Thursday, November 14, 2019

Political situation diverting attention from grave human rights concerns: HRCP




QUETTA:(APS) The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced concern at the emergence and deterioration in a litany of grave human rights concerns across the country and stated that the prevailing political situation, and rise in religious extremism were proving significant hurdles in mounting any serious efforts to deal with these concerns.


A statement issued at the conclusion of the two-day autumn meeting of the HRCP Council the other day said: “The HRCP Executive Council notes with great dismay the addition of several alarming dimensions to the many human rights challenges in the country since the council last met in April. It has been considered imperative to draw attention to the following issues in particular:


    The political situation characterised by dharnas has taken attention away from other more important issues. One of the outcomes has been strengthening of sectarian forces. The people hope and expect that the government would remain mindful of its obligation to address the pressing concerns of the people, especially the human rights concerns, even as it tries to find way to reach out to the parties engaged in dharnas.


       There has been an unchecked rise in religious extremism and the situation has worsened for religious and sectarian minority communities. A sequence of attacks on Sikhs in Peshawar, assaults on Hindus in Umerkot and on temples elsewhere in Sindh, target killing of an Ahmadi doctor in Mirpur Khas, killing of Ahmadis in Gujranwala, of Zikris in Awaran and attack on a blasphemy convict in Adiala prison are just some of the manifestations of increase in fanaticism and intolerance. The lot of those charged under the blasphemy law has become all the more precarious as it has become almost impossible for them to defend themselves at their trial. The murder of Rashid Rehman for daring to defend a blasphemy accused whose case no one else was willing to take and the complete lack of interest of the authorities to go after his killers has further encouraged impunity.


    The ongoing Karachi operation led by Rangers has not proven effective. Complaints of people being picked up regularly surface and are not adequately addressed. The judicial process in this respect is very slow. Sectarian and targeted killings continue in the city and statistics including killings suggest that the operation has failed to achieve success. There seems little commitment in any part of the country to improve the poor law and order situation. Poor governance has aggravated the challenge. Kidnapping for ransom has become an industry and failure to nab the criminals has created an environment of fear.


     Targeted killings are also regularly being reported from Balochistan, where incidents of enforced disappearance and dumping of mutilated bodies also continue, though the number of incidents appears to be on decline.


    HRCP expresses grave concern at the rising incidents of violence against women and minor girls all over Pakistan, despite the enactment of seven laws over the past decade, and calls upon all the provincial governments to enact strong laws, as well as taking effective measures for their implementation; and calls upon the public and private media to adhere to its Voluntary Code of Gender-Sensitive Ethics, adopted over a decade ago.


     WHO has imposed strict measures on Pakistan for external travel, with further potential sanctions. HRCP expresses concern that these would have a huge negative impact on Pakistan’s economy and its international standing. The Commission also condemns the continued target killings of the brave polio vaccinators, especially those struggling to immunize the most vulnerable children in the far-flung and conservative rural areas of Pakistan. It demands that the federal and provincial governments urgently provide greatly increased and more effective security cover to these vaccinators, particularly in FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Karachi, and other focus areas.


     The killing of journalists in Balochistan and how little attention media persons’ plight in the province is getting nationwide is exceedingly disturbing. The attacks must be investigated and the killers brought to justice.


    The situation of flood affectees and conflict-induced IDPs and the utter neglect of the needs is extremely distressing. Consultation with the affected citizens regarding important decisions that impact their lives have remained absent. Meaningful steps are needed to ensure their early and sustainable return. HRCP calls upon the federal government to deploy NADRA’s mobile service units to provide CNICs to women IDPs from North Waziristan, giving priority to the duly identified women-headed households. This will enable them to register as IDPs with the FDMA/PDMA/NDMA, thereby becoming eligible for assistance in the form of cash, shelter, food, health care and education facilities. The displacement on account of rise in cross-border tensions with India also deserves immediate attention.


     The situation of detainees at internment centres deserves urgent attention. Lack of meetings with family and neglect of their health and due process rights must be rectified without delay and each death in custody independently investigated. HRCP continues to denounce the law on Action in Aid of Civil Power enforced in FATA and PATA. The law violates basic human rights principles and provides cover to illegal acts of the security forces in matters of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance. Most sufferers under this law are the inhabitants of Malakand Division.


      The undoing of many positive changes in the curriculum in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and slogans such as ‘Hum sab Musalmaan’ in Sindh are going to fuel more intolerance and extremism in Pakistan. HRCP urges the provincial governments to ensure that the curriculum promotes humanity and positive values rather than discrimination and exclusion.


     The Council welcomed the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai as a source of pride for the nation and an inspiration for peace and education, especially for girls.”

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