Asif Ali Zardari
Pakistan People’s Party
Bilawal House

Mian Nawaz Sharif
Pakistan Muslim League (N)
1 Model Town

Dear Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif:

During Pakistan’s pre-election period, Human Rights Watch documented problems related to violence, intimidation and threats against candidates and party members, lack of judicial independence, restrictions on the media, lack of independence of the election commission and related personnel, and concerns about pre-poll rigging. Election observers such as the European Union documented credible reports of ballot-stuffing, harassment of opposition candidates and other serious procedural irregularities on polling day. These included a widespread failure to display parliamentary constituency results with a breakdown of polling stations – a pre-requisite for electoral transparency.

Despite these electoral problems, the ruling party suffered a serious defeat, indicative of popular dissatisfaction with the abusive system of governance the country has experienced in recent years under military and military-backed rule. But with the election results, your parties are positioned to negotiate a transfer of power that will advance Pakistan’s transition to democracy and restore people’s faith in the democratic process. Your parties have provided an important opportunity to start a transition towards a rights-respecting government that abides by the rule of law.

In order to fulfill this obligation, Human Rights Watch calls upon you to communicate to President Pervez Musharraf, the international community and the Pakistani people your commitment to undertake the following measures:

  • Immediately release from detention all lawyers and judges arrested for peaceful political protest or opposition to the previous government.
  • Restore to office Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and all judges deposed on November 3, 2007.
  • Withdraw all curbs on the electronic and print media imposed through presidential decrees on November 3, 2007.
  • Withdraw amendments to the 1952 Army Act allowing the military to try civilians for a wide range of offenses previously under the purview of the country’s civilian judiciary.
  • Withdraw amendments to the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973, intended to end the independence of the Bar Association and to give the government powers to disbar lawyers involved in alleged anti-government activities.
  • Withdraw amendments to the constitution through an executive order to provide blanket indemnity for all presidential actions taken during the suspension of the constitution.
  • Rescind all other laws and arbitrary amendments imposed by Musharraf during the emergency period, in particular the Constitution (Amendment) Order, 2007 (President's Order No. 5 of 2007), on November 21, 2007. The order included a number of amendments that would normally require a two-thirds majority in parliament to become law.

Yours sincerely,

Brad Adams
Executive director
Asia division