The fourth SAATH
Conference convened in Washington DC, USA on January 3-5, 2020 in a climate of
worsening human rights and the principles of democracy, not only in Pakistan
but also throughout the region in which Pakistan is located.
developments include the abrogation of Article 370 in Indian Held Kashmir, the
introduction of a Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in India, and the escalating
tensions between the US and Iran in the wake of the assassination of Iranian
commander Qasim Soleimani, all of which potentially threaten destabilisation of
the region entire as well as further abroad.
In Pakistan, we the
members of SAATH express our concern and condemnation of the incremental
squeezing of freedoms and human rights across the board.
As a grouping of
pro-democracy thinkers, writers, and activists from Pakistan, dedicated to the
Universal principles of human rights, SAATH visualizes the establishment of a
democratic, secular, peaceful and progressive Pakistan.
To the end, SAATH
society is composed of multinational, multicultural and multi-linguistic groups
coming together (within the meaning of the 1940 Resolution that led to the
creation of Pakistan) to forge a social contract of willing and equal partners
for the purpose of constituting a decentralised federal polity that recognises,
accommodates and celebrates their historical and cultural identities.
That amongst other
things, a decentralised federal system must include the recognition of the
people’s right, first and foremost, over natural resources, and the recognition
of all languages spoken in Pakistan as national languages along with Urdu.
That the recognition
of the multinational character of the state, supplemented by a decentralised
and consensus-based democracy, is important to put an end to the endemic ethnic
conflict in Pakistan and instill the spirit of unity and true brotherhood
amongst the various national groups in the polity.
That while aspiring
to achieve the above ends, it is important to promote the political culture of
constitutionalism in Pakistan, i.e., the idea that the powers of the state and
governmental institutions are not absolute but limited – that the fundamental
human rights of the citizens serve as absolute limitations on the powers of
We are also
disappointed in Pakistan’s mainstream political parties and their willingness
to continuously cede space to military intervention and abridgement of
democratic freedoms. These parties must practice internal democracy and
acknowledge that democracy is not just seeking office through elections.
political parties must stand up for civilian supremacy, constitutional
governance, and rule of law and not be content with power of patronage granted
to them through elections that are often manipulated by the permanent state
That the security
institutions of the state have weaponised national security legislation to curb
dissent and fundamental freedoms of the citizens of Pakistan. The national
security legislation includes but is not limited to the colonial-era provisions
of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) relating to Sedition and Waging War against
the State; Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997; The Defence of Pakistan Act, 2014; and
Cyber Security Laws, etc.
SAATH calls upon the
government to dismantle the entire body of repressive national security
legislation in order to turn Pakistan from a national security/police state
into a prosperous, free and politically stable one.
That the security
agencies must close torture cells and black sites, known as internment centres,
and either bring cases against thousands of detainees before the regular courts
of law to stand trial or release them unconditionally if there are no cases
against them. The security agencies must put an end to enforced disappearances
and account for thousands of missing persons and those extra-judicially killed.
For that reason,
there is a dire need for the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission
to bring closure to the victims of state-sponsored oppression.
That the Pakistan
military must put an end to the continuing use of extremist militant groups as
instruments of foreign and domestic policy and for that matter treating the
western border of the country as the strategic backyard of Pakistan.
That in order to
establish the supremacy of the constitution, rule of law and civilian control
over the military, we call upon the government of Pakistan to withdraw all
officially lodged appeals against the decisions of the higher judiciary in the
(a) The decision of
the Peshawar High Court setting aside the award by military courts of capital
punishments to more than 70 individuals on charges of terrorism in utter
violation of due process of law and derogation of fundamental rights of the
accused under the constitution and international human right instruments to
which Pakistan is a signatory;
(b) The decision of
the Peshawar High Court striking down the Action in Aid of Civil Power
Regulation, 2011 (for FATA and PATA), the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Continuation of
Laws Act, 2019, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Action in Aid of Civil Power
(c) The decision of
the Special Court finding the former President General Musharraf guilty of high
treason on charges of subverting the constitution.
SAATH also extends
its solidarity to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a non-violent movement
that demands the formation of a ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ to
investigate the war crimes committed against Pashtuns such as extra-judicial
killings and forced disappearances during the past 18 years.
SAATH demands an end
to extra-judicial killing and enforced disappearances in all parts of Pakistan,
especially in Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Sindh; the
production of all missing persons in the courts giving them their due
constitutional right to free and fair trial; and the accountability of those
responsible for enforced disappearances.
initiatives to build a Diamer-Bhasha Dam on the Indus River and demands that
all decisions affecting the peoples of historic entities in Pakistan should be
subject to the people’s approval. SAATH also demands that all collected funds
the ‘Dam Fund’ be used to rehabilitate the peoples of the Indus Delta region
who have been affected mostly with the damming and water appropriation in the Indus
SAATH demands that
the CPEC project should be reconsidered in light of the views of the peoples of
Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Sindh. As currently conceived,
this project benefits China only and seems like a ploy to control valuable
natural resources, displace populations, and leave the smaller provinces with
irreparable environmental damage.
SAATH also calls for
end of oppression in Balochistan; end of paramilitary presence on the
University of Balochistan campus grounds; and independent judicial inquiry into
harassment and blackmail of students, especially targeting female students on
SAATH supports the
demand to end of ban on student politics and elections for student unions.
SAATH recognizes that
peace in Pakistan is inextricably linked with peace in Afghanistan and peace in
the region. Pakistan should revise its Afghan policy of strategic depth and
devise a new policy based on social, economic and academic cooperation between
the two countries.