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Pakistan Emergency: challenges before human rights defenders

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The state of emergency in Pakistan is in its third week; the constitution has been suspended and lawyers and political leaders detained. Hina Jilani, the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders, calls on civil society and the international community to increase their advocacy efforts in Pakistan.
(Bangkok, 25 November 2007) Campaigns for democracy and human rights are continuing vigorously by human rights defenders in the third week of the state of emergency in Pakistan;  General Pervaiz Musharraf, continues to defend his decision to impose emergency rule to prevent the derailing of democracy in the country. Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on human rights defenders, has done extensive lobbying in Geneva, Switzerland, as a Pakistani national.

In a meeting with civil society organisations in Geneva on 17 November, she said that she also appealed to members of the Pakistani diasporas to campaign for democracy in Pakistan. She thanked civil society for their support given to her and Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on extrajudicial, who was under house arrest. Jahangir was released from house arrest on 16 November. However, there are many human rights defenders in Pakistan still under detention and greater advocacy on their behalf is needed.

As the immediate challenges before the human rights community, Hina Jilani said that the international pressure should be put on the Pakistani government to restore the constitution and guarantee all fundamental rights. The coming election has to be boycotted by the international community, since lawyers and political leaders are detained in this state of emergency.

For the Human Rights Council (HRC), she said there is a need to mobilise the civil society to bring Pakistan into discussion. She also proposed to lobby governments to make a draft resolution on the country to constitute pressure for the government. For the same purpose, she suggested human rights defenders from Pakistan attend the HRC session in December to speak about the situation. A parallel event where human rights defenders from Pakistan and human rights defenders from Burma can make a comparison between their situations would be welcome. According to Jilani, the Pakistani government does not appreciate comparisons with Burma, which would likely pressure the government even further.