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The price of courage



It should not take courage to stand with the downtrodden. Nor should it take courage to call for the implementation of the law, the Constitution, and the protection of the rights it guarantees.

Twenty people in various uniforms and plain clothes broke into human rights lawyer Imaan Mazari-Hazir’s house at 3:30am on Sunday, August 20, 2023, and took her away without showing a warrant, without letting her change, and without informing her mother where she was being taken.

They also took the CCTV camera and hard drive containing the CCTV footage, beat up her guard and took his phone, and besides her own phone and computer, also took her mother’s phone.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called the manner of Islamabad Police breaking into her house without a warrant “unacceptable”, adding that it “points to a larger, more worrying pattern of state-sanctioned violence against people exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly”. The HRCP has said Imaan “must be released immediately and unconditionally”.

Amnesty International stated that “the circumstances of her arrest violate due process and Imaan’s right to liberty and security of person”.

The next morning, Imaan was presented in court at 10am — prior to which there was little information on her whereabouts — and it is only then that her lawyers found out the charges against her. She had been charged sections 124-A, 148, 149, 153, 153-A, and 506 of Pakistan Penal Code, which deal with sedition, rioting armed with a deadly weapon, every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object, inciting to riot, promotion of enmity between groups, and punishment for criminal intimidation.

As if these weren’t enough, sections 7 and 11 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) were also added to the FIR, which deal with punishment for acts of terrorism and power to order forfeiture.

According to the Human Rights Watch, “in arresting Imaan Mazari and others, Pakistani authorities are using vague, over broad anti-terrorism laws to stifle dissent”. The HRW also called on the government to “uphold the right to due process”.

burnt churches and homes belonging to Christian families to express solidarity with the community and carry out a needs-assessment.

The day before, she had addressed a rally organised by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) to protest the rising incidents of terrorism carried out by militant outfits in the former tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, enforced disappearances, and landmines that have cost the lives of children and adults alike. She called for the accountability of those responsible for the provision of security to civilians, who are suffering at the hands of terrorists. She called for peace and an end to terrorism. She called for the law and Constitution to be upheld, and for basic rights be protected. She called for constitutional processes to take course.

After meeting with children and women from families who have suffered due to terrorism and enforced disappearances, she took to the stage to voice their suffering.

Her crime is also being one of the few lawyers who represent families of missing persons in the courts of Islamabad. Her crime is her sympathy for those suffering the worst persecution. Her criminal quality is empathy.

She should have known better than to speak out. She should follow all those who have been silenced. How dare she speak after so many chilling consequences and lessons the state has taught its strongest critics? How dare she exercise her right to freedom of speech? She should know that demanding peace and rights is a call to riot — seditious, treacherous, and intimidation of the criminal kind.

In the days since she has been detained, Amnesty International has called for her immediate and unconditional release, terming her detention “a violation of her rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression”.

The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) said “late night arrests without warrants as reported by her mother are in violation of due process of law and serve to harass & spread fear amongst citizens”.

managed to get bail on Tuesday, August 22. At this point, however, she was already in three-day physical remand of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), which was granted by the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Monday, August 21.

On Thursday, the ATC judge did not entertain the state’s request to extend her physical remand, instead sending her on judicial remand to Adiala Jail. When her lawyers requested bail hearing for the next day as she is entitled to under the law, the judge did not entertain the request; instead, setting the hearing for Saturday, August 26.

On the day of the hearing, the ATC judge before whom the case was listed was on leave, and the usual duty judge was also on leave. Meanwhile, the administrative judge filling in for the duty judge too did not hear bail arguments, setting the hearing for Monday.

Imaan remains in Adiala jail over the weekend, whereas per law, and if our justice system was functioning smoothly, she could have got bail on Friday.

This is not rare. Women affiliated with the PTI — Dr Yasmin Rashid, Aliya Hamza, Khadija Shah, Sanam Javed, Tayyaba Raja, Farhat Farooq — have been in detention for more than 100 days since May, with their bail hearings repeatedly being delayed and court benches being changed.

The HRCP has said it is “deeply concerned by the lack of transparency surrounding the continued detention of women associated with the PTI”. The rights body reminded the state that “under section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), women cannot be remanded into state custody except in cases of serious crimes”. It also observed with alarm that “such treatment has, historically, been meted out to political workers of parties that fell out of favour with state institutions. This cycle must end now.”

Slapping terrorism charges against Imaan, Ali Wazir, and hundreds of others who attended the PTM Jalsa is a special kind of irony because the entire objective of the protest demonstration was to oppose terrorism, enforced disappearances, and land mines, and to call for the accountability of policies that lead to loss of life of Pakistani citizens who are bound to be protected by the state.

It should not take courage to speak out against terrorism. It should not take courage to call for accountability. It should not take courage to stand with the most downtrodden. And it should not take courage to call for the implementation of the law, the Constitution, and the protection of the rights it guarantees.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) issued a statement, terming the ATC’s granting her three-day physical remand “deeply concerning”, adding that the court’s order “not only violates our jurisprudence but also raises questions about the legitimacy of so called charges under which she has been arrested”.

The SCBA also lamented that “it is truly unfortunate that the state which is supposed to guard fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan is now actively violating said rights”.

The Pakistani state needs to be governed like the constitutional democracy that it is, rather than with the same kind of abuse of power that the colonial British Raj operated with. We are not subjects, but taxpaying vote-casting citizens of Pakistan who are entitled to all basic rights, including the patriotic duty of highlighting the flaws of state policy.

Let us not be the laughing stock that our state is becoming, but the strong republic with the rule of law that our founders envisaged it to be, and that courageous people have fought for over the past eight decades.


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China thrill in track and field but footballers flop again at Asiad



HANGZHOU: China swept four gold medals in track and field at the Asian Games on Sunday to celebrate national day, but their men’s football team failed to read the script and were dumped out by South Korea.

The hosts are running away at the top of the overall medals table in Hangzhou with 132 golds and still seven days of competition to go.

China is enjoying a long holiday for national day and patriotic fervour filled the 80,000-seater Olympic stadium in the eastern city for the evening’s athletics.

Waving mini flags and roaring on the home competitors, they were not to be disappointed.

Wang Jianan, nicknamed Ed­die, leapt an impressive 8.22m on his first attempt in the long jump. It proved enough to defend his title.

Discus thrower Feng Bin, who like Wang was dethroned as world champion in August, also bounced back in style to claim gold with a throw of 67.93m, a Games record.

“I’m really happy. After all, today is national day, a very special day for every Chinese person,” the 29-year-old Feng said.

“To win my first Asian Games medal on this day makes me extremely happy and excited.”

There was more home success through Lin Yuwei in the 100m hurdles and Zheng Ninali in the women’s heptathlon.

China’s men’s football team is often derided at home and they once again failed to get in the holiday mood.

They were outclassed and soundly beaten 2-0 by South Korea in the last eight to disappoint a bumper crowd of nearly 40,000.

The Koreans, who are chasing a third gold medal in a row in the under-23 competition, face Uzbekistan in the semi-finals.

Japan beat North Korea 2-1 and will play Hong Kong, surprise 1-0 victors over Iran, in the last four.

The North Koreans rounded on the Uzbek match officials at the final whistle and at least one furious player had to be held back by his team-mates.

China also suffered a comprehensive loss in the final of the women’s team badminton competition.

The South Korean squad raced onto the court and some players were in tears after a 3-0 win for their first gold in the event for nearly 30 years.

South Korea’s coach Kim Hak-kyun called the gold “precious” and said they were already targeting more success at next summer’s Paris Olympics.

“This is thanks to the determination, mindset, mentality and unity of our players,” said Kim.

China did however recover to win the final of the men’s team competition 3-2 after going behind to India.

The home nation also enjoyed double gold in table tennis, with Sun Yingsha winning women’s singles gold and the duo of Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin taking the men’s doubles title.

In some of the first action of the day, Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol snatched women’s golf gold after India’s Aditi Ashok blew a seven-shot overnight lead.

In the men’s event, rising star Taichi Kho kept his nerve despite a charge by PGA Tour star Im Sung-jae for a one-stroke victory.

It was Hong Kong’s first gold in golf at the Asian Games.

At the shooting range the Chinese women’s trap team of Li Qingnian, 42, Wu Cuicui, 35, and Zhang Xinqiu, 29, set a new world record of 357 points on their way to winning gold, eclipsing the previous world best of 354 points set by the United States in 2018.

In trap competitors wield shotguns and aim at clay-based targets being fired rapidly away from the shooter at different angles.

The silver medal went to India, whose team included Rajeshwari Kumari, 31, daughter of acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia and former Asian Games champion in shooting, Randhir Singh.

In the men’s U23 3×3 basketball, Mongolia won their first ever Asian Games bronze medal in a team event, before Taiwan pipped Qatar 18-16 to win gold and trigger elation on the court and a huge roar from Taiwan journalists in the media centre.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023


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Pakistanis among 40 nations facing backlash for reporting rights abuses



ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is among the 40 countries across the world where over 220 individuals and 25 organisations faced threats and retaliation from the state and non-state actors for cooperating with the United Nations on human rights, reveals a new report of the UN Secretary-General.

The report titled, ‘Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights’ covering the period from May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023, was recently presented at the Human Rights Council (HRC) session in Geneva. The session will continue till Oct 6.

The report says human rights defenders and other civil society activists are increasingly under surveillance and continued to face legal proceedings, travel bans and threats and they are given prison sentences for cooperating with UN’s human mechanisms.

The UN secretary-general said that the organisation has a collective responsibility to prevent and address intimidation and reprisals, guided by the principle of “do no harm” and a victim- and survivor-oriented approach.

Civil society activists face legal proceedings, jail sentence, travel bans and threats for cooperating with UN’s rights mechanism, says report

“Considerable progress has been made in shedding light on and addressing the issue, including through initiatives on civic space under ‘Call to Action for Human Rights’, the UN chief said.

“The UN is committed to strengthening its efforts to prevent reprisals, including through clear zero-tolerance messages and by awareness-raising among staff, member states and civil society interlocutors. We will further strengthen our response to reprisal cases and ensure appropriate systems are in place to identify, document and report on incidents, including those in the annual reports. We will reinforce the dissemination of information on what reprisals are and how to report incidents, in particular for UN bodies where reprisals are repeatedly reported,” he added.

“A global context of shrinking civic space is making it increasingly difficult to properly document, report and respond to cases of reprisals, which means that the number is likely much higher,” said Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, in her presentation to the HRC on Thursday.

“Despite ongoing efforts, regrettably, the number of reported acts of intimidation and reprisal by state and non-state actors remains high and their severity is very concerning,” she said.

“The global trends documented this year are also similar to those identified in previous reports, but with new emerging tendencies,” the UN official said.

Among the growing trends noted in the report is the increase in the number of people either choosing not to cooperate with the UN due to concerns for their safety, or only doing so if their identities remain anonymous.

Victims and witnesses in two-thirds of the countries listed in the report requested anonymous reporting of reprisals, compared with one-third in the last year’s report.

Most of the people who reported facing reprisals for their cooperation with the Security Council and its peace operations, as well as with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues did so on the condition of anonymity.

Algeria, Afghanistan, Andorra, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, France, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Qatar, the Russian Federation, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen, and the State of Palestine are also on the list alongside Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023


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Trump business empire under threat as New York fraud trial opens



Former US president Donald Trump will appear in a New York court on Monday as a civil fraud trial against him and two of his sons kicks off, with the case threatening the Republican’s business empire as he campaigns to retake the White House.

In Monday’s case, Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his sons Eric and Don Jr committed fraud by inflating the value of the real estate and financial assets of the Trump Organization for years.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is now seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of Trump and his sons from management of the family empire.

Trump said late Sunday he planned to be present for the start of the trial on Monday morning.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” the 77-year-old wrote on his Truth Social platform. “This whole case is a sham!!!”

In addition to this civil case, Trump also faces several major criminal proceedings in the months ahead.

He is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Washington on March 4 on charges of trying to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden.

Trump will then be back in New York state court, this time on criminal hush money charges, and later in a Florida federal court, where he is accused of mishandling classified documents after leaving office.

Finally, he will also have to answer to state charges in Georgia, where prosecutors say Trump illegally tried to get the southern state’s 2020 election results changed in his favor.

In the New York civil case, Engoron ruled that Trump, his two eldest sons, and other Trump Organisation executives lied to tax collectors, lenders, and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.


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