Lahore, September 23: The Council (governing body) of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has issued the following statement after its two-day session in Peshawar:
The HRCP Council welcomes the departure of the military leadership from the Presidency and the filling in of parliament and key public offices by people’s elected representatives. This marks only the first step towards establishing a democratic order in accordance with the wishes of the people. The concentration of power in the hands of any single individual never bodes well for democracy or a just dispensation. Now there is an urgent need for building and strengthening institutions of governance so that a democratic culture takes root in the country. The supremacy of the parliament needs to be strengthened, the judiciary has to be made truly independent and effective and the Election Commission must be transformed into an autonomous, and multi-member institution.
Lack of good governance causes increased impoverishment of the people, and allows lawless elements to wreck havoc with the rights and interests of the people.
HRCP welcomes the Sindh government’s initiative in including landless women among those entitled to receive land grants. It calls upon the government to make good its promise of abolishing the death penalty and reviving student and trade unions in the real sense of the term.
The Council is deeply worried that an increase in the incidents of terrorism and the devastation caused by them and the spread of militancy have blocked the country’s way to progress and the entire population seems to have been taken hostage. The government of Pakistan must realize its duty in guaranteeing the citizens security of life, liberty and property. This will essentially require a comprehensive strategy which must include sharp intelligence, appropriate use of force, timely political intervention and above all due respect for human rights in the conflict areas. While use of adequate force may often be necessary to counter the wave of violence unleashed by the terrorists, yet it must conform to human rights standards in terms of justification and appropriateness. In particular extrajudicial killings, torture and disproportionate use of force must be avoided at all costs and in all situations. Above all, every effort must be made to prevent harm to innocent and unarmed civilians.
Terrorism is surely a threat to the very existence of Pakistan and must be collectively challenged by all political elements and sincerely backed by the security forces if the country is to overcome this ultimate peril. The recent attack on Marriott Hotel in Islamabad is one serious example in which many innocent people lost their lives. In the conflict zones in Swat and FATA this is a regular feature. The disruption of electricity supply in Swat accompanied by scarcity of water and edibles has made the life of the people incredibly unbearable. So far, the government’s plan of action, if there is one, does not inspire confidence. HRCP finds the government’s crude claims of having saved the lives of the country’s leadership in bad taste. Such statements only reflect officials’ lack of sensitivity and maturity.
The government has not taken any notice of incitement to violence against religious minorities through popular media. This not only adds to the growing sense of vulnerability among the minorities, but has also resulted in several wanton killings.
The issue of enforced disappearances cannot be allowed to hang fire and the democratic government must release all missing persons, or disclose their fate and whereabouts.
The government is yet to put in place implementing legislation to ensure that a human rights treaty it ratified and two others that it signed earlier in the year become legally enforceable in Pakistan.
Above all, HRCP earnestly pleads for abandoning ad hoc relief measures in favour of properly thought out strategies to fight poverty, hunger and joblessness.
Issued on behalf of HRCP Council members
By Asma Jahangir