Press Release, July 20, 2009
Lahore: The government has been urged to take expeditious measures to ensure enforcement of the people’s economic, social and cultural rights, especially their rights to work, a decent standard of life, equality of opportunity and social security and the right to food, land and housing.
The call was made at a day-long workshop with civil society organizations, trade union representatives and economic experts organised the other day by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
The workshop was organized to discuss implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which was ratified by the Pakistan government in April last year.
The participants called upon the government to immediately draw up an action plan for the fulfilment of its obligations under the covenant in partnership with civil society organizations. A similar procedure should be adopted at the time of drawing up a report on legislative, administrative and policy measures taken by Pakistan to implement the provisions of the ICESCR, the meting stated. Since this report is to be submitted to the UN by April 2010, the participants urged the government to launch its action plan without any loss of time and to start creating a reporting mechanism forthwith.
The workshop participants unanimously held that it is necessary to transfer the economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to education, health and social security, from the constitution’s chapter on principles of policy to the fundamental rights chapter, so as to make them enforceable and justiceable.
Besides indicating the priority tasks for the government the workshop participants called upon the civil society organizations, the media and human rights activists to spread awareness of economic, social and cultural rights, put pressure on the government for their enforcement and monitor the progress towards this end or the lack of it.
The main recommendations made at the workshop are:
* The civil society welcomes the ratification of the ICESCR but this step will be meaningless until the government takes the legislative, executive and policy measures required to implement the rights recognised in the treaty.
* The efforts for constitutional reform should include the transfer of economic, social, and cultural rights from the chapter on principles of policy to the fundamental rights chapter.
* All state policies should be transparent. The pledges made at the international forums and the reports filed with them must be made public.
* Every Pakistani citizen’s right to adequate food must be guaranteed.
* The people’s right to land should be fully respected. The land utilization pattern should be determined not only with an eye on economic benefit but also to eliminate land hunger and meet the cultivators’ entitlement to own farmland. The agriculture workers should be enabled and encouraged to form unions.
* The right to shelter/ housing should be adequately respected as a lack of self-owned housing forces a large number of people to live at the sufferance of powerful groups/ individuals.
* Everybody’s right to work must be recognized. This right includes freedom to choose work, the right to join unions and collective bargaining.
* In order to ensure that no one is paid less than the minimum wage, the necessary mechanism should be put in place and the state should accept the responsibility for monitoring compliance.
* The entire population should be brought under social security cover. Old age benefits and the rights of pensioners should be effectively guaranteed.
* All forms of discriminations against the minorities in the constitution, in laws and in social practices must be eliminated.
* The right of the special people to education and employment and in social equality should be duly recognized.
* Trade and investment policies must not involve surrender of ownership of national resources or the rights of workers and consumers. Corporate farming by MNCs for producing food for other countries must not be allowed.
* All ILO conventions ratified by Pakistan must be enforced in letter and spirit, Safety at workplace and zero tolerance for sexual harassment must be fully ensured. The state should guarantee compliance with labour laws and the system of factory inspection ought to be revived. The system of third party contract labour must be abolished.
* Primary education must be made compulsory and free and a time-frame given to make secondary education free and universal. Corporal punishment, hate preaching and training in use of arms and violent methods must not be allowed in educational institutions.
* All communities’ rights to their demographic status, ownership and control of their resources, and political and cultural autonomy must be guaranteed
* The entire population must be guaranteed an effective and affordable health cover.
Prominent among the participants were economists Dr. Asad Saeed, Harris Gwadar and Ali Erelelan; Trade Union leaders, Farid Awan, M. Shafiq Ghori, Habib Junedi, Majid Shaiekh and Latif Mughal; Educationists Dr. Tallat Wizarat. Ms. Saleha Athar and Tauseef Ahmad Khan; Civil Society representatives, Rahat Saeed (Taraqi Pasand Musanafeen), Ms. Rahima Panhwar (SPO), Ms. Sadia Baluch (SPARC), Sharafat Ali (PILER), Madad Ali (Peasant). Zahid Farooq (URC); and Asad Iqbal Butt, Amarnath Motumal, I.A. Rehman, Syed Shamsuddin, Abdul Hai and Adnan Adil (all from HRCP).
Secretary General, HRCP