The Pakistani authorities must immediately end their crackdown on peaceful student protests, Amnesty International said today.
The human rights organization’s call came after the Pakistani police have filed criminal charges against activists who have supported the ‘Student Solidarity March’ and the arbitrary detention of Alamgir Wazir, one of the protestors.
The crackdown on the student protests is a brazen violation of their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly
“The crackdown on the student protests is a brazen violation of their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. The charges against the organizers must be dropped and anyone detained for their peaceful participation in the protests must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Rabia Mehmood, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.
The crackdown comes in the wake of peaceful student solidarity marches across Pakistan, demanding the right to form student unions and calling for an end to the harassment of students among other concerns.
Alamgir Wazir was detained from the Punjab University campus in Lahore on 30 November 2019, and his whereabouts are still not known. He is the nephew of Ali Wazir, a parliamentarian and leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, a non-violent movement calling for an end to enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations against Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority.
The other four activists named in the police report – Ammar Ali Jan, Farooq Tariq, Muhammad Shabbir, Kamil Khan, and Iqbal Lala – are at risk of imminent arrest. Ammar Ali Jan, Farooq Tariq, Muhammad Shabbir and Kamil Khan are political activists. Iqbal Lala is the father of the late Mashal Khan, a student who was killed at his university after fellow students falsely accused him of committing blasphemy.
The five activists have been charged with ‘sedition’, ‘maintenance of public order’, ‘nuisance’, and ‘continuation nuisance’ – draconian clauses in the penal code which trace their origins to British colonial rule. They have also been charged with the violation of the ‘Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Act’ – a non-bailable offence that can be punished by six months imprisonment and/or a fine.
“The draconian laws used against these peaceful protestors have no place in a modern rights-respecting society and should be consigned to a distant past as a relic of Britain’s tainted colonial legacy. The Pakistani authorities have an obligation to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Rabia Mehmood.
The Student Solidarity Marches, which took place across Pakistan on 29 November 2019, demanded cuts in student fees, an end to surveillance of students on and off-campus, an end to violence on campus, an end of sexual harassment on campus, the introduction of policies to address complaints of sexual harassment, an end to privatization of academic institutions, and the restoration of student unions in Pakistan.