Civil Society Calls for a Joint Stand Against the Undemocratic Overthrow of the Elected Govt in the Maldives

SINDH – Karachi, Feb 11, 2011: The civil society in Pakistan expressed grave concern over the events in Maldives where an elected government was ousted in a coup following political unrest in the country. The government of the now toppled President Mohamed Nasheed came to power after the 2008 elections ended 30 years of autocratic rule (by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom).

The political turmoil in Maldives and the unlawful overthrow of an elected government in the country remains a matter of grave concern for the South Asian neighbours and the partners of Maldives since the event may have a far ranging impact on the direction and the future of democracy in the region. The coup d’état is a condemnable act and all South Asian states and civil societies must join forces against this undemocratic move by the security forces of Maldives. At least two countries in South Asia – Pakistan and Bangladesh that have faced martial laws and coups in the past know very well how people suffer when democracy is brought down. Not only did the military rule in these two countries compromised political and administrative institutions, it took these countries several decades back in terms of economic and social development.

We believe that democracy and governance are two different matters and the failure of governance should not be equated with the failure of democracy. An elected regime is brought in by the efforts and votes of the people through the institution of elections and the exit of an elected government should also follow the same procedure. There is no way use of force or coercion should be allowed to overthrow a democratically elected government.

We also believe that if South Asia is to progress as a region, it will have to adopt democracy as a system of governance. The issues of bad governance, corruption, non-performing economic policies, and social marginalisation can only be addressed by the institutions of political participation and public representation which is made possible by democracy only. South Asia, as a region, has deep stakes in democracy as the region must forge a closer alliance for economic and social development in times of acute international financial crisis and economic downturn, and rising concerns over the future of natural resources in the backdrop of climate threats. Such an alliance is only possible if the elected and representative governments that are accountable to their public are in place in all South Asian countries. The common challenges faced by the region such as poverty, militancy, terrorism, climate change and economic and social underdevelopment cannot be fought by way of individual actions. All South Asian countries must work to strengthen their own and each other’s capacity to overcome the hurdles in the way of the region’s progress.

We also stress that the Pakistan Government take a strong stand with regards to the events in the Maldives. There are a lot of similarities between the Maldives and Pakistan. Like Maldives, the elected government of Pakistan too came to power after a very long struggle against military rulers that had held power unconstitutionally for a long time. The growing strength of religious forces in the Maldives seeking to assert their political prowess and their role in the overthrow of the government is also a point where Pakistan could relate to its South Asian neighbour. The elected governments in Pakistan have battled and are still struggling with the same phenomenon. South Asia, as a region, has lost resources and valuable time over the quest by powerful military institutions to assert dominance over the state. This has to be discouraged and a culture of promotion of democracy needs to be cultivated.

We also urge the government to call for the activation of the SAARC mechanisms to prevent the undemocratic move in the Maldives. A joint stand from the platform of the SAARC need to be taken to condemn the events in the Maldives. The SAARC should also suspend the membership of the Maldives till the elected government is restored in the country or new elections are held. Furthermore, this is the right time to urge the SAARC countries to implement the Charter of Democracy for protecting and strengthening democracy in the region. The Charter that was submitted by Bangladesh at the 16th SAARC Summit in April 2010 gives expression to the collective commitment of the member states to promote and preserve the ideals of democracy as well as the democratic institutions.

We hope that the government of Pakistan will speed up diplomatic contacts with other South Asian countries and play its role in protecting and upholding the values of democracy in the region. We also urge all South Asian publics to take this offen oce on democracy seriously and support their government in condemning the action.

Sri Lanka:

We are also concerned at the human rights situation in Sri Lanka that shows no signs of improvement since the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. The rule of law in Sri Lanka was severely undermined by the consolidation of executive power through the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution; there is increased militarization, especially in the North, and the issue of violence against women within the context of militarization is critical; the culture of impunity remains in place. In January 2012, there have been at least four abductions in Colombo alone, with many other cases reported across Sri Lanka. Custodial deaths, torture and extra judicial killings continue across Sri Lanka with no redress. In January, threats against civil society groups worsened, with the state-owned media launching a vicious campaign against media freedom groups and human rights defender groups, calling them traitors and anti-national elements.

Please find the letter written by Sri Lankan human rights and peace activists.

The press conference was addressed by: For Judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan and peace activist Justice (Retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Karamat Ali, Senior Lawyer of Supreme Court of Pakistan and human rights activist Syed Iqbal Haider, Chairman of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum Mohammad Ali Shah and Zulfiqar Halepoto of Sindh Democratic Forum.

Source – News adopted from Facebook .

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