Global human rights organisation Amnesty International on Wednesday slammed the Pakistani government's inaction in the face of the reckless endangerment of the lives of journalists, bloggers, activists and rights defenders.
In an open letter to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, Amnesty called on the government to take urgent action to protect the lives and rights of journalists, bloggers, civil society activists and other human rights defenders facing harassment, intimidation, threats and violence.
The letter, signed by Amnesty's senior adviser South Asia, David Griffiths, termed the content of Amir Liaquat's show 'Aisay Nahi Chalay Ga' on Bol News "a chilling example" of a "smear campaign".
"During one broadcast, the show’s host said: "I am warning Geo to shut up, otherwise when I expose the reality then their entire organization will have to flee the country, they will leave the country because I will bring you fatwas against them and their organization from all the factions,'" Amnesty International said.
Amnesty alleged that Liaquat's show and others on Bol News had been used as "platforms to issue threats against journalists, civil society activists, bloggers and human rights defenders, smearing them as 'anti-Pakistan', 'anti-ISI', 'anti-Army', 'anti-Islam' and as 'blasphemers'."
People attacked on the show include activists Jibran Nasir, Bina Sarwar, Sheema Kirmani, and journalists Najam Sethi, Hamid Mir, Talat Hussain, Imtiaz Alam and Shahzeb Khanzada, Amnesty said
The rights body urged Pakistani authorities to take "immediate steps to ensure the effective protection of human rights defenders, including by providing security when they are facing risks because of their peaceful human rights work, in close consultation and according to their wishes."
It added that authorities should take decisive actions to create a safe and enabling environment "in which it is possible to defend and promote human rights without fear of punishment, reprisal or intimidation."
"This must include the explicit and public recognition of the legitimate work carried out by human rights defenders and civil society organisations and other efforts to ensure that they can carry out their work without undue hindrance, including by allowing a swift process of registration and guaranteeing the right of associations to seek and receive funding," the letter said.