Pakistan: Political Prisoners Freed
In an attempt to restore some form of normalcy ahead of the parliamentary elections in January 2008, the Pakistani government has released thousands of prisoners arrested after the imposition of emergency rule.
Below is an article published by The Independent:
After weeks of intense international and domestic pressure, the
The announcement came as the country's Election Commission finalised 8th January 2008 as the date for parliamentary elections. General Pervez Musharraf has suggested that emergency rule will remain in force through the election period, leading Washington and his political opponents to argue that they cannot be free or fair.
Javed Iqbal Cheema, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, signalled that the government had begun to step back from some of the severe measures it resorted to with the imposition of a state of emergency on 3 Nov . "The process has started," he said, adding that more "would be freed soon".
But Mr Cheema went on to warn that, "While peaceful protests are a part of democratic process, the federal and provincial governments shall not brook any attempt to create disturbances in the run-up to elections."
Among those released yesterday [20 November 2007] was Abrar Hasan, president of Sindh High Court Bar Association. "I was arrested the day after the emergency was declared," said Mr Hasan. "We, the lawyers in
Mr Hasan said that he and the lawyers he leads in
Lawyers, opposition parties and human rights groups dismissed the government's claims and said that numbers of those released had been exaggerated while further arrests were being made.
Athar Minallah, a senior lawyer said: "I know that in the case of 45 lawyers who were released on bail, the
A spokesman for Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, the largest opposition party, denounced the government's claims as "absolutely rubbish".
"The People's Party activists arrested are 17,000 in totality," said Farhatullah Babar. "Only 36 have been released in
176 journalists were reportedly arrested in
"While the government was claiming that it had released people, a huge number of journalists were being arrested here in