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October 18, 2020

Freedom of assembly a right, not privilege: HRCP

Lahore

October 18, 2020

LAHORE : While the political rally organised by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance in Gujranwala was not marked by flagrant violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) remains concerned by earlier reports indicating attempts to curtail the right.

HRCP’s sources indicate that some political workers and rally organisers were in fact harassed or arrested, their homes raided, corner meetings disrupted, and posters and hoardings removed by the administration or private citizens.

On October 16, three HRCP teams monitored the progress of the rally from Lahore and Lala Musa to Gujranwala. The teams reported no serious obstructions by the administration at any point of departure or en route to Gujranwala. Police presence at the departure points was not excessive and the teams saw no evidence of overt police interference with political workers at these points.

However, barriers erected at certain points, especially in smaller towns en route, were clearly intended to constrict the flow of people along the GT Road to prevent them from joining the main rally. In Gujranwala itself, many entry points leading to Jinnah Stadium were closed several miles from the venue, enabling only pedestrian movement—possibly an effort to inconvenience rally participants as far as possible. Over the course of the evening, the number of barriers to the venue and around the city was reduced, possibly as a result of local court orders issued to the administration.

HRCP reminds the government that freedom of peaceful assembly is a right enshrined in the Constitution and not a privilege to be accorded at the convenience of any incumbent government.