ACHR urges Pakistan to lift ban on its report


The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today urged the newly elected democratic government of Pakistan to lift the ban on its report.

 

ACHR learnt that on 25 January 2008, the Secretary to the Home Department of the Provincial Government of Punjab of Pakistan banned ACHR’s report, “Pakistan : The Land of Religious Apartheid and Jackboot Justice: A report to the UN Committee Against Racial Discrimination” of 8 August 2007. The report was banned under Section 99-A of Pakistan Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) which criminalises offenses which are allegedly “treasonable, a seditious, prejudicial to national integration (of Pakistan), abets riots, which is deliberately and maliciously intended to outrage the religious feelings of such class by insulting the religion or the religious beliefs”. These offences are punishable under sections 123A, 124A, 154, section 295A, section 298A and section 298B and section 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code. Anyone found guilty of charges under these sections can be punished with life imprisonment.

 

I. BACKGROUND OF THE REPORT

 

The CERD Committee had planned to consider implementation of the ICERD by the government of Pakistan without the 15th to 19th periodic reports of the State party during its in its 71st session held from 30 July - 17 August 2007. The information was put on OHCHR’s website.

 

Following the announcement ACHR submitted the report to the CERD Committee in August 2007. ACHR and many other NGOs regularly submit such reports to the Treaty Bodies as part of an established procedure of the Treaty Body system. The ACHR report is a public document and available at:

(http://www.achrweb.org/reports/cerd/Pakistan-CERD2007.pdf).

 

During the 71st session, Pakistan requested a postponement of the consideration without the State party report and it committed to submit the periodic reports by 31st December 2007.  The CERD Chairman agreed to the request. The letter of the Chairperson of the CERD Committee is available at:

 

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/LetterPakistan3sep07.pdf

 

II. BACKGROUND OF THE BAN

 

After assuring the CERD Committee that Pakistan would, in fact, submit its periodic reports, on 25 January 2008, the Secretary to the Home Department of the Provincial Government of Punjab of Pakistan, issued the notification No. So(IS-III)1-1/2004/Pt.II banning ACHR’s publication.

 

The notice reads as follows:

 

   “WHEREAS, it has come to the knowledge of the Government of the Punjab that Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) based at New Delhi, India has published a highly charged and biased report “Pakistan: The Land of Religious Apartheid and Jackboot Justice”. The report is being distributed in Pakistan through “National Commission for Justice and Peace” which is an NGO floated/registered by the Catholic Church of Pakistan .

 

Now, THEREFORE, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section-99-A Cr. P.C-1898, the Government of the Punjab is pleased to ban the above mentioned report and order to confiscate to the Government all its copies action against the distributors under the relevant law.”

 

The report was prepared based on standard methodology including reports of various NGOs and media. All allegations of human rights violations were cited with footnotes. The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) had no role either for preparation of the ACHR’s report or its distribution.

 

III. IMPLICATIONS OF THE BAN: THE CHARGE OF SERIOUS CRIMINAL OFFENCES AND HARSH PUNISHMENT

 

Any ban on publications under section 99-A of the Pakistan Criminal Procedure Code relating to “Power to declare certain publications forfeited and to issue search-warrants for the same” is to be read with sections 123-A, 124-A, 154, 295-A and sections 298-A, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

 

Section 99-A provides that:

 

“99-A. Power to declare certain publications forfeited and to issue search-warrants for the same. (1) where:-

 

(a) any newspaper, or book as defined in the [West Pakistan Press and Publication Ordinance, 1963, or any other law relating to press and publications for the time being in force] or

(b) any document.

 

Wherever printed, appears to the Provincial Government to contain any treasonable, a seditious matter or any matter which is prejudicial to national integration or any matter which promotes or is intended to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of Pakistan or which is deliberately and maliciously intended to outrage the religious feelings of such class by insulting the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, [or any matter of the nature referred to in clause (ii) of subsection (i) of S. 24 of the W.P. Press and Publication Ordinance. 1963) that is to say, any matter the  publication of which is punishable under section 123A or section 124A or section 154A or section 295A [or S. 298A or S. 298B or S. 298C] of the Pakistan Penal Code, the Provincial Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, stating the grounds of its opinion, declare every copy of the issue of the newspaper containing such matter, and every copy of such book or other document to be forfeited to Government and thereupon any police-officer may seize the same wherever found in Pakistan and any Magistrate may by warrant authorize any police-officer not below the rank of sub-inspector to enter upon and search for the same in any premises where any copy of such issue or any such book or other document may be reasonably suspected to be.

 

(2) In sub-section (1) 'document' includes also any painting, drawing or photograph, or other visible representation.”

 

Therefore, anyone violating section 99-A of the Pakistan Criminal Procedure Code can be punished under (1) section 123-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which relates to condemnation of state and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty and provides for a sentence of 10 year rigorous imprisonment; (2) section 124-A of the PPC which relates sedition and provides for life imprisonment; (3) section 154 of the PPC relating to abetment in riots and provides for a fine; (4) section 295-A of the PPC relating to  “insulting religion or belief of any class” and provides for a punishment of 10 years imprisonment and a fine, and (5) section 298-A, 298-B and 298-C of the PPC relating to insulting, wives, companions of the Prophet Mohammad and preaching Ahmadi faith which provides for a punishment of three years imprisonment and a fine.

 

Most of these above mentioned offenses are non-bailable.

 

IV. ACHR’s APPEAL TO LIFT THE BAN

 

In a letter of 9 April 2008, ACHR Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani to lift the ban on the publication. ACHR underlined in the letter that the report was submitted following the standard procedure of the UN Treaty bodies. ACHR further urged the government of Pakistan to cooperate with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and submit the periodic reports. ACHR assured the government that if ACHR’s report contains any factually inaccurate information or analysis, the same can be challenged by the government of Pakistan and ACHR will provide the necessary clarifications.  

 

| Home | About Us | Briefing Papers | Review | Reports | Press Releases | Info by Country |
| ACHR in Media | Info by Theme | Urgent Actions | ACHR Impact | Campaigns | Contact Us |
© Copy right 2007 Asian Centre for Human Rights