GENEVA, June 6: Major human rights groups called on Pakistan on Wednesday to protect prominent lawyer Asma Jahangir and investigate allegations that military and intelligence agencies have plotted to kill her.
Ms Jahangir, who has pursued human rights cases at home and abroad for more than 30 years, told a press conference on Tuesday that she had learned from a credible source about a planned assassination attempt by the highest levels of the security establishment.
There was no immediate comment from security officials.
“Pakistani authorities should urgently and thoroughly investigate the alleged plot against Asma Jahangir and hold all those responsible to account, regardless of position or rank,” Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on an official visit to Pakistan, visited Ms Jahangir in her home in Lahore on Wednesday “to discuss this alarming development and show her support”, her office said.
The Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said Ms Jahangir had been a critic of the military’s policies in Balochistan and its alleged violations there, including killings, enforced disappearances and torture.
“Asma Jahangir has fought tirelessly as a member of the legal profession to protect human rights in Pakistan and around the world, at considerable peril to herself,” Wilder Tayler, ICJ’s Secretary General, said in a statement.
“So when she speaks publicly of a credible threat, the government of Pakistan should take it very seriously and ensure that she is protected,” he said.
Ms Jahangir, one of the founders of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the first woman to lead the Supreme Court Bar Association, received repeated threats for raising the issue of corruption in the legal arena, the HRW said.
She served as UN special investigator on extrajudicial executions and later as UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief during the period of 1998 to 2010, reporting on violations worldwide to the UN Human Rights Council.
In recent months, Ms Jahangir has “been at odds with the Pakistani military in a series of high profile stand-offs,” the HRW said.
She has defended Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, accused of drafting a memo that accused the army of plotting a coup. He has denied the charge.
“As defence lawyer in the `Memogate’ affair, Jahangir raised serious reservations about lack of due process in legal proceedings against Haqqani and threats to his life from the military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),” the HRW said.
Ms Jahangir, the frequent target of harassment and threats during her career, was placed under house arrest by former military president Pervez Musharraf in 2007.
She has survived “multiple assassination attempts”, most recently in 2006, according to the Geneva-based ICJ. —Reuters