Prominent human rights activists Asma Jahangir said on Tuesday that she had been made aware of a plan to assassinate her, but that she would not leave the country and it was up to the government to protect her.
Jahangir, an outspoken critic of the military establishment and a strong advocate of civilian control over the army, said that she had received numerous death threats in the past, but this was different, as a decision had been made “at the highest level of the security apparatus” to assassinate her. “This is not a threat,” she said. “This is a straightforward plan to kill me.”
Jahangir said that critics of the military establishment were often subjected to “harassment”, and mentioned Saleem Shehzad, the journalist who was found dead after reporting on the attack on the PNS Mehran in Karachi last year, as an example of the form of this “harassment”. “How many Pakistanis will be killed in order to challenge democracy in the country?” she said.
She said many other critics of the establishment had been threatened and forced to leave the country. “I will not leave,” she said. “My ancestors are buried here and my life is here.”
Jahangir said that the silencing of “progressive elements” was hurting Pakistan’s image. “Our country’s future will not be shaped by khakis but by the people of Pakistan,” she said. She said there were a lot of conspiracies against Pakistan, but the people who had “sabotaged the country in the ‘80s” should resolve to set it right.
Jahangir said after receiving the warning that her life was in danger, she had informed the Pakistan Bar Council, whose vice chairman had alerted the government. She said that the president and the interior minister had called her and inquired about her security after she had made her concerns public. She said that Rangers had been deployed at her residence for her protection, but she was not satisfied with the security arrangements.
Jahangir said she had been told to speak to the director general of Inter Services Intelligence, but she had refused. She said an ISI official had later visited her and demanded she reveal the source of her information, but she had refused.
She said she had also tried to communicate her concerns to the chief minister, but to no avail.
She said foreign security experts had advised her on security measures, and she had asked the government to take those measures. “I am declaring publicly that I have no enmity with anyone. The protection of my life is the responsibility of the state,” she said.
Jahangir said that there was no point to an official inquiry by “institutions in which no one trusts”. She said her greatest concern was not for her life, but for the “growing use” of threats to create fear among people. “Civilians should not be dictated to,” she said.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2012.