The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the brutal murder of a peace activist and human rights defender by the so called ‘unknown persons’ after arranging an open discussion on the gross violation of human rights in Balochistan. Ms. Sabeen Mahmud, who was receiving life threats from the persons belonging to spy agencies of the security establishment to cancel the talk that had prominent Baloch activists Mama Qadeer, Ms. Farzana Majeed and Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur as panelists. The mysterious calls threatened her with dire consequences if she went ahead with the talk.  Some unknown persons riding on a motorbike wearing helmets shot several bullets at her while she was going back to her home with her mother after the talk. The gunshots killed her while also causing serious injuries to her mother.

It is to be mentioned here that the chief of notorious intelligence agency, Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), has forcefully stopped a talk on Balochistan organised by Lahore University of Science Management (LUMS) on April 9 by writing a threatening letter to the Vice Chancellor of LUMS organised a talk on, Local as well as international media have hinted at possibility of the military’s intelligence agencies particularly ISI in Sabeen Mahmud’s murder.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The city of light witnessed another dark moment when freedom of speech activist and owner of ‘The Second Floor T2F’, a famous hangout place for poets and intellectuals in Karachi Pakistan, was shot dead by unknown assailants on April 25 when she and her mother were returning from a talk held on issue of Baluchistan. Sabeen Mahmud received five bullet wounds and died on her way to the hospital while her mother is still in critical condition. Sabeen was very vocal about the issue of Baluchistan and had held the talk titled “Un silencing Baluchistan Take 2”. The talk featuring Mama Qadeer and Farzana Baloch of Voice of Baloch Missing Person (VBMP) was to be held originally in Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) a fortnight ago but was cancelled at the last minute due to pressure from the Director General of country’s notorious intelligence agency, the ISI. Sabeen took a brave step and hosted the talk at T2F despite receiving threats.

  • Sabeen Mahmud © Twitter

Sabeen Mahmud, 40, was a prominent Pakistani social and human rights activist and was also the director of T2F [The Second Floor] that has been a mainstay of Karachi’s activists since it opened in 2007. Sabeen held the cancelled talk at T2F nn defiance to the military and intelligence agency. According to media reports, she had contacted a friend to ask for advice about whether she should go ahead with the event. She was having doubts as the person who had initially agreed to moderate the discussion had backed out.

After her murder, a press release condemning the killing was issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), headed by A Major General of Pakistan Army. This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that military has come out with a statement on the murder of a social activist. The act has been perceived by the groups of civil society as the self confessional statement from military establishment to stop people from pointing fingers at the security establishment. The chief of the ISPR, Major Asim Bajwa in his tweet said “We condemn the tragic & unfortunate killing of Ms Sabeen Mahmud. Our heart goes out to bereaved family at this sad moment-” as if fearing a backlash from the aggrieved civil society. Major Asim promised through his tweet that “Int (intelligence) agencies been tasked 2 render all possible assistance 2 investigating agencies 4 apprehension of perpetrators &bring them to justice”.

According to Mr. Asif Farukhi, a dear friend of Sabeeen and a famous columnist, Sabeen received a bullet attached letter threatening her with dire consequences if she hosted the talk on Baluchistan at T2F a week before it was scheduled. . Sabeen updated her status on social media before the talk began and wrote, “we need to stand together and face what may come out our way. My logic tells me that the establishment will not come in guns blazing, at worst they will demand that we cancel and they will harass us later by asking for paper work and bank statement etc. However everyone who chooses to attend should understand the climate and make their own decision regarding safety.”

A famous economist and writer, Dr. Ely Ercelan, warned the people that “don’t talk of Balochistan if you want to stay alive”

The Sindh Chief Minister upset by the high profile murder, knowing very well that who are behind the murder, has promptly ordered an investigation of the incident by the Additional Inspector General of Police and to submit report. Knowing very well that ordinary police officer does not go after the powerful agency so he will come out with the conclusion that some “un-known persons” have killed Sabeen and will vow to apprehend the culprit and soon the matter will become history.

The federal government must appoint judges from Sindh high court to hold inquiry in to the murder of human rights defender and bring the culprits before the court of law whatever is their position. It is high time that the civilian government look into the affairs of the notorious intelligence agencies who are running their own parallel system against the rule of law.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Freedom of expression as guaranteed under the Constitution has been time and again suppressed in the name of national security, glory of Islam, etc by the military as well as the civil government. Speaking against the military, the ISI in particular, has always been considered a taboo and no media house dares to cross the line.

Previously the ISI was allegedly involved in the attack on Mr. Hamid Mir who sustained serious injuries. Mr. Hamid Mir, one of Geo TV’s most famed anchor-persons has directly accused the ISI chief for the attack and conspiracy to assassinate him and of silencing any critique of the ISI or its agents.

A report by the Human Rights Watch states that the ISI has a long and well-documented history of abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings of the critics of the military and others. Those abducted are routinely beaten and threatened and their relatives are told not to complain as their release is imminent, and then when released they are threatened with further abuse if the ordeal is made public. Pakistani and international human rights organizations, including the Human Rights Watch, have extensively documented the ISI’s intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings, including those of many journalists. There were many complaints against the attacks from ISI officers and their involvement in killings of the journalists.  There are examples of journalists like Hyatullah, Musa Khel and many from Balochistan who were killed after getting abducted by the powerful intelligence agencies of the army. A prominent journalist, Umer Cheema, was also abducted by the intelligence establishment and was severely tortured and sodomised by army officials. But, as is typical where the military are concerned, no perpetrator has ever been prosecuted nor has any enquiry been concluded.

Mr. Umer Cheema, a senior journalist at The News International, a daily newspaper based in Islamabad, was kidnapped, tortured and humiliated for six hours on 4 September, 2010. He was picked up in cloak-and-dagger style in the early hours by men in commando uniforms and driven to a “safe house”. Here unknown persons took over; he was beaten black and blue, humiliated beyond comprehension, he was made to strip off his clothes, hung upside down and remained in the illegal custody for hours. Finally, he was thrown out on the roadside at Talagang, 120 kilometers from Islamabad with a shaved head and a threatening message for Ansar Abbasi, the head of the newspaper’s investigative section. The recent attack on the Express Television anchor, columnist and consulting editor for the Friday Times, Raza Rumi indicates the serious threats faced by Pakistani journalists in their line of duty. The threats have also forced Ayesha Siddiqa a prominent military analyst into self-exile.

Most of the journalists killed belong to the tribal belt or Baluchistan. The military ensures to make an example out of those who dare speak against the institutionalised terrorism in the name of national security.

On 13 March 2013, human rights defender Ms Perveen Rehman was shot and killed by ‘Un-Known’ armed motorcyclists, close to her offices. Perveen Rehman was a social and economic rights defender, working with communities in the slums of Karachi. She was director of the Orangi Pilot Project, one of Pakistan’s most successful non-for-profit social programmes, which helps local communities escape from poverty. Perveen Rehman had recently been documenting the situation in villages close to Karachi, which are affected by land grabbers and religious extremists.Perveen Rehman had previously reported being subjected to death threats. On one occasion, an armed man reportedly stormed her offices and ordered staff to leave.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the authorities listed below urging them to immediately appoint a judicial inquiry committee consisting of judges from High Court to probe the murder of a human right defender and peace activist, Ms. Sabeen Mahmud and provide security to her mother who is in hospital as the alleged killers from notorious intelligence agency will not allow her to be an eye witness in the case. Please also urge them to provide security and safety to the other peace activists and human rights defenders.

The government of Pakistan must be asked as a member of the United Nations, to follow the obligations to ensure the equal enjoyment by all people within its territory of the personal and advocacy rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Discharge of these obligations entails the right to Freedom of Expression and safety and security of the journalists, which the Human Rights Committee has determined applies to both criminal and civil proceedings.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, and on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, calling for their intervention into this matter.

To support this case, please click here:

letter_sabeen_ua
SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ………………..,

PAKISTAN: A human rights defender was murdered allegedly by the agents of military establishment for holding discussion on Balochistan

Name of victim: Ms. Sabeen Mahmud of ‘The Second Floor T2F’, phase 2, DEFENCE Housing Authority, Karachi, Sindh
Alleged perpetrators: Unidentified persons allegedly from the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)
Date of incident: 25 April 2015
Place of incident: Defence Housing Authority, Karachi

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the brutal murder of a peace activist and human rights defender Ms. Sabeen Mahmud by ‘unknown persons’ who are said to be from the notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, as reported by the international and local media. In the shootout her mother was seriously injured and she is also facing threats as her statement will expose the real culprits.

The city of light witnessed another dark moment when freedom of speech activist and owner of ‘The Second Floor T2F’, a famous hangout place for poets and intellectuals in Karachi Pakistan, was shot dead by unknown assailants on April 25 when she and her mother were returning from a talk held on issue of Baluchistan. Sabeen Mahmud received five bullet wounds and died on her way to the hospital while her mother is still in critical condition. Sabeen was very vocal about the issue of Baluchistan and had held the talk titled “Un silencing Baluchistan Take 2”. The talk featuring Mama Qadeer and Farzana Baloch of Voice of Baloch Missing Person (VBMP) was to be held originally in Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) a fortnight ago but was cancelled at the last minute due to pressure from the Director General of country’s notorious intelligence agency, the ISI. Sabeen took a brave step and hosted the talk at T2F despite receiving threats.

Sabeen Mahmud, 40, was a prominent Pakistani social and human rights activist and was also the director of T2F [The Second Floor] that has been a mainstay of Karachi’s activists since it opened in 2007. Sabeen held cancelled the talk at T2F in defiance to the military and intelligence agency. According to media reports, she had contacted a friend to ask for advice about whether she should go ahead with the event. She was having doubts as the person who had initially agreed to moderate the discussion had backed out.

After her murder, a press release condemning the killing was issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), headed by A Major General of Pakistan Army. This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that military has come out with a statement on the murder of a social activist. The act has been perceived by the groups of civil society as the self confessional statement from military establishment to stop people from pointing fingers at the security establishment. The chief of the ISPR, Major Asim Bajwa in his tweet said “We condemn the tragic & unfortunate killing of Ms Sabeen Mahmud. Our heart goes out to bereaved family at this sad moment-” as if fearing a backlash from the aggrieved civil society. Major Asim promised through his tweet that “Int (intelligence) agencies been tasked 2 render all possible assistance 2 investigating agencies 4 apprehension of perpetrators &bring them to justice”.

According to Mr. Asif Farukhi, a dear friend of Sabeeen and a famous columnist, Sabeen received a bullet attached letter threatening her with dire consequences if she hosted the talk on Baluchistan at T2F a week before it was scheduled. . Sabeen updated her status on social media before the talk began and wrote, “we need to stand together and face what may come out our way. My logic tells me that the establishment will not come in guns blazing, at worst they will demand that we cancel and they will harass us later by asking for paper work and bank statement etc. However everyone who chooses to attend should understand the climate and make their own decision regarding safety.”

A famous economist and writer, Dr. Ely Ercelan, warned the people that “don’t talk of Balochistan if you want to stay alive”

The Sindh Chief Minister upset by the high profile murder, knowing very well that who are behind the murder, has promptly ordered an investigation of the incident by the Additional Inspector General of Police and to submit report. Knowing very well that ordinary police officer does not go after the powerful agency so he will come out with the conclusion that some “un-known persons” have killed Sabeen and will vow to apprehend the culprit and soon the matter will become history.

The federal government must appoint judges from Sindh high court to hold inquiry in to the murder of human rights defender and bring the culprits before the court of law whatever is their position. It is high time that the civilian government look into the affairs of the notorious intelligence agencies who are running their own parallel system against the rule of law.

Yours sincerely,

……………….
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister
Prime Minister House
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Tel: +92 51 920 6111, +92 51 920 6111
E-mail: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk, pspm@pmsectt.gov.pk

2. Mr. Syed Qaim Ali Shah
Chief Minister of Sindh
The Government of Sindh Province
Karachi, Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 920 2000
Email: pressecy@cmsindh.gov.pk

3. Mr. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan
Minister
Ministry of Interior of Pakistan
R Block, Pak Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 51 9212026
Fax: +92 51 9202624
Email: interior.complaintcell@gmail.com, ministry.interior@gmail.com

4. Mr. Pervez Rashid
Minister
Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights of Pakistan
Old US Aid building
Ata Turk Avenue
G-5, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 9204108
Email: contact@molaw.gov.pk

5. Mr. Tahir Shahbaz
Registrar
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Constitution Avenue, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 9213452
Email: mail@supremecourt.gov.pk

6. Chief Justice of Sindh High Court
High Court Building
Saddar, Karachi
Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 9213220

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)