PLEASE ACT NOW, AND CIRCULATE THIS WIDELY !
(South Asia Citizens Web)
ALERT for ACTION re MURDER OF SAMIA SARWAR/SAMIA IMRAN
& THREATS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
Dear Friends, We very urgently need your help in the aftermath of the
cold-blooded and planned murder - rather execution - of Samia Sarwar (also
known as Samia Imran - her husband's name) in the office of her counsel,
Hina Jilani of AGHS, a well-known legal aid and human rights group in
Lahore run by Hina Jilani and her sister, Asma Jahangir, Chairperson of the
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and UN Special Rapporteur on
On April 6th 1999Samia was deliberately murdered by her mother, paternal
uncle and father - the latter being the president of the Peshawar Chamber
of Commerce. Though the case has been registered, no arrests have been made
so far. Meanwhile, the family is using all its influence to orchestrate a
campaign threatening the lives of Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani and other
supporters of women in distress.
Urgent action is needed because:
to date no arrests have been made and it is feared that the accused will
use their influence to evade justice;
there is an immediate danger to the lives of those who supported Samia.
Please publicise as widely as possible, notably to the press and business
Please URGENTLY write to
The Prime Minister
Fax: (92-51) 920 8890
(92-51) 920 1545
(form of address: 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Prime Minister')
The Minister of Interior, Federal Government of Pakistan
FAX: (92-51) 920 2624
The Minister of Information, Federal Government of Pakistan
The Chief Minister of Punjab
FAX (92-42) 920 0160
The Chief Minister of NWFP
FAX (92-91) 921 0707
The Inspector General, Police, Punjab
FAX (92-42) 921 0064
The Inspector General, Police, NWFP
FAX: (92-91) 921 0331
The Pakistan Mission to the United Nations (New York)
The local Pakistani Embassy in your country
Demanding the following:
1. Immediate and full protection to Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani,
Shahtaj Qizalbash and other human rights activists.
2. The case against the murderers of Samia Sarwar/Samia Imran be
investigated by senior officers able to resist the political and social
pressures being mounted.
3. The administration must take immediate action against all those
inciting violence against Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani and human rights
activists in general.
4. Police protection to all government-run and independent shelters
5. The NWFP administration fully investigates how a government
servant, Habibur Rehman, was in the employment of Samia's family.
If you can only e-mail please send your message to sgah@...
We shall try and get the e-mails and forward.
PLEASE DO NOT MENTION Shirkat Gah's name in any of your protest messages.
We will be keeping you updated.
THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT
Shirkat Gah Women's Resource Centre
The facts of the case
29 year old Samia Sarwar, a resident of Peshwar (NWFP province, Pakistan)
arrived at the office of AGHS on March 26th asking for assistance in
divorcing her husband. Her father is the current President of the Peshawar
Chamber of Commerce, her mother a gyneacologist.
Married some ten years ago to her first cousin (son of her maternal aunt),
Samia had been physically abused and tortured for many years by her addict
husband. She moved into her parents home in April 1995 after her husband
had thrown her down the stairs when she was pregnant with her second child.
She asked her parents help in getting divorced, but her parents refused.
Using the opportunity of her parents being away on pilgrimage, she arrived
in Lahore alone (26th March 1999) and approached AGHS for assistance. She
was given shelter at DASTAK (a women's shelter started by Hina Jilani and
run with AGHS) with the reference of the Principal of Quaid-e-Azam Law
Samia's paternal uncle, Yunus Sarwar, followed her to Lahore and asked to
see her. She refused saying she feared she would be killed. He then told
her counsel that the family wanted to avoid a court case. It was therefore
agreed not to register a divorce case on her behalf for the time being.
>When her parents returned from haj, they requested a meeting with Samia who
>refused to meet the father but agreed to meet her mother provided she was
The mother arrived at AGHS accompanied by the uncle and another man, later
identified as Habibur Rehman, a driver apparently employed in the
Directorate of Education, Peshawar. The mother entered the counsel's room
where the meeting was to be held accompanied by Habib. When the counsel
immediately told the man to leave, the mother said (in English): "he's my
helper. I need assistance since I can't walk."
Habib pulled out a gun and shot her through the temple. Hina Jilani
narrowly escaped one of the bullets fired by him. In the ensuing confusion,
the mother and Habib left the room, rejoined the uncle Yunus in the office
waiting area and ran down the stairs.
Yunus took hostage Shahtaj Qizalbash, AGHS's paralegal coordinator and the
only office person who had not been able to take cover. Holding Shahtaj at
gunpoint, Yunus and Samia's mother then escaped the building in a rickshaw
commandeered from in front of the AGHS office. Although the rickshaw
licence number was supplied by a private security firm (that gave chase) to
the Police, the vehicle reached Falettis Hotel, where Samia's father was
waiting. In Shahtaj's presence he asked Yunus "Have you done the job?"
On April 7 a delegation of human rights activists met the Home Secretary
and DIG Lahore. In this meeting, the delegation expressed their concerns
although a case was registered on the evening of 6th April (nominating
Samia's father, mother and uncle), no arrest had been made;
the investigation must include all abettors to the crime;
police must keep human rights activists abreast of all developments in the case;
the nominated accused must be placed on the Exit Control List, ensuring
that they are not able to evade justice by fleeing the country;
the state must provide adequate protection to all shelters, whether run by
the government or independently, to ensure the safety of all women in
shelters and all those providing them support;
The administration and police gave the delegation assurances that the case
would be fully and impartially investigated by a senior police officer,
capable of resisting any pressure brought to bear on him to subvert the
Threats to Human Rights Activists & a Campaign of Misinformation
Meanwhile, Samia's family has launched an attack on human rights activists,
focusing by name on Samia's counsel, Hina Jilani and her sister Asma
Jahangir Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Their
attack has included:
Organising a meeting of members of the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce and
ulema on April 8 which supported Samia's murder as being in keeping with
tribal laws. This meeting also issued fatwas denouncing Asma Jahangir as a
kafir, and asking that she be punished according to tribal and Islamic law;
Attempting to register a counter-case, accusing AGHS of being responsible
for Samia's death;
planting misinformation in the press regarding both the circumstances in
which Samia came to AGHS and the actual murder;
organising a public demonstration on April 9 of businessmen and religious
fanatics in Peshawar where statements were issued that they will take the
law into their own hands and kill Asma.
This is entire campaign is clearly designed to terrorise all those who
support women in distress and to subvert justice in this particular case.
Women's Action Forum statement on the murder of Samia Sarwar
Shirkat Gah's Statement on the murder
Press Statement from Asma Jahangir
Press Statement from Hina Jilani
WAF Statement: The Murder at AGHS
The gruesome murder at the office of AGHS Legal Aid Centre illustrates the
degree of brutalisation in society where parents can plan and execute the
murder of their daughter for daring to exercise her rights as sanctioned by
both law and religion.
What is most shocking is the way in which 'honour' is used as a
justification for crimes of extreme violence against women. Unfortunately,
the judiciary by accepting the plea of 'grave and sudden provocation', or
by simply accepting anachronistic and barbaric codes of conduct,
legitimises brutal customs and crimes in the name of 'honour' and cultural
What needs to be questioned are the oppressive and inhumane social norms
that transform homes into places of violence and danger, and thereby compel
women to leave them to seek shelter and secure their rights elsewhere.
Sanctuaries like Dastak and the Dar-ul-Amans need to be lauded, not
condemned, for the role they play in protecting women from the violence
within the home as well as exploitation by unscrupulous elements outside.
Saima's murder at the hands of her own family should compel us to question
the values we uphold in the name of tradition. It is time that as a
society, we raised our voices against bloodthirsty customs and practices in
which people take the law into their own hands. It is important that in
this matter the media play a responsible role instead of vilifying either
the victim or those who are courageous enough to speak out against these
crimes at the cost of personal safety.
The administration must show their good faith by taking serious steps to
apprehend the killers regardless of their position in society and
connections in high places.
For The Working Committee
Women's Action Forum, Lahore
Shirkat Gah - Women's Resource Centre
Shirkat Gah - Women's Resource Centre condemns the statements and fatwas
issued by the ulema in the meeting of the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce on
8-4-99 in relation to the brutal murder of Samia Imran at the office of her
counsel in Lahore.
By condoning the murder of Samia in the name of tribal traditions the ulema
have clearly committed an act of sedition against the law of the land.
Furthermore they are inciting people to acts of violence and the murder of
all those who would and do act within the parametres of Pakistan's laws.
It is bad enough that such statements were made by religious fanatics. It
is abominable that the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce (supposedly a
respectable institution), instead of condemning the criminal action of its
president, Ghulam Sarwar Mohmind who is the nominated accused alongwith his
wife and brother organised such a meeting.
The statements of the ulema are open acts of war against the laws of the
state of Pakistan. It is disgraceful that at the end of 20ieth century the
writ of the Pakistan state is being eroded in such a cavalier fashion with
little resistance from the state, and that the citizens of this country are
being held hostage through violent means to the will of criminal-minded
It is regretable that despite assurances given to human rights activists by
the Home Secretary, Punjab and DIG Lahore, none of the nominated accused
has so far been arrested.
Shirkat Gah calls upon the government of the NWFP and the Federal
Government to take immediate note of this and to take punitive action
against such public declarations.
We call upon all the other Chambers of Commerce to condemn this act and to
ensure that an apology is forthcoming from the Peshawar Chamber.
We call upon the administration to ensure that a high-level and impartial
investigation is carried out and that the culprits are caught and brought
We call upon all right-minded citizens and public representatives to
support the efforts to bring all those involved in the cold-blooded murder
against Samia to book.
PRESS STATEMENT FROM ASMA JAHANGIR
After the brutal murder of Samia Imran there is an attempt by certain
elements to save the murderers from the law and to pressurize the
government, the administration and the police. To further their designs
they have initiated a campaign of vilification, misinformation and
incitement against me. Threats to kill me are being made publicly and
people are being exhorted to commit violence against me.
Are we living in a lawless society, where there is no respect for human
life or dignity of the person? An incident in which a client is killed in
the office of her lawyer, shows that sanctity of law and constitution have
been completely eoded. We have a right not only to protest against such
barbaric acts, but also to point towards the social attiudes that become
the cause of the commission of such crimes.
The government has shown compl;ete insensitivity towards this naked
violation of the rule of law. Why has the government failed to take action
against persons publicly announcing their intent to kill me and are
blatantly publicizing this threat with their names through the press. I
want to warn the government that they will be fully resonsible for any harm
that comes to me because of their fauilure to perform their legal and
PRESS STATEMENT FROM HINA JILANI
Barrister's bacha's press conference on behalf of Saima Imran's family is a
ham-handed attempt at concoting a false version of the incident that
happened in my office on 6.4.99. This has been done deliberately to save
the real culprits from the consequences of their criminal act. Saima Imran
was a client who had been referred to me by the Principal of the
Quaid-e-Azam Law College, Lahore. She had sought refuge at "Dastak" on the
ground that she feared for her life at the hands of her parental family, as
they were opposed to her seeking a divorce. Members of her family including
the accused persons namely her mother, father and uncle had earlier
approached my office to meet Saima. My office had, as per our policy, not
only conveyed their message to Saima, but had dealt with them with courtesy
and grace every time they had come to our office. Saima had refused to meet
anyone but her mother, whom she did meet in the office of AGHS prior to the
day of occurrence. She had repeatedly expressed fear of being killed at the
hands of her family. She was in the process of filing a suit for
dissolution of marriage, for which site was receiving legal aid in my
On the day of occurrence at about 6 p.m. Saima Imran and I were in my
office discussing her case, when four persons entered my office, one of
whom was her mother, who is the only one that I recognize. The killer who
was with the mother opened fire on Saima as soon as he entered the office.
No words were exchanged either between the mother and daughter or with me.
This was a pre-planned occurrence. The man had entered my office armed with
a weapon. Saima's uncle Younas accused was also on the premises and was
also armed with a weapon. My colleague, Shahtaj Qizilbash, was taken
hostage by him, and he escaped by holding her as cover. The killer was shot
by a police guard after he was fired upon by the killer in his attempt to
run away after murdering Saima. Saima's mother and uncle took Shahtaj away
with them as hostage.
The real facts of this incident are recorded in a timely registered FIR.
There are many witnesses to this occurrence. The attempt of Barrister
Baccha or the family of the murdered girl to fabricate malicious stories
against me will not succeed.
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