Benazir award lends urgency to human rights agenda; HRCP

Press Release, December 12

 

Lahore: While hailing the conferment of the United Nations Human Rights Award on Benazir Bhutto as an honour for Pakistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has reminded the government of its increased responsibility to promote human rights both at home and abroad. In a statement issued here today the commission said:

 

The conferment of the UN top human rights award on former Prime Minister and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto is an honour for the whole of Pakistan. The award highlights the prominence the right to democratic governance enjoys in the body of human rights. This and the fact that the award was given on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights increase the government’s responsibility to pursue its human rights agenda more vigorously than ever.

 

HRCP appreciates the present government’s interest in respecting its human rights obligations, as evident in ratification of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the signing of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, a certain easing of the curbs on the media, and a positive move towards abolition of the death penalty. These steps should mark the beginning of a concerted drive to resolve the human rights issues left over by the previous regime. These issues include:

 

The attack on the judiciary of November 3, 2007; the cases of the disappeared persons; the plight of the internally displaced people; the proliferation of armed militants; and the high scale of violence to women and discrimination on grounds of belief. All this should keep the newly created Ministry of Human Rights busy for quite some time. It is essential that the state should go beyond addressing cases on individual basis and develop institutional safeguards against human rights violations.

 

At the same time the country needs a full blown programme to implement the international human rights treaties. This must include ratification of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, adoption of legislation needed for implementing the key human rights instruments, and creating institutional frameworks for eliminating the threats to the people’s right to life, liberty and security and relief from poverty and exploitation.

 

A much needed improvement in the level of respect for human rights norms at home will help Pakistan upgrade its role in international human rights councils. It is no secret that this country needs to undertake its reporting obligations more seriously than it has done hitherto and end its shyness in inviting Special Rapporteurs and responding to their queries.

 

Asma Jahangir, Chairperson

Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairperson

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