Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the assassination of Farida Afridi, who worked for an organisation working for women’s welfare, in Jamrud, Khyber Agency, as well as reports of a man accused of desecrating religious texts being snatched from police custody and burned to death.
In a statement on Thursday, HRCP said: “It is a matter of grave concern that the risks facing human rights defenders and those working to ameliorate the lot of marginalized segments remain very high across the country. HRCP is utterly shocked at the targeted killing of Farida Afridi, whose only crime was working for the uplift of women in an area where they need such help the most. Two armed men riding a bike shot her in the head and fled. The threats to human rights defenders in FATA are as worrisome as the impunity the killers enjoy. The ghastly murder is reminiscent of the killing on December 8, 2011, of Zarteef Afridi, a well known human rights defender and HRCP coordinator in Khyber Agency. He was too shot dead by two men on a motorcycle. His killers are still at large.
“HRCP would like to remind the government of its obligation to provide a safe working environment to human rights defenders all over the country, particularly more so in the FATA region, which faces about the worst turmoil in the country. In such places, journalists, human rights defenders and workers of civil society organisations who strive to provide essential needs or awareness to the people at great personal risk, have faced perils only because of their role in promoting rights or highlighting violations.
The killing of journalists, rights defenders and civil society activists in FATA is the latest addition to the prevailing hurdles for those working in the region for the uplift of the marginalized people, especially women.
“The threats human rights defenders face are well known and government officials are expected to do more than turn up at a rights defender’s funeral, pray for the departed soul and condole with the bereaved family. The government must prioritise protection for them in FATA and elsewhere, given that they face more serious threats that other citizens. It must take more interest in not only highlighting the contribution that human rights defenders make to society but also in investigating the attacks and bringing the culprits to justice. Civil society must also keep reminding the government of its obligation to protect and facilitate the rights defenders’ work.
HRCP also strongly condemns not only the burning to death of a man in Bahawalpur, who had been accused of desecrating pages of the Quran, but also the authorities’ failure to prevent a horrendous crime that was not at all unexpected. A credible inquiry should be launched and its findings made public. The government must not only compensate the family of the deceased for its failure to protect the life of a man in police custody from ‘mob justice’, but also take concrete measure to avoid such unfortunate incidents in the future. HRCP welcomes the registration of a case against members of the mob and demands that the killers and all others are held to account for their role in the coldblooded murder.
Taken together, these two incidents once again highlight the level of brutalization that Pakistani society has reached. Matters will not improve by looking at these incidents separately because they are mere symptoms of a deep-rooted affliction and rise in intolerance that can be managed only with broad-based and well thought out policies aimed at freeing the minds of the people of extremism.”