PAKISTAN: GHRD condemns the assassination of a prominent human rights defender and holds the government of Punjab responsible

08-05-2014

Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) condemns the brutal killing of human rights activist Rashid Rehman Khan.

Mr. Rashid Rehman Khan, a Supreme Court advocate and coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Multan, was shot dead by unidentified attackers in Multan on May 7.

Mr. Rashid Rehman Khan was defending a lecturer from Bahauddin Zakariya University accused of blasphemy. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated that for a year the accused did not have legal representation due to possible retaliation coming from fundamentalist groups. Mr. Rashid Rehman Khan had been attacked five times before May 7  Mr. Khan filed a had complaint  that he had been receiving death threats.

In April 2014 he was threatened inside a courtroom at the Multan Central Jail. HRCP raised serious concerns over the threats extended to Khan. On April 10  HRCP expressed its concern to the Punjab government by writing a letter and submitting an application to the District Bar Association President Sher Zaman Qureshi, stating that Rashid Rehman Khan had been threatened by two lawyers and two other persons who asked him not to appear for the next hearing . But no action had been taken on these threats. 

Prominent figures who took a stand against blasphemy laws had been killed over the past years. The former governor of Punjab, Mr. Salman Taseer (2010) and the former Federal Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti (2011) were also shot dead because of openly addressing the misuse of blasphemy laws. In both cases the government ignored calls to review the blasphemy laws and did not make amendments to prevent the misuse of this particular law.

The current political situation in Pakistan makes it very difficult to openly discuss blasphemy cases. Since the general elections in May 2013, the ongoing discussion about the blasphemy law has been silenced mainly due to increasing pressure coming from religious parties.

The civil society and human rights organisations are continuously demanding that the government amend the blasphemy laws, which have become a tool for reprisals against human rights defenders. GHRD believes that the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are being used to violate the rights of people from religious minority and Muslim communities. GHRD also find these assassinations outrageous. In addition to targeting innocent people, basic fundamental rights such as freedom of opinion and expression, the right to a fair trial and the equal protection by the law are violated. 

The right to a fair trial is an essential right in all countries respecting the rule of law. Pakistan signed and ratified a number of international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), yet is not upholding rights recognised by the core human rights instruments of the UN.

GHRD calls on the Pakistan government to take action against such hideous crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.

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Ahmedi Pakistani community has boycotted elections for 30 years.