Press release

Pakistan: Freedom of expression and information must be guaranteed

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Paris, 3 January 2008 - The International Federation for Human Rights
(FIDH) strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and assault in Pakistan
on a group of persons including the two daughters of Ms. Asma Jahangir,
Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), human
rights lawyer and United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of
religion or belief.

On January 2, 2008, armed men from the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q)
held the two sisters Ms. Muneeza and Ms. Sulema Jahangir and a group of
their friends at gun point. The men, claiming to be police officers,
ordered the group to follow them and when the group resisted they were
beaten in public and dragged to the PML-Q main election office of the
province. Once there, they were beaten again.

The incident happened when Ms. Jahangir’s two daughters, together with a
group of friends, were making a video clip for a television channel, the
Geo TV, for which Ms. Muneeza Jahangir works. They were filming ripped
posters and banners of political parties in Lahore city, Punjab
province, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir
Bhutto on December 27, 2007.

When Ms. Asma Jahangir heard about the incident she rushed to the party
office but was threatened with guns and refused entry. She managed to
enter the party office and saw a group including her oldest daughter
detained by armed men while the younger sister was being dragged into a
separate room. Ms. Jahangir immediately informed the police who reached
the scene after some time. The police however took the side of the PML-Q
and pressurized the parents of the friends to give them the videotape,
which they did. The police furthermore threatened the parents not to
report the incident.

The incident took place in a context where President Musharraf is trying
to control the agitation following the assassination of the former Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto. The parliamentary elections scheduled for
January 8, 2008, have been postponed until February 18. In that
perspective, FIDH recalls that freedom of expression and information are
crucial elements in any pre-electoral period.

FIDH urges the Pakistani authorities to guarantee, under all
circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of the civilian
population, and the right of the Pakistani citizens to freedom of
expression, freedom of information and peaceful assembly in accordance
with international human rights standards.

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