KARACHI - Karachi’s civil society came out in full force to register their protest against the brutal murder of advocate Rashid Rehman, who was killed in Multan early this month after being threatened openly in the court for defending a blasphemy accused.
Various civil society organisations including members Joint Action Forum (JAC), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Pakistan Secular Forum, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), members of NSF, trade unions, legal community and media persons among others staged protest demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club against the killing of human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman and increasing intolerance in the society.
Rashid Rehman was a leading human rights defender who fought countless cases for the marginalised including women victims of rape and domestic violence, abused workers and kiln workers, and those targeted for political persecution. He was known for standing up for those denied justice by a system that favours the powerful.
The Multan advocate’s murder followed an open threat to him in the court room late last month by a lawyer and a group of fundamentalists for defending a visiting faculty of the Bahaudin Zakariya University alleged falsely accused of blasphemy. Rehman filed a complaint with the local administration, but got no protection in response.
The State has made little effort to nab Rehman’s killers while the whole environment in Multan is rife with fear and anxiety over the open murder of one of the most respected names in the legal community.
Today’s rally in Karachi also marked solidarity with a protest meeting being held in Multan against Rehman’s killing.
Rashid Rehman’s murder has caused outrage among civil society, bar councils, and human rights activists, who have been repeatedly protesting against the State’s inability to protect him and others who take up the cause of the weak.
His brutal killing signifies grave threat to lawyers, media persons, civil society members, and political activists who defend those denied justice by the fundamentalists and anti-democratic forces.
“These forces have repeatedly sought to impose their narrow-minded ideology on public, assaulting people’s right to freedom of expression, fair trial and most importantly right to live,” they said.
Members of civil society while expressing outrage over the brutal killing of Rehman also shared their deep concern over the rising intolerance in society manifested in recent cases of torching of temples in various parts of Sindh, alarming increase in sectarian killings, forced conversion of non-Muslim women, and attacks on alternate voices that do not adhere to the regressive viewpoint of certain powerful elements, who are also armed and enjoy impunity.
The civil society sees the rise of these violent forces as a threat to democracy, people’s right to expression, rule of law and justice. “Anybody, be it a media person, a lawyer, an academician or a civil society member can be targeted next.
While demanding strong action against the killers of Rehman and those who threatened him in the court, the civil society vowed to struggle against the threat to its members and also fight the growing tide of intolerance.
A number of protests have been announced to take place across the country.