On 16th October 2019, Pakistan has reportedly denied entry to a CPJ journalist with a valid journalist visa who was in the country to attend a Human Rights Conference. Steven Butler, the program coordinator of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was denied entry into Pakistan despite holding a valid visa as he was in the country to attend the Asma Jahangir Conference-Roadmap for Human Rights in Pakistan.
When journalist Steven Butler reached the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Pakistan, according to CPJ, he was stopped by Border Security personnel and informed that though he has a valid visa, he is not allowed to enter Pakistan since he is on the “stop list of the Interior Ministry”.
The Pakistan Airport Authority confiscated Butler’s passport and other documents and forced him on a flight to Doha, Qatar. When he reached Doha, he was then forced on a flight to Washington DC, USA.
According to a report in CPJ, Steven Butler communicated to CPJ while on the flight and asserted that he was in some kind of ‘preventive custody’ as the flight officials had confiscated not only his passport but also his boarding pass.
According to the CPJ report, “Pakistani authorities’ move to block Steven Butler from entering the country is baffling and is a slap in the face to those concerned about press freedom in the country,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Pakistani authorities should give a full explanation of their decision to bar Butler from entering and correct this error. If the government is interested in demonstrating its commitment to a free press, it should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into this case.”
Asma Jehangir, in whose name the Human Rights Conference was being held was a staunch critic of the Islamisation of Pakistan. She opposed the blasphemy laws of the country and fought for the minorities of Pakistan throughout her life.
In 1986, Jahangir and Hina set up AGHS Legal Aid, the first free legal aid centre in Pakistan. The AGHS Legal Aid Cell in Lahore also runs a shelter for women, called ‘Dastak’, looked after by her secretary Munib Ahmed. She was also a proponent of protecting the rights of persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan and spoke out against forced conversions.
She also spoke out against how women were raped and sexually assaulted in the presence of female constables in Pakistan every day.
Asma Jehangir had once written, “A Hindu income tax inspector gets lynched in the presence of the army personnel for allegedly having made a remark on the beard of a trader. Promptly, the unfortunate Hindu government servant is booked for having committed blasphemy, while the traders and the Lashkar-e-Taiba activists were offered tea over parleys. A seventy-year-old Mukhtaran Bibi and her pregnant daughter Samina are languishing in Sheikhupura jail on trumped-up charges of blasphemy” while fighting for the rights of the minorities and demanding that Pakistan improves its internal track record in Human Rights. She passed away in 2018 due to a massive stroke.