LAHORE: Civil society, human rights activists and lawyers under the banner of Joint Action Committee (JAC) for People’s Rights have shown grave concern over the killing of human rights activist and senior lawyer Rashid Rehman in Multan and demanded the government to arrest his murderers as soon as possible.
The JAC held a public forum at Aiwan-e-Iqbal on Thursday to remember Rashid Rahman. Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jahangir, Awami National Party Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Qaumi Awami Tehreek President Ayaz Latif Palijo, HRCP Director IA Rehman, renowned lawyer and labour leader Abid Hassan Minto and Wajahat Masood spoke on the occasion. They demanded the government to not only protect minorities but to protect also those people who are working for minority rights and raising their voices for them. They said that the government had failed to control law and order situation and especially failed to protect the religious minorities.
Asma Jahangir said that Rashid Rehman was his younger brother who would always remain available not only to religious minorities but to anyone, who would ask him for help. Calling Rehman a “soldier of human rights”, Asma added that working in Lahore was different but much difficult in southern Punjab. After his death, she said, a vacuum had been created in southern Punjab leadership of HRCP but that we would continue our fight against extremism and terrorism.
She said that a silent genocide of people having liberal values was continuing across Pakistan, which was not a new thing as previously Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Manto and several other celebrities had also faced the labels of anti-Islam and Anti-Pakistan personalities.
She said that the government was providing shelter and protection to extremists as banned outfits were holding rallies across Pakistan freely.
She said that civil society had always supported freedom of media and press because they had struggled for real democracy. She said that if the army or any other authority believed that they could harm freedom of media and the press then they must understand that this was never happened even during General Zia’s government.
Senator Afrasiab Khattak said that human rights activists, minorities, journalists and politicians were being killed for the last few decades, particularly after General Zia’s rule. He said that some elements of the state made the Taliban and other extremist organizations.
He said that the Taliban and their supporters had failed in Afghanistan as 70 percent of Afghan people had used their right of vote in recent elections. The same thing would happen in Pakistan and supporters of the Taliban would fail in their objectives, he added.
He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not attended any session of the Senate for the past one-year or so. “If he (Nawaz Sharif) wants true democracy in the country, he must attend these sessions regularly,” Khattak added.
About Rashid Rehman, Khattak said that he was a true minority rights “champion” and that we must follow in his footsteps.
Ayaz Latif Palijo said that no one in Sindh could dare attacking minorities or politicians. He also announced that he would do politics in Punjab as well as in Lahore with the help of people sitting in the event. He added that he would create a new Punjab, which would be safer for minorities.
Abid Hassan Minto said that we would have to change the society with our power, which we were showing today. He said that this power must not stop after remembering Rashid Rehman but must continue to change society.
Minto said that he was very disappointed on lawyers’ reaction to Rashid Rehman’s murder, as many of them never supported him. He said that the state was running the system without participation of labourers, women and minorities, who were basic components of the state. He added that they had always supported democracy but that we would never support such democracy, which was not providing safety to minorities.
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