Amnesty International has called upon Pakistani authorities to end the violent crackdown against peaceful student protestors.
The human rights organization’s call came after the Pakistani police have filed criminal charges against activists who have supported the ‘Student Solidarity March’ and the arbitrary detention of Alamgir Wazir, one of the protestors, the rights group said on Saturday.
“The crackdown on the student protests is a brazen violation of their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly. The charges against the organizers must be dropped and anyone detained for their peaceful participation in the protests must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Rabia Mehmood, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.
The crackdown comes in the wake of peaceful student solidarity marches across Pakistan, demanding the right to form student unions and calling for an end to the harassment of students among other concerns.
Alamgir Wazir was detained from the Punjab University campus in Lahore on 30 November 2019, and his whereabouts are still not known. He is the nephew of Ali Wazir, a parliamentarian and leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, a non-violent movement calling for an end to enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations against Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority.
The other four activists named in the police report – Ammar Ali Jan, Farooq Tariq, Muhammad Shabbir, Kamil Khan, and IqbalLala – are at risk of imminent arrest.
Ali Jan, Tariq, Shabir and Khan are political activists. Lala is the father of the late Mashal Khan, a student who was lynched to death at his university after fellow students falsely accused him of committing blasphemy.
The five activists have been charged with ‘sedition’, ‘maintenance of public order’, ‘nuisance’, and ‘continuation nuisance’ – draconian clauses in the penal code which trace their origins to British colonial rule.
They have also been charged with the violation of the ‘Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Act’ – a non-bailable offence that can be punished by six months imprisonment and/or a fine.
The Student Solidarity Marches, which took place across Pakistan on November 29, demanded cuts in student fees, an end to surveillance of students on and off-campus, an end to violence on campus, an end of sexual harassment on campus, the introduction of policies to address complaints of sexual harassment, an end to privatization of academic institutions, and the restoration of student unions in Pakistan. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)