Restore Democracy and Human Rights in Pakistan!

November 9, 2007

We, local and regional non-governmental organisations based in Hong Kong, hereby express our strong protest against the Pakistani government for the assault it has made on the country and its democratic institutions following the imposition of the state of emergency by its chief of army staff, General Pervez Musharraf, on November 3, 2007.

Even when compared to the atrocious record of dictators and intolerance of dissent in the history of Pakistan, the scale and scope of arrests and detentions we have witnessed over the last few days are unprecedented.

Through the state of emergency, all powers of the government rest in the hand of one person, that is, the chief of army staff, not with the civilian authorities under the Parliament and prime minister.

Through the imposition of emergency rule, the fundamental rights that are guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan have been suspended, the Constitution of Pakistan itself has been abrogated and replaced by the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), the judges of the superior courts have been terminated from their positions, the media has been censored through the promulgation of two ordinances and a brutal crackdown against judges, lawyers, human rights activists, political workers and the media has taken place.

Up to now, more than 5,000 people have been arrested during five days of protests, among whom are 3,800 lawyers who have boycotted the courts and are on the streets to protest against emergency rule. Lawyers and human rights activists have been brutally beaten by the police. The 46 judges of the higher courts, including the chief justice of Pakistan and three chief justices of different provinces, are under house arrest, and their homes are locked from the outside by military personnel. The chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and special rapporteur of the United Nations, Asma Jehangir, is under house arrest as well. In addition, water supply lines and sources of communication with the outside world have been cut off. All private television channels and some radio stations have been forced off the air by the government, and editors and publishers are receiving death threats from anonymous people, preventing them from writing or broadcasting any critical news about the government or military.

We view this state of emergency as martial law in disguise, and we thus denounce the actions taken by the military rulers of Pakistan and demand the following be done immediately:

1. The state of emergency be lifted;
2. The Constitution of Pakistan be restored;
3. The judges of the superior courts be released and reinstated to their courts;
4. All of those who have been arrested be released;
5. The illegal and extraconstitutional steps and measures taken during emergency rule be abolished;
6. The military of Pakistan be punished for supporting militant groups;
7. The chairman of the Senate be appointed as acting president under a national government formed with the consent of all political parties as General Musharraf has no legal or constitutional standing after November 15, 2007; and
8. General elections be held within three months.

Pakistan is now in a deep crisis, and the time has come for change. We thus urge the international community to openly support the struggle of the people of Pakistan for the restoration of constitutional rule, supremacy of the judiciary, respect for the rule of law and people’s constitutional freedoms and the creation of strong democratic institutions.

Signed by the following organizations in Hong Kong:

Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants
Asian Human Rights Commission
Asian Students Association
Hon. Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, Legislative Councilor
Hon. Albert Ho Chun-yan, Legislative Councilor
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese
Hon. Emily Lau Wai-hing, Legislative Councilor
Hon. Leung Kwok-hung, Legislative Councilor
United Filipinos in Hong Kong