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Fafen condemns ransacking of member organisation’s office

By Our Correspondent
January 19, 2022

Islamabad : The National Council of Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has strongly condemned the ransacking by unidentified persons of the Gujranwala office of Sangat Development Foundation (SDF), which manages one of Fafen’s member networks of civil society organizations in central Punjab.

The unidentified persons broke into SDF’s Gujranwala office on Sunday night and escaped with important documents, two hard disks containing organizational records, and an internet device. The ‘theft’ appeared to be more of an attempt to intimidate and harass SDF, which has been working for improvements in Punjab’s local government system and is an ardent supporter of the rights of workers in Pakistan. The incident has been duly reported to local police.

Fafen’s National Council noted with concern that this is not an isolated incident but appeared to be part of an organized effort to further squeeze the civic space for civil society organizations, particularly those working for the protection of fundamental rights, civic and political liberties, and democratic governance. “Such acts are meant to create an atmosphere of fear, which itself is a reason why such organizations should continue to work and be supported by the government through clearly-defined legal, regulatory, and administrative measures. Such incidents also go against the spirit of democracy and damage the country’s democratic credentials,” said the statement issued by the organisation.

Fafen’s National Council has strongly urged the federal and provincial governments to investigate this incident and hold culprits to account.

Moreover, the National Council of Fafen called upon the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, particularly their Standing Committees on Human Rights, to take up the issue of the increasingly difficult operating environment for civil society organizations that have now started to stifle the people’s right to association, speech, and expression.