rights activist from Daharki, Ghotki (Sindh province), also vice-president of the Daharki Press Club, affiliate of Pakistan Press International (PPI) and reporter at News One TV, has been falsely implicated in an honour killing and sentenced to death by an assembly of village elders, in order to punish him for raising a case of domestic abuse and murder of a woman.

According to the information received, on March 15, 2013, an assembly of village elders, known as jirga or panchayat, sentenced Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto to be “executed and fed to dogs” after he exposed the case of a woman beaten and killed by her husband.

On December 7, 2012, a 28-year old woman, Ms. Shahnaz Bhutto, was murdered by her husband, Mr. Rana Bhutto, her brother-in-law and other assailants, on the pretext that she brought dishonour to the family by having an extra-marital affair. Prior to that, her husband had acquired her property and sent her back to her village, Maula Alqutub town, Daharki sub-district. After shooting her, the ten killers - all members of her husband’s family and of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party - labelled her as a kari(literally a black woman, i.e. morally corrupt), a term which also designates an adulterer. The young woman was accused of having an illicit relationship with Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto, who was actually helping her resist her husband, who wanted to acquire her property. Out of the ten men accused of involvement in Ms. Shahnaz’s murder, only two have been arrested to date: Mr. Rana Bhutto, the victim’s husband, and Mr. Abdul Majeed, the son of Mr. Koro Khan Bhutto, the brother of second wife of her husband.

Ms. Shahnaz Bhutto had been subjected to domestic violence over the past few years, partly to force her to cede her property. Over the four years that preceded her death, she wrote complaints to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the Prime Minister, the Inspector General of Police of the province, the Sindh High Court and to various non-governmental organisations to inform them about the domestic violence she was subjected to, not only from her husband but also from her male in-laws.

In 2009, even though the village jirga stated that no other person (apart from her husband) should have any dealings with the lady and that her husband should not beat her, the perpetrators, with the connivance of the police, continued to beat her in an attempt to get her to transfer her property.

Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto, as a human rights defender, had reported the acts of domestic violence against the young woman and about her applications to the courts, to federal and provincial ministers and to high-ranking police officers. Additionally, he had assisted her in filing a case against her husband.

After the murder of Ms. Shahnaz Bhutto, which he exposed as a journalist, the killers announced that Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto was having an illicit relationship with Ms. Shahnaz Bhutto and declared him to be a karo ( morally corrupt) in order to justify his killing.

Since then, although the Provincial High Court stepped in and ordered police protection, Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto has been in hiding, and his family members have been threatened.

Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto reported in particular that the perpetrators threatened him by requesting that he “pay 200,000 rupees ($2,000)or get ready to be killed”.

The role of the police seems very dubious in this case, as the localpolice have reportedly not taken action against the jirga that issued the threats against Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto. On the contrary, local police seems to continue to resort to tribal jirgasfor advice or resolution of numerous cases, especially honours killing. Although the Sindh High Court declared the jirgas illegal, there is no law to ban them. Many people tend to prefer this type of quick and often informal justice, as the formal legal system in Pakistan is perceived as cumbersome and corrupt, with cases taking years to be concluded.

The Observatory condemns the death sentence and the threats issued against Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto and his relatives, which are clearly related to his human rights activities, in an attempt to silence him.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Pakistan to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Sikander Ali Bhutto, his family, and more generally of all human rights defenders in Pakistan;

ii. Carry out an effective, thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned threats, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil, competent and impartial tribunal, and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law.

iii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
- its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”;
- and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Pakistan.


His Excellency Raja Pervez Ashraf, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Prime Minister House, Islamabad. Tel no: + 92 519213562 Fax: + 92 51 9221596 E-mail:
His Excellency Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, President’s Secretariat, Islamabad. Tel: +92 51 9204801/9214171. Fax: +92 51 9207458 Email:
Dr. Faqir Hussain, Registrar, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Constitution Avenue, Islamabad. Fax: + 92 51 9213452 E-mail:
Ambassador Zamir Akram, Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations in Geneva, 56, Rue de Moillebeau, Case Postale 434, 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland. Fax: +41-22-734-8085. Email:

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Pakistan in your respective countries.

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