Pakistan: Imposition of Martial Law - Arrests and detention of civilian activists and lawyers

Pakistan imposed a state of emergency in Pakistan on 3rd of November that has suspended the Constitution and has replaced superior courts in a move that could put the country's political future into disarray.
Following the proclamation of a state of emergency, police and other law enforcement personnel launched a crackdown across the country. This resulted in a series of arrests and detentions of Civil Society Activists and lawyers. On 4th of November 53 activists (25 women and 28 men), who attended Joint Action Committee's (JAC) meeting at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Lahore office to discuss the emergency situation, were arrested and kept under detention at three different houses. They were preliminarily charged under Maintenance of Public Order 1960.
On 5th of November, the police baton-charged and arrested hundreds of lawyers, political workers and human rights activists who were holding demonstrations in various cities against the Provisional Constitutional Order. About 800 lawyers were arrested from Lahore and were kept in different Police stations. The police officials did not stop on this but continued to arrest lawyers while they were having tea in Lahore High Court's cafeteria.

There have also been reported instances of harassment of family members of civil society activists and lawyers by the law enforcement agencies.

Today (November 6), activists who were arrested at the JAC meeting, have had their bails approved after submission of individual sureties from families and friends but they have not yet been released. They have also been bound to not take part in any demonstration or protest in future.

The lawyers have been arrested under multiple offences; under Sections 186, 353 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) (providing punishment for assault or criminal force to obstruct public servant in discharge of functions-bailable), Section 324 of PPC (attempt to intentional murder-non bailable) and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 (non bailable). There are fears that they will be punished with imprisonment up to ten years. The hearing in the Anti-Terrorism Court has not been held yet and the hearing will only be restricted to the lawyers directly involved in charges.

The Pakistani Government is strictly controlling access to electronic media and private TV channels, including international media, have been strictly barred from broadcasting within the country. Large proportion of the Pakistani population can not access electronic media for updates on the situation.

Shirkat Gah