The United States is “deeply saddened by the murder of Rashid Rehman, an attorney and human rights defender in Pakistan."
The United States is “deeply saddened by the murder of Rashid Rehman, an attorney and human rights defender in Pakistan,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a press briefing in Washington.
Mr. Rehman was shot to death in his office in Multan on May 7 by two unknown gunmen. Two colleagues of the attorney were wounded in the attack.
Mr. Rehman, who was also a coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, or HRCP, had reportedly faced death threats over his defense of a client, a university lecturer accused of blasphemy. Before Mr. Rehman took his case, Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University, had languished in prison for almost a year with no attorney, because, the HRCP said, of fears of attacks from extremists. After the first hearing of the case in March, Mr. Rehman had complained that lawyers representing the complainant had threatened him in the presence of a judge.
The U.S. State Department has criticized the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, noting that under these laws “courts routinely failed to protect the rights of religious minorities”, and that they “have been used to settle personal disputes and silence legitimate political discourse.”
Also, in its most recent report on human rights conditions in Pakistan, the State Department noted a fostering of a culture of impunity, and said that “Violence, abuse, and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other nongovernmental actors contributed to a culture of lawlessness in some parts of the country.”
Speaking of the murder of Mr. Rehman, State Department Spokesperson Psaki said, “We encourage Pakistani authorities, as we have in similar cases in Pakistan and around the world, to swiftly investigate this crime and bring to justice those responsible. We continue,” she added, “to coordinate and cooperate closely with Pakistani authorities.”