Civil society condemns arrests of young activists


–Diep says peaceful protesters not allowed but extremists, violent groups are open to hold rallies


LAHORE: The representatives of the civil society and human rights activists on Thursday demanded of the authorities to release all activists who have been picked up with no legal justification.

“We also demand that those who issued orders to pick them up should be identified and tried in a court of law for violating fundamental rights of our citizens,” said a statement issued by the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS).

The statement said that such an environment where peaceful people are threatened, intimidated, physically harmed or killed shows how undemocratic these authorities have become which is very sad and shameful for the state.

“We are extremely worried about the recent situation where the authorities are openly involved in picking up our youth activists who assemble peacefully for the human rights cause,” it said.

Last week, the police began arresting human rights activists, including students, ahead of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) rally which was held in Lahore on April 24.

In Karachi, many protesters were also abducted by the authorities when they had assembled to protest against enforced disappearances.

As many as 30 young peace activists and university students protesting for the release of their fellow activists have been picked by the police in front of the Lahore Press Club in broad daylight, the statement said.

“Some bystanders kept asking the police as to why were they being picked up and where were they being taken to but they gave no answer nor produced any arrest warrants as they whisked them away in their police van,” said IPSS Executive Director Saeeda Diep. “Families and friends are searching for their loved ones and as of now, we are clueless as to where have they been taken to,” she added.

“We are also very concerned for their safety,” she said. “This is exactly the very reason why our aggrieved fellow citizens keep coming out to speak against such atrocities. These young and brave people were not breaking any law as they had gathered at the place usually reserved for small protests. No roads were blocked and no property was damaged unlike what we have seen in other protests by extremist and violent groups that are allowed to hold rallies,” she said.

Diep said that such high-handedness against the young activists shown by the police was not only unjustified but was also illegal.

“As civil society, we condemn this act by the government and the chief minister in very strong words,” she said. “We will continue to come out more to have our loved ones recovered safe and sound,” she added.

Diep further said, “We will continue to raise our voice against this culture of enforced disappearances until this matter is seriously addressed by the state, whether military or the civilian acting at their behest. It is a grave violation of our fundamental rights when you crush our voice for justified demands and we will continue to march on for this right,” she said. “We must also remind our state that at this moment, where Pakistan is bound to honour its human rights pledges, such gross activities reflect very poorly on Pakistan internationally,” she added.