Representative picture of police official with baton at protest site in Pakistan ©Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Pakistan: Authorities must respect and facilitate people’s right to protest

QUOTE

Responding to the crackdown and violent dispersal by police on Tuesday morning against protestors demonstrating against 14-hour long power cuts in Lyari in the city of Karachi, Rimmel Mohydin, Pakistan campaigner at Amnesty International said,

“The authorities in Pakistan must not use unnecessary or excessive force to disperse protesters who take to the streets to voice legitimate grievances against the power shortage crisis as they continue to suffer the consequences of climate change. People need to be protected from the searing temperatures, not baton-charged and tear-gassed by the authorities for exercising their right to protest.”

People need to be protected from the searing temperatures, not baton-charged and tear-gassed by the authorities for exercising their right to protest.

Rimmel Mohydin, Pakistan campaigner at Amnesty International

“Blocking traffic and causing disruption is no justification to disperse a protest or to otherwise suppress the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The authorities have an obligation to facilitate this right and ensure people are able to express their grievances safely and without fear of reprisals.”

“At a time when Pakistan’s most at risk communities are facing the brunt of heatwaves and unmitigated climate change, authorities must genuinely listen to their demands and take human rights-consistent measures to help them adapt. Their response today is not only deplorable but marks the latest episode in a concerning escalation in the suppression of dissent.”

Background

Pakistan has been facing an acute power shortage during some of the hottest months that the country faces. The people residing in Lyari area of Karachi city have reported 14-hour power cuts, with some semi-urban areas like Jacobabad receiving electricity for only six hours in the day. A water shortage has also been afoot, demonstrating the impact of climate change.

People in Karachi began protests against the lack of water and electricity supplies early evening on 27 June 2022, but according to media reports, the police violently dispersed the protest with the use of batons and teargas when they refused to unblock an arterial road to the port.

Amnesty International has recently published a new briefing setting out how and when batons can be deployed to disperse protestors in accordance with international human rights law, highlighting the guiding principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and accountability.  

Pakistan ranks as one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. To learn more about how climate change has impacted one city, please read our report Unliveable for Humans: A Visual Documentation of Life in One of the World’s Hottest Cities.