‘HRCP urged MQM to avoid May 12 conflictÂ’
KARACHI, Aug 30: A top official of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Thursday that the organisation tried to restrain the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) from creating “mayhem” on May 12 when the independent rights body’s chief telephoned the MQM leadership a day before and advised them to avoid conflict during the chief justice’s visit to the city.
“Our chairperson tried to persuade the MQM leadership to hold its rally on any other day and avoid the possibility of conflict. She did nothing else. The MQM leaders’ allegations against her are baseless and concocted,” Iqbal Haider, secretary-general of the HRCP, said at the launch of their report on the May 12 events at the organisation’s Karachi office.
Referring to the recent statement of Dr Farooq Sattar, deputy convener of the MQM’s coordination committee, in which he termed the HRCP report “partisan” and said the report was not appropriate considering that the matter was sub judice, Mr Haider said that in fact the HRCP was assisting the Sindh High Court in the suo motu case pertaining to the May 12 violence.
“Such statements do not befit those who attacked the judiciary and detained lawyers. They themselves committed the greatest contempt of court by not allowing the chief justice of Pakistan to come out of the airport. Their allegations against the HRCP contradict their own role,” he said.
He asked Dr Sattar to produce the “unedited version” of the tape of Asma Jehangir’s conversation with the MQM leadership so that the truth was told in its “real sprit” to the public.
“The tape should be genuine, unedited and not distorted to let people know what she had advised to the MQM,” he said.
Mr Haider said the report, titled “A City Under Siege: Carnage in Karachi,” had been submitted to all the seven judges of the larger bench of the SHC conducting proceedings into the May 12 events on Thursday.
“We’ll appear in court on Monday when the proceedings of the case are scheduled to resume,” he said.
Mr Haider said the investigations were conducted by impartial volunteers and prepared without any political influence or partiality. According to him, the May 12 killings had no precedence in the past because never before had the police and other law-enforcement agencies been asked to relinquish control of law and order and adopt the role of “mere spectators.”
“The government failed to discharge its duties in protecting and safeguarding the lives of its citizens, and it failed deliberately,” he claimed.
‘15 million held hostage’
The report says May 12 represented something quite unprecedented in the history of Pakistan.
“In quantitative terms the violence perpetrated on that day might find parallel only very occasionally. Well over 40 people lost their lives, and the number of the injured ran into the hundreds. But it was in qualitative terms that the events were truly without historical comparison.
“An entire city of nearly 15 million was held hostage by people who appeared to be private citizens. The violence and the threat of violence engulfed nearly all localities of this huge city — in the east, west, north, south and the centre,” says the report.It says the escalation of tensions in the build-up to May 12 was entirely avoidable. The idea of a showdown between supporters of the CJ — who, despite the reference, was a serving functionary of the state — and supporters of a political party was “almost entirely artificially created.”
“There was nothing inherently antagonistic in the two positions held by the supporters of the lawyers’ movement and the MQM that warranted any form of violence or bloodshed. It appears almost incomprehensible that large-scale violence of various types — roadblocks, ambushes, armed clashes, abductions etc — was meticulously planned and executed across the city, while the state security apparatus was effectively withdrawn.”
The report says May 12, 2007 will be remembered as the day the state withdrew.
“While the loss of precious lives is the most deplorable aspect of the day, a matter of grave concern from the perspective of institutional integrity of the state is the virtual withdrawal of the state’s security apparatus for almost 20 hours and the actual takeover of the city by armed cadres of one or more than one political party,” it says.
“For some apparently inexplicable reason, the objective was to stop the CJ — a serving state functionary — from being received by his lawyer and political supporters. It is clear from the benefit of hindsight that all of the actions of the Sindh government — which was the main state organ responsible for security — were geared to achieve this aim.”
The report holds responsible the Sindh provincial government and the federal security agencies such as the Rangers and military — “that arrogate and retain de facto and de jure policing duties in Karachi” — for the gory events.
“To this extent the functionaries of the federal and provincial governments and military and paramilitary forces stationed in Karachi bear responsibility.”
It says that the MQM, to a great extent, and other political parties, to a smaller extent, have a case to answer.
“All the evidence shows that these parties, particularly the MQM, acted like organised military forces, which mobilised large numbers of people to carry out acts of brutal violence against their opponents as well as non-partisan citizens. For this the level of responsibility needs to be more specific and direct than the one implied in the notion of collective political responsibility.”
“The MQM, or at least its military organisation, bears the direct and specific responsibility for the majority of the violence. Residual responsibility lies with the armed supporters of other political and religious parties,” the HRCP report says.