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Pakistan: Why was Tariq Mehmood was arrested? Demand his release!

By Farooq Tariq

On August 9, 2009, Tariq Mehmood, a human rights activists and general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) in the Toba Tek Singh district issued a press release to the journalists in Toba Tek Singh. He alleged that eight Christian women were raped by Muslim fanatics in an attack on Korian village in Gojra Tehsil on July 28 attack. He also alleged that 40 women are still missing and no clue is yet found about their whereabouts. He condemned this atrocious and horrific act and demanded the government to probe the case. More than 60 houses were burnt by fanatics in the village on the accusation of blasphemy. This act led to another attack on Gojra Christian community and nine people were burnt alive.

On August 10, a first investigation report (FIR) was registered by Gojra police and Tariq Mehmood was invited by police in Toba Tek Singh district for “talks”. As he arrived, he was arrested. Several serious charges have been issued against him including seven under the Anti-Terrorist Act and at least 13 charges under other laws. He appeared in the court of an anti-terrorist judge in Faisalabad and police asked for his physical remand. The judge denied physical remand and sent him to Toba Tek Singh jail on judicial remand.

The fact that a press release issued to journalists reached the police immediately has to be investigated yet.

Who is Tariq Mehmood?

A young activist (24 years old) from Basti Danishmandan village in Toba Tek Singh district, he has been active with the Labour Party Pakistan for five years. He is also an official representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in the district. He has been active in social and labour movements and has brought thousands of youth, brick kiln workers and public employees out on the streets of Toba Tek Singh on issues related to violations of human rights.

Tariq Mehmood has been helping cases in which women have been sexually assaulted, raped, tortured or been subject to violence after forced marriages. He publicly condemned religious fanatics after they attacked the village of Ahmadies.  In fact, he and his comrades have been on the backbone of every battle involving the working class in the area. He helped rebuild the movement of bhatta (brick kiln) workers and thousands have been on the streets demanding an end of bonded labour and the pershgi (advance) system. He has helped the textile workers, shoe makers and public employees in their struggles for better lives.

This brave young man was followed by intelligence agencies and fanatics all the time. Yet he refused to stop his activities in support of minorities and the working class. Many fanatics termed him as Christian and not as a Muslim because of his consistent voice in their favour.

The Gojra incident

Tariq Mehmood and his comrades were first to arrive at the spot in village after the incident and gathered firsthand information. He immediately issued a press release and condemned the action of Muslim fanatics. He helped many journalists from outside the district to cover the story. He also played an important role alongside with fellow LPP members and Christian youth leaders to blockade train service by bringing the seven bodies to demand a case be registered against the district police office (DPO) and district coordination officer (DCO) on August 2. This was international news as the protesters blocked the railway line for hours until the government was forced accept the demand. In a very unusual act, the police registered a case against their top police and administrative officers on failing to protect the lives of the Christians. The DCO and DPO were called back from duties and a judge of the Lahore High Court is now investigating the case.

The police and administration were looking an excuse to attack Tariq Mehmood and other LPP activists in the district. Instead of looking into the allegations of rape and disappearance of Christian women, police arrested him on very serious charges that can lead to the death penalty.

The Labour Party Pakistan demands an immediate release of Tariq Mehmood and calls on the government to investigate the rapes and disappearances. The LPP will not let this incident go unnoticed.

Please snd protest letters

We have launched an international campaign for the release of Tariq Mehmood. Please sign the following and send it to the addresses below:

Subject: release Tariq Mehmood, a human rights activist in Toba Tek Singh

Honorable Prime Minister,

Islamic Republic of Pakistan,

Dear Sir,

We wish to draw your attention to the illegal and totally unnecessary arrest of Tariq Mehmood, a well-known human rights activist and the general secretary the Labour Party Pakistan Toba Tek Singh district on August 11, which is being commemorated as the Day of Minorities in Pakistan. It is ironic to note that a staunch defender of the rights of minorities should have been arrested on a day officially dedicated to the rights of minorities, while the perpetrators of violence against innocent Christians of Gojra remain at large.

It is even more reprehensible that the Toba Tek Singh police have framed absurd charges of terrorist activities against a peaceful and conscientious activist who risked his life to defend poor victims of religious intolerance.

He has consistently highlighted the case of the brutal burning to death at Gojra. He had also been demanding the arrest of those who were responsible for the killings. On August 6, he was targeted and threatened with dire consequences by a group of religious fundamentalist at a press conference in Toba Tek Singh. Instead of protecting those who are in the forefront of a fight against religious extremism, the police are arresting them.

We demand Tariq Mehmood’s immediate release and a probe into police behaviour that has led to an unnecessary arrest of a human rights activist.

Please email and fax the appeal to the following fax or email addresses:

Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani
Prime minister of Pakistan
Prime Minister House
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 9221596
Email:
secretary@cabinet.gov.pk 
 
A copy to all the following addresses:
 

Minister for Interior
R Block Pak Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 51 9212026
Fax: +92 51 9202624
Email: ministry.interior@gmail.com

or   

interior.complaintcell@gmail.com

 

Mr. Mian Shahbaz Sharif
Chief Minister of Punjab
H-180 Model Town
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 5881383

 

Minister of Law
Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Ravi Road
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Email: law@punjab.gov.pk

 

Chief Secretary of Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 7324489
E-mail: chiefsecy@punjab.gov.pk

Comments

DSP (Australia) demands release of Tariq Mehmood

Mr Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani

Prime Minister of Pakistan

Fax: + 92 51 9221596

E-mail: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk 

 

Subject: Release Tariq Mehmood, a human rights activist arrested in Toba Tek Singh

 

Honourable Prime Minister,

 

Dear Sir,

 

We wish to draw your attention to the illegal and totally unnecessary arrest of Tariq Mehmood, a well-known human rights activist and the general secretary Labour Party Pakistan Toba Tek Singh, on August 11, the Day of Minorities in Pakistan. It is ironic that a staunch defender of the rights of minorities should have been arrested on that day, while the perpetrators of violence against innocent Christians of Gojra remain at large.

 

It is reprehensible that the Toba Tek Singh police have framed absurd charges of terrorist activities against a peaceful and conscientious activist who risked his life to defend victims of religious intolerance.

 

Tariq Mehmood has consistently highlighted cases of brutal burnings to death at Gojra. He was also demanding the arrest of those responsible for the killings. On August 6, he was targeted and threatened by a group of religious fundamentalists at a press conference in Toba Tek Singh. Instead of protecting those who at the forefront of the fight against religious extremism, the police are arresting them!

 

We demand Tariq Mehmood’s immediate release and a investigation into the police conduct that led to this unnecessary arrest of a human rights activist.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

L. Macdonald

Democratic Socialist Perspective

PO Box 515, Broadway, NSW

Australia 2007

 

Cc:

Minister for Interior

Chief Minister of Punjab

Minister of Law

Chief Secretary of Government of Punjab

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