KARACHI: A joint action committee (JAC) of civil society organisations on Tuesday asked the government to provide protection to human rights activists and campaigners as it was a constitutional duty of the government to protect the lives of people.

Speaking at a condolence meeting at the PMA House to pay tribute to slain human rights activist and senior lawyer of Multan Rashid Rahman, the committee decided that a protest demonstration would be organised outside the Karachi Press Club on May 18 to condemn the killing and another demonstration would be organised by the Pakistan Civil Society Forum in Multan.

The participants in the meeting agreed that a delegation of civil society members from Sindh would also take part in the protest meeting in Multan.

“We believe the government has failed in discharging its duty in protecting human rights defenders and despite threats to the life of Rashid Rahman, no measure was taken by the government to provide him security,” said Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education at the JAC meeting.

He said Rashid Rahman had told the trial court the names of the people who had threatened him, but “even the judge did not take any notice” and terrorists easily assassinated him in his chamber.

He demanded that those who had threatened Rashid Rahman were nominated in the FIR.

He endorsed the suggestion given by participants in the meeting that all political parties should be contacted to apprise them of problems of the civil society and measures to end the misuse of the blasphemy law and provide protection to lawyers and human rights activists.

Speaking on the occasion, the participants in the meeting decried that weaker sections of the society were being targeted by criminal elements, who misused the blasphemy law.

They paid rich tributes to Rashid Rahman for defending the cases of the poor, minorities and downtrodden people of the country.

Rashid Rahman was contesting a case of an accused of blasphemy. Some lawyers had threatened him of dire consequences in courtroom, but no security was provided to him, they said.

The participants in the meeting also criticised the role of religious parties for ‘providing’ shelter to criminals and killers convicted by anti-terrorism court for killing former governor of Punjab Salman Taseer.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2014.

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