Responding to the ban imposed on ‘assemblies, gatherings, sit-ins, rallies, processions, demonstrations, protests and such like other activities across the district of Lahore’ by the Home Ministry of Pakistan today, Harindrini Corea, regional researcher on the right to protest at Amnesty International, said:
“The use of a draconian colonial-era law to crush dissent hours before several protests, including the Aurat March, were scheduled to be held in the city is a stark failure of the Pakistani authorities to respect and uphold the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
The blanket ban is at odds with Pakistan’s obligations to recognize, respect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.Harindrini Corea, regional researcher on the right to protest at Amnesty International
“The blanket ban is at odds with Pakistan’s obligations to recognize, respect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Section 144 should never be used to unduly restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and it needs to be repealed.
“The ban must be lifted immediately, and all the people arrested solely for exercising their right to protest peacefully should be immediately and unconditionally released.”
The Punjab Home Department in a notification issued on Wednesday banned “all kinds of protests, demonstrations and sit-ins” in Lahore for seven days, citing vague reasons, namely the “overall security situation” in the wake of recent “wave of terrorism and threat alerts”. The authorities have failed to demonstrate the necessity of the ban to protect national security and public order.
The prohibition — imposed under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure — was effective just hours before the start of the Aurat March on International Women’s Day and a rally by the opposition political party. It led to several arrests and blocking of roads in the city.
The Code of Criminal Procedure is a law that was introduced during the British colonial era in 1898.