Freedom of speech, expression, and the ability to assembly freely without being detained are key to any democracy. Pakistan has rarely allowed these freedoms to its people. At a time when Pakistan’s opposition parties are planning a rally, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement that it will monitor the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)’s rally, scheduled to be held in Gujranwala on 16 October.
In its statement, HRCP stated that “As an independent, impartial human rights body, HRCP’s aim in doing so is to ensure that the state upholds and protects all citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as guaranteed under Article 16 of the Constitution and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Pakistan is a state party.”
Further, HRCP noted that it “believes that the state’s willingness to protect freedom of peaceful assembly is a robust indicator of its commitment to democracy, pluralism and social change. If Pakistan is to expand the shrinking space available to civil society, it is imperative that citizens in every part of the country are able to express their political opinions collectively—and to challenge dominant views—without fear of reprisal. HRCP expects that no arbitrary restrictions will be placed on rally organizers and participants or on the media when covering the event.”