The recent crackdown on PTI supporters and protestors following the arrest and subsequent release of Chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan has raised international alarm, especially among the Pakistani diaspora.
Overseas Pakistanis have been raising their voices against the human rights violations happening back home. They have written to human rights bodies and even engaged US political leaders.
Amid this backdrop, a group of Pakistani Americans from the West Coast wrote to 300 human rights organizations worldwide, urging them to take action against the suppression of free speech in Pakistan.
Human rights violation in Pakistan
The petition, a copy of which is available with GVS, has 20000 signatures from Pakistani Americans. It has been circulated among human rights organizations in North America, Europe, and Australia, including major organizations like the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Foundation, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
The petition, prepared by a group of attorneys, expressed how Pakistan is facing the worst crackdown on basic human rights and civil liberties in its 75-year history despite being a signatory to the CAT (Convention Against Torture) as well as the Convention against genocide under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) of the European Union.
“Civilians, peaceful protestors, unarmed political workers, men, women, children, senior citizens, youth and the differently-abled, all have been subjected to barbarism never witnessed in public before,” the petition said.
To clarify, on May 9th, protests erupted across Pakistan shortly after PTI Chairman Imran Khan was arrested in the Al-Qadir Trust case. Clashes between protestors and police also occurred, resulting in injuries and even loss of life. Even though Imran Khan was released, the incumbent government launched a crackdown against the protestors.
Over 4000 of civilians and PTI leaders have been arrested and jailed for their democratic right to protest peacefully. Prominent female PTI leaders Dr Shireen Mazari and Dr Yasmin Rashid were jailed and threatened. Dr. Mazari was then forced to resign from her post publically and “retire” from politics.
The treatment of all individuals in jail is deplorable. First-hand accounts from individuals in jail confirm that they are being kept in small cells, denied access to food and sanitary needs.
Read more: Parvez Elahi faces tough conditions in jail
The petition also talked about the violent crackdown on women from all walks of life, in particular those less affluent whose only crime has been to participate in peaceful protests in support of Pakistan’s largest political party, PTI. They have been illegally jailed and face inhumane conditions, including sexual abuse.
The petition by Pakistani Americans has urged human rights organizations to work actively with the international community to take action against the suppression of women’s rights to live, breathe, self-determination, and free speech as it is not a private Pakistan issue but a global one.
“No decent human being would ever like to see a repeat of or return to, the holocaust, another Rwanda. We hereby request your support, your cooperation, and the launch of a formal international inquiry into this matter to protect women’s rights of self-determination and free speech. A Pakistan woman/girl is not the child of a lesser God. She has every right to the dignity and protections afforded by the UDHR, the CEDAW, UN conventions,” the petition said.
Pakistani diaspora’s political efforts
The petition by Pakistani Americans is among the many efforts made by the diaspora to raise awareness about the urgent need for justice and reform so that protestors can assert their demands peacefully and peacefully, free from harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary detention.
Shortly after the May 9th incident, more than 2,000 Pakistani Americans wrote to their members of Congress to push the Secretary of State to hold the government of Pakistan accountable for democracy and human rights. As a result, 66 members of the US Congress wrote to Secretary of State Blinken, asking him to exert pressure on the Pakistani government to address the country’s continually worsening human rights violations.
Moreover, Overseas Pakistanis have also been holding protests in the US and major cities in Europe against the political turmoil in Pakistan. In May, hundreds of PTI supporters gathered outside the White House expressing their determination to continue struggling for democracy in Pakistan. Last week, a crowd of about 200 people gathered outside the Houses of Parliament in London, participating in a rally organized by PTI, calling for free and fair elections and a return to the rule of law.
Pakistani-Americans are gathered in front of the White House in Washington DC to protest against human rights violations and the danger to democracy in Pakistan. #PTIUSAProtest pic.twitter.com/zy9DS0Ss1S
— PTI (@PTIofficial) May 21, 2023
PTI UK protest hosted by PTI London outside the Houses of Parliament, London. Pakistanis gathered in their thousands.
Overseas Pakistanis from across the UK demanded that the Facist Government must hold free and fair elections and put a halt to the Human Rights breaches in Pak. pic.twitter.com/BHdQ566eQy
— PTI London Official (@PTI_London) June 11, 2023
The solidarity displayed by Overseas Pakistanis serves as a powerful reminder of the strength and unity within the Pakistani diaspora, even when separated by geographical boundaries. Their dedication to demanding political reform in Pakistan has made a significant impact, resulting in political leaders in the US, Canada, and the UK releasing statements condemning the human rights violations in Pakistan.