Special Dispatch |4777 |June 6, 2012
Former Pakistani UN Rapporteur And Respected Human Rights Activist Asma Jahangir Says Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Behind Plot To Assassinate Her
The following is a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM).
Former UN rapporteur Asma Jahangir
In early June 2012, renowned Pakistani human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir announced that she had become aware of a plot against her life. At a June 5 press conference, she urged the Pakistani journalists present not to confuse the public about the identity of those who sought to have her killed, stressing that the threat to her life originated in the upper echelon of the Pakistani military's intelligence agencies, such as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The latter agency, known for supporting militants, nurturing political leaders, and influencing elections, has in the past assassinated a number of political activists and journalists, such as renowned investigative journalist Saleem Shehzad. It has also been implicated in abducting and killing secessionist Baluchi rebels. These incidents are on the records of various Pakistani courts and are publicly known.
Asma Jahangir, an outspoken activist who has led public protests against the status enjoyed by extremist religious groups within Pakistani society, has supported and participated in the holding of mixed-gender marathon events in Pakistan amid threats from hardline Islamic organizations, questioned the "judicial dictatorship" of Pakistan's Supreme Court, and, pressing ahead with that message, run for and won the post of president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. She also served as UN rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions from 1998 to 2004. She is Pakistan's best known liberal face in the international community.
Following are statements by Jahangir herself, and various reports supporting her allegations that the Pakistani intelligence agencies, particularly the ISI, are involved in abductions and assassinations, including an assassination plot against her:
"Understand That I Am Sitting In My Home As In A Bunker"; "It's Impossible For Me To Adopt Silence; They Could Kill Me Tomorrow And Blame It On My Husband, On My Children"
Following are excerpts from statements by Jahangir in a telephone interview she gave to Pakistani television host and editor Najam Sethi, which was aired on an Urdu-language television program:
"There have been earlier threats; pamphlets have come and posters have been pasted [threatening me]... Those [types of] threats do keep coming. OK, I keep criticizing the military, which used to issue threats against me [perhaps directly]. [Such threats] used to be resolved; I too used to ignore [them].
"However, this is a security leak. And I am thankful to whoever leaked this to me if he is listening [to this program]. Many thanks to him for informing me that there is going to be a fatal attack on me, for which reason I continue to sit here. Now, understand that I am sitting in my home as in a bunker. And I do not have any doubts regarding my source [who leaked the assassination plot]...
"The point is that strange things have also happened in the past. For example, our [i.e. the Supreme Court Bar Association's] lawyers have tried to book Gymkhana [a forum for events] in my name, but were told that it could not be done. They were told that the ISI had forbidden it, saying she [i.e. Jahangir] talks against us [i.e. the ISI] and therefore does not have permission to hold meetings here...
"It's impossible for me to adopt silence. They could kill me tomorrow and blame it on my husband, on my children, [who] would say the mother has gone and left us in a complicated situation. They do commit such acts. I am afraid that I am an outspoken person. Such an [assassination] plan is not conceived at the lower levels [of the ISI]; such plans are hatched at the top...
"[Based on] the one who told me [about the assassination plot], and who is the basis of my deductions, because people fear speaking such words from their own mouths; and based on where he came from and what he told me about this plan, it is evident... that it is our 'state agencies' [i.e. the ISI and other military intelligence agencies], our people who plan such things and plans, who get angry with us...
"I have been outspoken. Even in the past, they never liked me... The last time I was attacked, when the culprits were brought into court, there were two [other] people along with them. Our lawyers got hold of them [and inquired] as to who they were. And I can show that this is on the records... Out of one of their pockets emerged an [identity] card belonging to the IB [Intelligence Bureau] and out of the second one's pocket came the card of the ISI. So, it's not that they belonged to Sunni Tehreek [a religious organization that might be suspected]. They had come to protect [the attackers]...
"Perhaps they blame me for the issue of Baluchistan..."
"This Is Not [Merely] A Threat... This Is A Straightforward Plan To Kill Me"; "I Will Not Leave [Pakistan]... My Ancestors Are Buried Here And My Life Is Here"
Following are excerpts from a report by the Pakistani daily The Express Tribune regarding the assassination plot:
"[Speaking earlier to journalists at a press conference,] Jahangir, an outspoken critic of the military establishment and a strong advocate of civilian control over the army, said that [though] she had received numerous death threats in the past, but that this was different, as a decision had been made 'at the highest level of the security apparatus' to assassinate her. 'This is not a threat,' she said. 'This is a straightforward plan to kill me.'
"Jahangir said that critics of the military establishment were often subjected to 'harassment,' and mentioned Saleem Shehzad, the journalist who was found dead after reporting on the attack on the PNS Mehran in Karachi last year [and exposing military officers' ties to Al-Qaeda], as an example of the [manner] of this 'harassment.'
"'How many Pakistanis will be killed in order to challenge democracy in the country?' she said. She [added that] many other critics of the establishment had been threatened and forced to leave the country. 'I will not leave [Pakistan],' she said. 'My ancestors are buried here and my life is here.'
"Jahangir said that the silencing of 'progressive elements' was hurting Pakistan's image. 'Our country's future will not be shaped by khakis [i.e. soldiers] but by the people of Pakistan,' she said. She said there were a lot of conspiracies against Pakistan, but [that] the people who had 'sabotaged the country in the '80s' [i.e. the military rule at the time] should resolve to set it right.
"Jahangir said [that] after receiving the warning that her life was in danger, she had informed the Pakistan [Supreme Court] Bar Council, whose vice chairman had alerted the government. She said that the president and the interior minister had called her and inquired about her security after she had made her concerns public. She said that Rangers [a Pakistani paramilitary force] had been deployed at her residence for her protection, but [that] she was not satisfied with the security arrangements.
"Jahangir said she had been told to speak to the director general of [the] Inter-Services Intelligence, but had refused. She said that an ISI official had later visited her and demanded she reveal the source of her information, but she had [likewise] refused. She added that she had also tried to communicate her concerns to the chief minister [of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif], but to no avail.
"She said that foreign security experts had advised her on security measures, and that she had asked the government to take those measures. 'I am declaring publicly that I have no enmity with anyone. The protection of my life is the responsibility of the state,' she said. Jahangir said that there was no point to an official inquiry by 'institutions in which no one trusts.'
"She said her greatest concern was not for her life, but [over] the 'growing use' of threats to create fear among [the] people..."
Ali Dayan, Director Of Human Rights Watch In Pakistan: "A Threat Against Jahangir Is A Threat To All Those In Pakistan Who Struggle For Human Rights And The Rule Of Law"
On June 6, reacting to Jahangir's exposure of the plot against her life, Human Rights Watch issued a report discussing her human rights activities and the security situation surrounding them. Following are excerpts:
"Jahangir is globally recognized for her human rights work and is one of Pakistan's most respected rights activists. She is credited with establishing the highly regarded independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [HRCP] and AGHS Legal Aid, the first free legal aid center in Pakistan.
"[Throughout her] 30-year career as a human rights activist, Jahangir has been a consistent critic of human rights violations by the Pakistani military and the intelligence services. '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,' said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan[i] Director at Human Rights Watch. 'A threat against Jahangir is a threat to all those in Pakistan who struggle for human rights and the rule of law'...
"In recent months, Jahangir has been at odds with the Pakistani military in a series of high profile stand-offs. In November 2011, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., was forced by the Pakistani military to resign his position after allegations [came out] that he was responsible for a secret memo delivered to senior U.S. military officials seeking support for Pakistani civilian control of national security policy. As defense 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).
"Jahangir has also been a critic of the military's policies in the insurgency-hit province of Baluchistan, where it is accused of widespread killings, enforced disappearances, and torture. Jahangir has frequently been the target of harassment and threats over the course of her career.... She was placed under house arrest by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler at the time, after he imposed emergency rule in 2007. She played a prominent role in the 'lawyers movement' in Pakistan, which led to Musharraf's ouster and to the restoration to office of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
"In 2010, Jahangir became the first woman to lead the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan's most influential forum for lawyers. During her campaign for the Supreme Court Bar Association, Jahangir repeatedly received threats for raising issues such as corruption in the legal arena. Extremist groups and [their] allied Pakistani media ran a campaign accusing Jahangir of apostasy a capital offense in Pakistan and urging lawyers not to vote for her.
"From 1998 to 2004, Jahangir served as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. From 2004 to mid-2010, she was the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
"The involvement of the military and its intelligence agencies in high-profile killings is well-documented... In April 2010, a three-member UN inquiry commission into the December 2007 assassination of [former] prime minister Benazir Bhutto concluded that [the] Pakistani authorities failed to provide Bhutto adequate security, and that elements within the military may have played a role in her assassination. The panel was highly critical of the 'pervasive role' played by the ISI in the events leading up to the assassination.
"In May 2011, Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and the Italian news agency Adnkronos International, was tortured and killed, after receiving repeated and direct threats from the ISI..."
Jahangir In 2011 Interview: "[Pakistani Intelligence Agencies] Are Actually Running The Government"
Following are excerpts from a January 2011 interview with Asma Jahangir, in which she explained the Pakistani intelligence agencies' role in Pakistan:
"There Is No Law At The Moment [To Regulate The Functioning Of These Agencies]"
"Q: Intelligence agencies in Pakistan are operating without any law supporting their creation and functioning. Do you think that this a major reason for the involvement of intelligence agencies in human rights violations?"
"A: Well, yes, this is one of the reasons. And the second reason is that they are actually running the government. Now if you look at the whole question of elections, they have a hand in their outcome. It has been proven how they manipulate elections, how they even pay to get parties to support certain candidates. Then during the voting you will notice that they are present at polling stations. They seek candidates out and then they seek voters out on behalf of certain candidates.
"Not only that, they have their own sense of what security is. When they feel that security is threatened, they feel that they have the right to go to any extent, picking up leaders of the opposition or those who are accused of terrorism and indeed even those who have been the prime ministers of the country."
"Q: Are there any laws that govern the functioning of intelligence agencies?"
"A: Well, there is no law at the moment. We do not want to interfere in their workings, but we want to know how many agencies there are, who they are, what their mandate is, and what their structure is. [When we raise the issue,] it is not an attempt to define their roles. Rather, we want to see that the agencies function according to a mandate [and] rules of engagement, and within an accountability process. Agencies must know to whom they are accountable. If the agencies know to whom they are accountable, but we cannot say to whom they are accountable, then really it is a very sad situation that is bound to be misused. It is bound to affect human rights."
"Q: But intelligence agencies invoke laws such as the Pakistan Army Act, the Security of Pakistan Act, etc., to justify their actions...."
"A: Yes, there are certain laws under which people are arrested. [But] the Pakistan Army Act is for army personnel. It was only recently that civilians began to be tried under it. If a civilian has been rousing people for rebellion within the army, then that is a different thing. Otherwise you cannot simply pick up a civilian who has committed a crime and try him under the Army Act. But that has happened as well. So, I think we need to clarify this. I think we should not really go beyond the law itself.
"Secondly, I think there are certain security laws under which every security agency can act. But the point is that they do not go by the law. They pick people up on their own and they go missing [because they are held by them in secret detention centers or killed by them]. Nobody hears anything about the missing [persons] until [the intelligence agencies] decide to throw them back to their families."
"The Defense Ministry Stated [In Court] That Operationally [The Intelligence Agencies] Are Accountable To It, But Otherwise Not; So, Really Nobody Knows [To Whom The Agencies Report]"
"Q: Why have the legal issues remained absent from the national discourse on intelligence agencies so far?"
"A: It is not like that. [President Asif Zardari's spokesman] Farhatullah Babar had raised the issue in the Senate... The response he got was that the law is a secret. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [HRCP, an NGO] filed a petition in 2007, asking the court to ask the intelligence agencies and the Defense Ministry about laws or rules that authorize their functioning and what their mandate is, and that the interior and defense ministries together must spell out who [the intelligence agencies] are accountable to. The defense ministry stated that operationally [the intelligence agencies] are accountable to it, but otherwise not. So, really nobody knows. [These agencies] were not even willing to come to court.
"When we asked the court to appoint a commission to pinpoint [those responsible] for missing people [such as Baluchi activists abducted by intelligence agencies], what we asked for was a group of people lawyers or anyone that the court appointed to go and record the statements of those who had disappeared and come back, so that the perpetrators could be identified. Now, if the Supreme Court cannot get the disappeared people back, how could a commission comprising retired judges get them back?
"I am very upset about the commission [that the Supreme Court has set up] because it sits within the Interior Ministry. Now if, God forbid, my child is lost, I will not go to the Interior Ministry to give them evidence, particularly when one person each from [the] Intelligence Bureau, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), [the] police, and [the] Interior Ministry are also sitting around the table.
"I don't think this commission knew what it was required to do because [it] did not take down the statements of any of the people who had returned after [having been] 'missing.' [It did not] try to go and find out how they were picked up, who took them way, what was done to them, [whether] they [were] tortured, where they were kept, how many days they disappear[ed] for. It is this kind of dossier that they should have prepared for the Supreme Court, but they did not do [so]."
"If It Is The... Reports Of Intelligence Agencies That Will Be Relied On During The Judges' Appointments, If They Are Going To Tweak The Elections... Then We The People Have A Right To Know What Their Limits Are"
"Q: What has been the role of courts in dealing with cases of arrests made by intelligence agencies?"
"A: Firstly, with all fairness to the courts, until a decade back, it was unheard of for a court to take up a 'missing person' case in which the accused included the military or intelligence agencies. The first such case that I can recall is when [Friday Times editor] Najam Sethi was picked up. It was [retired] Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui and then [retired] Justice Mamoon Qazi who passed the order for us to see Sethi while he was in ISI custody. He was later also released [thanks to the court's intervention].
"Now, when people move the court [to action], in most cases the bodies of the missing people appear. It is not easy for the courts to control the intelligence agencies. There has to be [a] concerted and coordinated effort on [the] part of the courts, the parliament, and the government. The court can issue an order, but its implementation lies with the government. A really responsible court will never give an order it knows will not be implemented."
"Q: What possible role can law play in controlling the intelligence agencies?"
"A: Well, I don't think the law can ever be an effective tool, but the law is the beginning of it. It sends a clear message to the intelligence agencies that they have to go by the book. Secondly, I think some of the intelligence operatives may have been genuinely misled into believing that they have carte blanche. Until there is a clear mandate, a manual which defines the red lines that cannot be crossed, how will a new recruit know what these lines are, especially when their boss tells them that they are free to do whatever they want?
"If it is the advice and reports of intelligence agencies that will be relied on during the judges' appointments, if they are going to tweak the elections, and if the intelligence agencies will ensure that [any] 'trouble-maker' for the government is harassed, then we the people have a right to know what their limits are...."
June 5, 2012.
 The Supreme Court has openly censured Pakistan's military intelligence agency for the abduction and killing of dozens of Baluchi political activists.
 The Express Tribune (Pakistan), June 6, 2012. The original English in this report and those following has been edited for clarity and standardization.
June 6, 2012.
 Dawn.com (Pakistan), January 25, 2011.
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