Pakistan: New parliament must restore the constitution and human rights protections

As Pakistan prepares to swear in a new parliament, Amnesty International calls on the country’s new leaders to repair the fallout from the state of emergency imposed in November 2007. In its latest document, Pakistan: Repairing the damage: ensuring robust human rights safeguards, Amnesty International examines the damage done to constitutional safeguards and the key role played by an independent judiciary in the protection of human rights.

“Steps taken by Pervez Musharraf, both as Chief of Army Staff and as President, breached both national and international law. In passing a Provisional Constitution Order, Musharraf suspended fundamental rights including the right to life and freedom from discrimination, put his actions beyond judicial review and illegally replaced judges critical of the executive – including on human rights – with compliant ones. They obliged him by declaring his actions lawful,” said Tim Parritt, Amnesty International’s Deputy Programme Director for Asia.

Hundreds of victims of enforced disappearance, whose petitions the now-dismissed Supreme Court judges had pursued with vigour, saw their hopes of redress dashed. At the same time, scores of lawyers and civil society activists charged with criminal offences during the emergency period continue to face the prospect of unfair trials by court martial.  

“Unless the new parliament decides to undo these measures, the outlook for human rights protection in Pakistan remains bleak. Parliament must take concrete action, ensuring that human rights, the constitution and the judiciary are never again viewed as expendable tools to be tolerated by those in power only to the extent that they are useful,” said Tim Parritt. “Piecemeal amendments will not repair the long-term damage caused during the state of emergency – a sea change is needed in Pakistan’s political culture.”

Pakistan: Repairing the damage: ensuring robust human rights safeguards (AI Index: ASA 33/01/2008)