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Vigil demands arrest of slain lawyer’s killers

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ISLAMABAD: Deeply grieved over the assassination of notable human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman, civil society activists, political workers and human rights defenders held a candlelight vigil near the National Press Club to raise their voice against the assassination.Representatives of various non-governmental organisations, students unions and their children took part in the candlelight. Prominent among them were Tahira Abdullah, Samina Nazir, Sarwar Bari, Karamat Ali, William Perveez, Fauzia Minallah, Gul Naz. Carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans condemning the brutal killing of Advocate Rashid Rehman on Wednesday, May 7, inside his chamber in Multan, the participants demanded immediate arrest of the killers, and raised slogans like “Speak up get shot”, “Enough is enough”, “Who will dispense justice?”, “Violence in the name of religion is unacceptable”, etc.The participants strongly condemned the target killing and demanded that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and authorities concerned ensure that the killers and those who threatened to kill Rehman are arrested and tried. They demanded cases be immediately registered against those who had threatened Rashid and his killers be brought to justice. The participants of the vigil said it would be a travesty of justice for the cause of human rights and for Rashid’s family if this plea was also ignored and meaningful action was not taken. They deplored that no security was provided to Rashid despite his written complaint.“It is regrettable that no attention was paid to HRCP’s or Rashid’s concerns and nothing was done to apprehend the three persons who had threatened Rashid,” said Tahira Abdullah. The participants also deplored the impunity with which criminals and terrorists are allowed to murder, threaten and harass peaceful citizens without any fear of reprisal, and called upon the government to fulfil its obligations to provide security to human rights defenders. Meanwhile, Coalition for the Rights of Minorities (CRM) has strongly condemned the brutal killing and demanded arrest of killers, and also demanded the government take serious steps to eliminate the extremist elements from society for a better pluralistic, socially cohesive and tolerant society. CRM National Coordinator Sameena Imtiaz stressed the measures the government must undertake for the protection and security of human right activists, especially those who are working with the minorities related issues in the country. Also, a condolence meeting for Rashid Rehman, who was an advocate and HRCP’s Multan Task Force coordinator, was held at the Centre for Democratic Development, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Islamabad. The meeting expressed its deep sympathies with the family of Rehman and said that in addition to being a leading member of the HRCP Rashid Rehman was a peace activist and a defender of the rights of women, minorities, vulnerable, and all those who sought his help. It said he was brave, courageous and totally committed to his cause, and he will be missed and remembered by all those who knew him.It must be recalled here that on April 10, through a statement, the Commission had brought it to the attention of the authorities that Rashid was being openly threatened by prosecution lawyers in the Multan District Prison where he was representing a blasphemy accused. The hearing was being held in the prison due to security concerns. The judge, it was reported, did not take any notice of the threats issued to Rashid in his presence. Three persons had addressed defence lawyer Rashid Rehman in the judge’s presence and said: “You will not come to the court next time because you will not exist any more.”A lawyer and prominent human rights defender, Rashid Rehman Khan was gunned downed on Wednesday by unidentified persons at his chambers at 8.45pm. He had been receiving death threats from fundamentalists since February. In the month of April he was threatened in the court during the proceedings before the judge by a lawyer, Zulfiqar Sindhu and two other complainants and was warned that from the next hearing he should not defend a lecturer of the Bahawalpur University in a case of blasphemy. Sindhu actually stated before the judge that Rehman would be eliminated. The presiding judge remained silent and took no notice of the threats.

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