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HRCP call for citizens’ rights

By INTIKHAB HANIF

April 12 2017

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged the government and the judiciary to take more interest in protecting the citizens’ rights and ensure that the state distinguishes itself by promoting rights and doing more to prevent violations.

A statement issued at the conclusion of its council and annual general meetings on Sunday, the HRCP stressed the need to address several concerns on priority. It expressed deep concern over the increasing security-centric nature of the state which, it said, was leading to multiple human rights violations. “We hope that in this transition to democracy the judiciary will play a more proactive role in protecting the rights of people.”

“Cases of enforced disappearance pending with the government-constituted commission of inquiry do not seem to be going anywhere. The commission seems helpless and ineffective in either locating and freeing victims of disappearance or ending absolute impunity for the perpetrators. Many cases of disappearance are even now not reported to it for want of confidence in it.

“HRCP strongly urges the government to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and also sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).”

It says women, members of religious minorities and children continue to be vulnerable to violence. Efforts to alleviate their suffering must not remain reactive only.

“The internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have recently returned home have gone back to destroyed houses, infrastructure and livelihoods. Forgetting their plight will not be wise.

“Discrimination on any ground must be severely dealt with. Accounts of racial profiling on account of ethnicity must be investigated and appropriate training and other measures introduced wherever needed.”

HRCP also calls for revival of elected student unions and healthy political activity in educational institutions and an immediate end to gangs wielding influence on campuses through threats, harassment and attacks on students.

“HRCP is inherently opposed to institutions and issues being considered sacred and immune to scrutiny and the newest one seems to be CPEC. The whole country welcomes the economic opportunities of being part of regional trade routes, but it is vital to ensure effective mechanisms for transparency and fair distribution of benefits.

“Setting up military courts whose judges are neither trained in law nor amenable to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to try civilian suspects is a cause for grave alarm. Revival of these courts despite widespread complaints of lack of due process and safeguards indicates that in the future also little effort will be made to improve the performance of regular courts.

“Regarding any military coalitions that Pakistan agrees to be a part of, HRCP believes that these matters should be discussed and decided in parliament and that the country should cultivate a position of neutrality and use that to play its part in resolving issues and conflicts rather than risking any measure that could be construed as having a partisan or sectarian angle.

“At a time when the responsibilities of human rights activists and organizations have increased because of the declining rule of law and diversions from the due process, pressure on and threats against them have also increased. HRCP has also received several reports of NGOs being visited by intelligence agency personnel, including those making queries that are not in any way related to any aspect related to security. These tactics lead to intimidation/harassment and must be discontinued.

Meanwhile, speaking at seminar on “Challenges for Human Rights Defenders”, former HRCP chairperson Asma Jahangir said unlike in the past protecting human rights had become relatively easier because of the inclusion of more people in the struggle. There still were challenges and even media tended to put labels on the human rights activists.

“I do not dislike this labeling because we are proud of being liberals and rights activists. Our comrades have never harmed the country or its people. This is unlike the narrow-minded who spread hatred, shed blood, believe in vengeance and had dismembered the country,” she said.

She complained that the rights activists and newsmen were being harassed in the post-conflict areas. Journalists were facing trouble in reporting or not reporting claims of responsibility of terrorist acts by terrorist outfits.

She said the rights activists themselves needed correction. They should not sensationalize or amplify anything.

Mr I.A. Rehman lamented the way the government was registering NGOs. “It’s not following the law. Then it is said that you exchange information with others and the UN. Our constitution and international laws allow such interaction and stopping it is illegal and unjust,” he said.

He said the rights activists should know their legal rights and have courage to counter such injustices. They would get others together but themselves stand separated. They should remain in touch and win public support for their work to counter propaganda against them. “Build your credibility through transparency and protect yourself,” he emphasized.

Mr Ghazi Salahuddin analyzed the current state of media in Pakistan saying it had itself become a part of the problem. Retrogressive forces too had taken benefit of the dominating social media. The concept of false news had taken roots and twitter had become a major source of news.

Originally published by Dawn Pakistan

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