HRCP says govt failed to safeguard state’s writ


LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the government’s recent agreement with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) following the party’s protests against the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi.

Last week on Wednesday, the apex court had set aside Aasia Bibi’s death sentence, declaring her innocent and ordered her immediate release from prison, where she had been locked up for nine years on blasphemy charges.

The verdict was followed by protests and sit-ins across the country by religio-political parties — most prominently the TLP — that continued for three days and disrupted life. The threatening language used by TLP’s leaders was condemned by Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as ministers, who vowed that the writ of the state would be upheld.

Late Friday, the government reached an agreement with TLP, in which it said that the state would “initiate legal process” to place Aasia Bibi’s name on the Exit Control List. The government also assured the TLP that it would not contest the review petition filed against the acquittal. In turn, the TLP offered an apology if it “hurt the sentiments or inconvenienced anyone without reason”.

In a statement released on Sunday, the HRCP said it was “appalled at the government’s failure to preserve the writ of the state and the sanctity of the rule of law”.

“What was hailed as a landmark judgement and a human rights victory unravelled into a situation in which there was no distinction between the peaceful right to dissent and the thuggery of mobs,” the statement read.

“HRCP is seriously concerned at how quickly the government capitulated to the demands of extremist-led mobs, despite its earlier vow to preserve the writ of the state,” it further said.

“The TLP called openly for murder and mutiny, made a mockery of the rule of law and fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, and appears to have assumed all the while that its methods were legitimate means of dissent,” the commission regretted.

The human rights watchdog urged the government to take a firm stance against elements “that have no qualms about employing violent, extra-constitutional means to have their way”.