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Pakistan: 'Draconian' law banning Lahore protests must be scrapped immediately

© Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images

Responding to reports that the government in Punjab – Pakistan’s most populous province – has imposed a ban on ‘assemblies, gatherings, sit-ins, rallies, and protests across the district of Lahore’ by the Home Ministry of Pakistan today, Harindrini Corea, Amnesty International’s Right to Protest Researcher, said:

“The use of a draconian colonial-era law to crush dissent hours before several protests, including the annual Aurat March, were scheduled to be held in the city is a stark failure by the Pakistani authorities to respect and uphold the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“The blanket ban is at odds with Pakistan’s obligations to recognise, respect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

“The ban must be lifted immediately, and all people arrested solely for exercising their right to protest peacefully should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Ban on protests

The Punjab Home Department in a notification issued today (on Wednesday) banned “all kinds of protests, demonstrations and sit-ins” in Lahore for seven days, citing vague reasons, namely the “overall security situation” in the wake of a recent “wave of terrorism and threat alerts”. The authorities have failed to demonstrate the necessity of the ban to protect national security and public order.  

The prohibition — imposed under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was effective just hours before the start of the Aurat March on International Women’s Day and a rally by the opposition political party. It led to several arrests and blocking of roads in the city.

The Code of Criminal Procedure is a law that was introduced during the British colonial era in 1898.

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