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Pakistan Urged To End 'Crackdown' On Student Protests


Pakistani students shout slogans during a protest to demand the government a rollback of education budget cuts and the reinstatement of student elections in Lahore on November 29.

ISLAMABAD -- Amnesty International has joined Pakistani human rights defenders in condemning the authorities’ response to peaceful student protests, calling it a “brazen violation” of their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

The London-based human rights organization on December 1 urged the authorities to immediately end their “crackdown,” after Pakistani police filed criminal charges against five activists who have supported the so-called Student Solidarity Marches held across Pakistan last month and the “arbitrary detention” of one of them.

“The charges against the organizers must be dropped and anyone detained for their peaceful participation in the protests must be released immediately and unconditionally,” Rabia Mehmood, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

The Student Solidarity Marches on November 29 demanded the right to form student unions and calling for an end to the harassment of students, among other things.

Mehmood said the “draconian laws” used against the five activists who are facing accusations of “sedition,” “nuisance,” and other charges have “no place in a modern rights-respecting society.”

One of them, Alamgir Wazir, was detained from the Punjab University campus in Lahore on November 30.

Two days later, Wazir appeared before a court in Lahore which turned down the police’s request for his physical remand.

He is the nephew of Ali Wazir, a parliamentarian and leader of a Pashtun civil rights movement calling for an end to “human rights violations” in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The HRCP on December 1 also raised serious concern over Wazir’s fate, saying in a tweet the activist had been “abducted, allegedly by unknown persons.”

It also urged the authorities to “take every possible measure to establish his whereabouts and identify the perpetrators.”

The other four activists -- political activists Ammar Ali Jan, Farooq Tariq, Muhammad Shabbir, Kamil Khan, and Iqbal Lala -- are at risk of imminent arrest, according to Amnesty International.

Ali Jan told RFE/RL that the case against him was “baseless” because he was not “among the speakers” of last month's rallies.

Iqbal Lala is the father of Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student who was killed at his university in the northwestern city of Mardan in April 2017 after fellow students accused him of committing blasphemy.

Ahead of the November 29 rallies, the HRCP said it was “alarmed by reports that students supporting the march are being harassed, facing rustication or being dislodged from their hostels in an effort to restrain them from participating.”

“The propaganda that is being circulated on social media platforms to malign march supporters is not just repugnant, it could also put them at risk of harm,” it said in a statement on November 27.

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