LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed its grave concern over the increasing frequency and sheer impunity with which anyone critical of the state is being targeted.

In a statement issued here on Thursday, the HRCP said: “It is appalled at the recent abduction of Gul Bukhari, a journalist known for her views on law-enforcement organisations.

“While Ms Bukhari safely returned home within a few hours, the fact that she was summarily ‘picked up’ from the Lahore Cantonment should make it clear that enforced disappearances are rapidly becoming the norm — an easy and arbitrary means of intimidating those who do not toe the line.”

Taking note of the recent press briefing held by the ISPR DG, the HRCP expressed its ‘strong disapproval’ of the slide display of images and names of social media users and of branding them ‘anti-state’.

“With less than two months to the elections,” said the commission, “an ominous pattern seems to be emerging: even the slightest expression of political dissent, especially by journalists and social media activists, can be labelled “anti-state”, often with worrying implications for their physical safety.

“The HRCP feels acutely that this election is critical to preserving the country’s fragile democratic order. The right to non-violent dissent is part of this democratic order. We strongly condemn any use of extraconstitutional means to intimidate and harass citizens, or to put them in a position that might compromise their safety.”

PU VC: The HRCP has also taken exception to the controversial choice of a new vice chancellor of the Punjab University and called for a review of the decision.

In a statement, the HRCP said: “The Punjab government’s unnecessary and harmful meddling in the selection of a new PU vice chancellor has resulted in a controversial choice that will make it impossible for the institution to function smoothly.

“The professor selected for this highly sensitive job is reported to have served at some point as head of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) — the student body protected and indulged by dictatorial regimes to hold the university hostage through violence and ideological blackmail. The list of teachers hounded out of their posts and otherwise harried by the IJT is quite long. Still longer is the list of students beaten up and thrown by the roadside for having disagreed with the IJT.”

It may not be possible for the new VC, it says, to resist pressure from his former comrades. Even if he can strike a neutral posture, knowledge of his past will embolden the Jamiat to keep the campus on the boil and non-partisan faculty members and students under ceaseless threat. The appropriate authorities must review the selection of a new head of the university.

Further, the HRCP has strong reservations about the process of selection of vice chancellors of the public-sector universities.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2018

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