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Despite constitutional safeguards, human rights defenders face serious constraints in carrying out their work of promoting and protecting human rights. Human rights defenders have reported arbitrary arrests and detention without charge or trial, torture, enforced disappearance committed by security and intelligence agencies and extrajudicial executions. Under the auspices of counter-terrorism, the Pakistani authorities have been enforcing preventative detention allegedly in order to maintain law and order. Basic human rights guaranteed under Pakistani law are frequently violated.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan, however, this right can be revoked in cases where it is deemed “in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, defense or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement to an offense”. This leaves the law open to wide interpretation and journalists are reported to be routinely harassed for expressing opinions regarded as counter to the interest of Pakistan.
According to reports, the Pakistani government has increasingly reintroduced colonial era legislation in order to justify the obstruction and prevention of public gatherings. Section 144 of the Criminal Procedures Code prohibits gatherings of four or more people without police authorization. In addition there is a 'Maintenance of Public Order' ordinance from 2002, which has reportedly been used to limit freedom of assembly and expression, prohibiting any public speech that is “likely to cause fear or alarm to the public”.
Taxation legislation has been introduced to deny associations tax exemptions previously available to non-profit associations. Associations must now register with the income tax authorities and they must fulfill certain criteria in order to qualify for the exemption, clearly adding further constraints to the activities of human rights defenders and civil society generally.
Freedom of movement is also limited for human rights defenders and they regularly face travel restrictions. Those wishing to attend international conferences or events are said to come up against delays in procedure and in some cases travel bans.
04 July 2012
26 June 2012
06 November 2007
Pakistan: Reported assassination plot against prominent human rights defender and lawyer Ms Asma Jahangir
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