Baba Jan, ‘prisoner of climate change’ in Pakistan tortured


Letter of protest

May 3, 2012

To:

His Excellency Mr Abdul Malik Abdullah
High Commissioner for Pakistan
4 Timbarra Crescent, O’Malley
ACT 2606

parepcanberra@internode.on.net

Cc: Mr Azam Mohammed
Consul General for Pakistan
Level 7, 32 Martin Place,
Sydney 2000

parepsydne@comcen.com.au

Dear Sir,

We have been informed by the Labour Party of Pakistan that Baba Jan, Waqar and other activists in Gilgit district jail were severely beaten and tortured by dozens of Rangers, Police and Frontier Constabulary in the early morning of April 28, 2012.

We are especially concerned for the fate of Baba Jan, who was taken from the Gilgit district jail by security personnel and transported to a place unknown.

We strongly protest against this violence and object to the prison authorities’ ban on visitors to these political activists. It would seem that the responsible authorities have failed in their duty to maintain safe custody of these persons. This kind of treatment of political activists should not be acceptable in a democratic Pakistan.

We are writing to request that that you pass on to your government our urgent request that Baba Jan, Waqar and all other activists be released from custody immediately and that the ban by Gilgit district jail authorities on vistors to these activists be lifted. Further, we ask you to please determine and advise us of the location of Baba Jan and any others taken from Gilgit district jail?

The Gilgit district jail authorities should publicly indicate the health status of each of Baba Jan, Waqar and the other activists – their families are also very worried. They are considered to be in dire need of medical assistance – something the authorities should facilitate. We request that they are immediately released and, if necessary, be promptly transferred to hospital.

We are extremely anxious for the safety of the above persons, and wish to have information as to their legal and health status as soon as possible.

We look forward to hearing from you soon about this matter as we are having emergency discussions with concerned prominent individuals, Members of Parliament in Australia, media and human rights organisations about future action on this case. Further, our European office is briefing organisations and MPS in that region about this concern.

There is a very broad layer of people around the world who are concerned about the fate of Baba Jan and his fellow activists because they are seen as political casualties of the deepening global climate change crisis. They are imprisoned for their roles in the campaign by poor local residents who were demanding compensation for the devastating landslide and flood in the Hunza Valley in 2010.

International flood relief campaigns for Pakistan have also increased public awareness of the situation. The success of future emergency appeals could be compromised if there were serious concerns that the victims of flooding and their advocates are being mistreated by Pakistani officials at any level of government.

For all the abovementioned reasons, it would be a good idea for the Government of Pakistan to act most promptly on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Boyle
National Co-Convenor
Socialist Alliance (Australia)

For background information see:

Activist asks India, Pak to mend ties


Jaipur, April 13 2012, DHNS:

Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney on Friday demanded tangible action from India and Pakistan to mend their strained relation and prove that the recent meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari was not another futile do.

Burney said the governments of the two countries should soon do away with city specific visa system and issue country visas that would enable visitors to move around freely, thus enhancing people to people contact.

Speaking to the media on his way to Ajmer to meet Khalil Chisthi, the Pakistani scientist who was jailed in the country for the last 20 years, Burney said: “Chishti’s release would go a long way in the release of similar prisoners languishing in the jails of both countries.”

He added that a number of persons held captive in both countries for espionage were fishermen who strayed into foreign shores unintentionally.

Speaking on Sarabjeet Singh, an Indian facing death penalty in Pakistan, Burney said: “His petition for reverting death to life imprisonment with the Pakistani president may see the light of day.” Burney is Singh’s lawyer.

He however said Singh and Chisthi’s cases were different. While Chishti was a co-accused in a brawl that led to death of a person, charges levelled against Singh were far more serious.

“The Pakistani Supreme court had upheld his death sentence but it was delayed for the last 22 years that comes to his favour. After such a long sentence in a death cell, handing out death penalty is a serious human rights violation, he said,” Burney said.

Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur and daughter Swapandeep also accompanied Burney to Ajmer.

Recently when Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari visited India on a “pilgrimage visit”, octogenarian Pakistani scientist Chishti was released on “humanitarian grounds”.

The grapevine had it that it could pave the way for the release of Sarabjeet Singh too after the noble gesture shown by the neighbouring country.

Indian Supreme Court- Why Pakistanis in jail if sentence over ?


New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed its anguish at mentally challenged and deaf-mute foreign nationals, mostly Pakistanis, who continued to languish in Indian jails long after completing their sentence and asked why the issue could “not be taken up at the highest level”.

Voicing deep concern over mentally unsound Pakistani nationals languishing in Indian jails even after completion of their sentences, the Supreme Court today asked the government why they should not be repatriated, saying such detention “pains us”. A bench headed by Justice R.M.Lodha said such matters should be taken up on priority basis and at the highest level when the top authorities of the two nations meet.

The bench was referring to 21 prisoners, 16 of whom are mentally unsound and five are deaf and dumb and are languishing in jail despite serving out their sentences.

“Should not such matters be taken up at the highest level when the heads of the state meet ?,” the bench asked while indirectly referring to the recent visit of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to India.

The court asked the Centre to find out in three weeks what can be done for sending back these prisoners to their country and posted the matter for further hearing on May 2.

“There is no doubt that the best of facilities are being provided to such prisoners in detention centre but the problem is why they are not being repatriated. What is the impediment? Such detention pains us,” the bench said.

“Top most priority has to be given to these cases. They are mentally unsound and deaf and dumb. They have served out their sentences. They have been kept in jail because of some problem but that cannot be an indefinite exercise,” the bench said.

The Centre contended that these people cannot be sent back without their identification being proved.

The bench then said, “How would you be able to do so even after six months or one year. Problem would continue. You must tell us what should be done.”

The court was hearing a PIL filed by J&K Panthers Party leader Prof. Bhim Singh seeking its direction to the Centre for repatriation of Pakistani prisoners lodged in various jails across the country even after completion of their sentences.

Mr. Singh submitted that photographs of these prisoners should be given by the Centre to the Pakistani government so that these could be published in newspapers there to prove their identification as they are mentally unsound.

The court, however, said that there is no problem in directing the Centre to give these photographs but it cannot compel Pakistani government to publish those pictures.

“The Centre cannot compel the Pakistan High Commission. Only some suggestions can be given. The lead has to be taken up by the Pakistan High Commission,” the bench said.

It further said that the prisoners cannot be sent without verifying their identification which could prove to be the worst situation for them.

As additional solicitor general PP Malhota sought more time so that he could sit with the petitioner, senior counsel Bhim Singh, the court adjourned the hearing till May 2.

IANS, PTI

Vigil-aunties – Bina Shah


The writer is an author, most recently of Slum Child (2010). She has written for numerous publications including Dawn, The Friday Times and Chowk

The writer is an author, most recently of Slum Child (2010). She has written for numerous publications including Dawn, The Friday Times and Chowk

Imagine this: you are a young Pakistani woman walking in a Karachi park with a young man. He could be your brother, cousin, university friend, fiance, or husband. You are wearing a full burqa, and your companion is walking beside you, carrying on a conversation. You are a middle to lower-middle-class girl, with a lot of restrictions on your life, and this time in this public space, where you are modestly dressed and doing no harm, give you a bit of respite in a life that carries a lot of expectations about how you conduct yourself and what weight that places on your family’s respectability.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a group of fifteen upper-class women descend upon you. One of them has a microphone which she thrusts into your companion’s face, and there is a camera crew behind her, filming every moment. She claims to be doing a survey on mobile phone crime, but the questions she poses become more and more intrusive. “Are you college students? Yes? Then why aren’t you in class? It’s morning time.” The woman with the microphone assures you the camera is not recording, but the accusations become more pointed. “Are you on a date? Are you married? Where’s your nikahnama?”

You become afraid, because you know that if anyone from your family sees this spectacle, there will be no mercy for you. They will believe that you are an immoral girl: maybe you’ll be taken out of college. Maybe you’ll be beaten. Married off to someone you don’t know as a way of forcing you to behave. If you’re very unlucky, you might even be killed as a way of avenging the family honour. You hide behind your companion, but the microphone is thrust in your face. You scream out that you don’t want to be harassed like this, that you don’t want to answer any questions. Finally, you flee, while the group of women and camera crew chase after you, screaming “Bhago bhago bhago!” They are laughing and giggling hysterically, because to them, this is a fun game, while you are crying with fear and anxiety.

And then, the entire clip is shown on a morning breakfast show on a local television channel.

The television anchor who conceived of this segment for her television show thought she was doing a great service to society. “We need to make this park safe for families!” is her justification as the segment begins. But safety and families are not the words that come to mind when watching this clip. Instead, witch-hunt is one of them. Zia is another. Hudood Ordinance is a third. And privacy, hypocrisy, and ethics soon follow.

This clip brings to mind the tales of countless couples harassed by the police to prove they’re married in order to extort money out of them. It makes one wonder what drives a group of educated, affluent women to embarrass a young couple from a lower socioeconomic class, harass them to the point of hysteria, and then drive them out from a public space which is paid for by government taxes which that same socioeconomic class is more likely to pay than the class the affluent women come from. It makes one wonder whether Pakistanis have the right to privacy, and question the need to browbeat young adults about their presence in a public park, engaged in nothing more harmful than a walk on a beautiful winter’s day. It makes one wonder about how Talibanisation has invaded our mindset, when we can see something obscene in a normal act which people engage in all over the world.

Time and again the ethics of our media have been called into question, as channels embrace sensationalism in order to achieve the highest ratings. The television channel in question will find themselves open to legal action by victims of their harassment who are being portrayed on television without their consent. Airing this segment also appeals to the worst instincts in our hypocritical society by passing moral judgment in the name of family values upon two innocent people, which makes for some of the most irresponsible broadcast journalism found in Pakistan today. At the very least, the channel and the anchorperson owe an apology, if not compensation, to those two individuals who had hurt nobody on that day when they were ambushed and harassed by the television anchor and her Moral Aunty Brigade. The irony is that she describes herself on her Facebook page as “very fair and honest in her dealings”. I think that girl in the niqab, crying in the park, and her blameless friend, as well as any sane person with a conscience and a respect for other people’s privacy, would beg to differ.

(The headline for this article is courtesy of Anthony Permal.)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2012.

SC pulls up Centre for prolonged detention of Pak prisoners


Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Press Trust Of India    The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Union government for prolonged incarceration of several Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails despite their having completed their sentences. “There is total inaction and laxity on the part of the government. “We are more concerned about the liberty of the persons who continue to be in jails despite serving their sentences,” said a bench of justices RM Lodha and HL Gokhale while ruing that some prisoners had been kept in detention even without having any case registered against them.

“Please show us the procedure under which you have detained and kept them for prolonged incarceration. We are more concerned with the question of substantial justice which should prevail over the procedures,” the bench observed.

The bench pointed out that the prolonged detention of foreign nationals was violative of the constitutional right of the life and liberty granted under Article 21 to every person in the country, including the foreign nationals, infraction of which cannot be condoned by the courts.

The apex court directed Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha to furnish to the court the government’s policy, if any, for dealing with such foreign nationals.

The apex court pointed out that the case relating to the alleged illegal detention of foreign nationals was pending with the courts since 2005 but the government was not taking any steps to deport them, even after they having completed their respective prison terms.

The apex court pointed out that the Union government has been lax in dealing with the issue inspite of several directives from it. It said while some of them were held for illegal entry into the country, others were arrested for alleged subversive activities.

“We don’t want your bureaucrats to sleep over the files and go into slumber. We don’t want clarifications from section officers, please give us comprehensive details as to whether there is any bilateral policy.

“Don’t compel us to summon the presence of a senior officer for clarification,” the bench said.

The court also termed as “infraction of human rights of the worst order” the cases relating to certain prisoners who were held under the preventive detention law under section 109 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in jail for over a year.

Citing the instance of one particular prisoner detained since October 6, 2009 under the preventive detention law, though no offence was registered against him, the bench observed that these are things that no court will countenance.

The apex court made the observation while dealing with two separate public interest litigations (PILs) relating to alleged prolonged incarceration of Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals in Indian jails.

Warm memories of time in Pak jail


Justice Nasir Aslam Ahmed

Justice Nasir Aslam Ahmed

Anahita Mukherji, Times of India |

Within half an hour of the retreat ceremony at the Wagah-Attari junction,
the two gates on either side of a thin white line that forms the border
between India and Pakistan were re-opened once again at twilight on January
8. And 183 weary-eyed Indian prisoners released from Pakistan began
trickling into the country.

Of these, 179 were fisherfolk from Gujarat who had accidentally crossed the
invisible line in the sea that divides India from Pakistan. But as Sunday
Times sat down to listen to their stories, expecting tales of terror and
torture, what came out was both uplifting and heartwarming. Our prisoners
had actually come home with fond memories of their stay in Pakistan’s
prisons.

While a Karachi prison scarcely seems the place for Hindu-Muslim unity, the
fishermen spoke highly of the Pakistani inmates with whom they shared jail
space. The Pakistani convicts went out of their way to help the fishermen
adjust to life in prison. “We became one large family,” says Bharat Suda
Soma. “We were never discriminated against for being Hindu. Whenever we
needed something, like soap or buckets, the Pakistani prisoners would get
it for us.” Pakistani jailers, who gave the fishermen hope that they would
soon be out, came in for praise, too: “The jailers liked us as we were
well-behaved. They would let us go for walks in prison.”

Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, retired Pakistan Supreme Court judge and current
chairman of the Pakistani government‘s Committee for Welfare of Prisoners,
says, “The Indian prisoners in our custody are well looked after. Someone
from our office visits them every day.” It was on Zahid’s mobile phone
that three minors released last week recall speaking to their families
while in prison. “Whenever I spoke to my mother, she would cry and ask me
when I would come home,” 16-year-old Kamlesh told this reporter after he
entered India.

The fishermen had spent between a year and 15 months in jail. Ram Singh
Shamat of Junagadh district was in prison for two years. He had no idea he
had crossed into Pakistani waters until he heard a shot fired in the air
before being captured. “I was very scared. I had no idea what was going to
happen,” he says.

Their joy at being released was, of course, tempered with grief for their
fellow fisherfolk left behind in prison. In a remarkable show of solidarity
with their brethren, the fishermen painstakingly drew up a list of 61 men –
with details of villages and talukas and dates on which they were arrested
– still in Pakistani jail. Each of the released fishermen has two
photocopies of this list which they hope to circulate amongst the media and
activists in a bid to get their friends free.

Jatin Desai, joint secretary of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace
and Democracy, feels that fishermen should be released by sea with their
boats instead of the long route via land, from Karachi to the Wagah border
and then onwards from Amritsar to Gujarat.

While 276 Indian fishermen still remain in Pakistani prisons, 29 Pakistani
fishermen are in Indian jails. India released 121 fishermen last year.
Zahid feels there should be a bilateral committee of officials on board a
ship between the two countries, looking at cases of fishermen straying
across the border and settling the matter in the sea itself. Because no
amount of affection in a foreign jail can make up for lost time with loved
ones back home

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