HRCP urges world to help Pakistan cope with flood devastation

Lahore, August 10: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the United Nations and other aid and humanitarian organisations to support Pakistan in meeting the needs of millions of people affected by country’s worst ever floods as well as reconstructing the entire infrastructure of the flood-hit areas.

In a statement issued on Tuesday on behalf of the HRCP chairperson, vice-chairpersons and members of the Board, the HRCP “called upon the United Nations, and other international aid and humanitarian assistance organisations to pay urgent attention to the assistance needs of around 14 million Pakistanis devastated by a calamity acknowledged to be more severe in scale than the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined”.

“After three weeks of deadly floods and with 13.8 million people affected already, the scale of the tragedy engulfing Pakistan is only beginning to emerge. It is far too early to even assess the damage and needs of the affected people in many areas, such as Swat where rescue workers have so far been unable to reach up to 600,000 stranded people.

Internal displacement has occurred at a large scale and an estimated 300,000 houses have been washed away.
The HRCP is highly concerned about the situation of the affected population, which is in urgent need of life-sustaining support. The authorities are still struggling to cope with emergency response. It is getting clearer by the day that Pakistan’s capacity to help the affected population has been seriously jeopardized by a lack of financial resources, extensive destruction of infrastructure and the sheer scale of devastation wrought by the floods. The human casualties may have been fewer in comparison with the October 2005 earthquake, but critical food needs, displacement in oppressive heat and humidity and threats of outbreak of diseases loom large amid large-scale destruction of the health infrastructure in large swathes of the country.

Immediate interventions are needed to limit further loss of human life. The rescue work and delivery of emergency food, medical supplies and other assistance to those in need is the first and the most urgent challenge. The country needs urgent assistance not only during the ongoing rescue and emergency response phase but also for rescue equipment, housing needs of the affected population, and reconstruction of the decimated infrastructure.

Lessons from the 2005 earthquake and other disasters before and since must serve as a reminder that failure to respond to the crisis in an expeditious and appropriate manner would lead to militant groups filling the vacuum in the provision of assistance and using that to increase their support and further their agenda.

The HRCP also calls upon the government of Pakistan to ginger up its response to the massive crisis and take every possible step to make certain that the aid is delivered to the needy at the earliest and that all possibilities of misuse of funds are blocked.”
Dr Mehdi Hasan

On behalf of vice-chairpersons and members of the HRCP Board

HRCP slams attacks on the media

Lahore, August 9: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned Sunday’s attacks targeting cable operators’ offices, blocking of telecasts of a couple of TV channels and snatching and burning of copies of newspapers in parts of the country.

A statement issued by the Commission on Monday said: “HRCP unreservedly condemns the attacks on cable operators’ offices in Karachi and other efforts to block broadcasts of a couple of TV news channels, burning of copies of newspapers snatched from vendors and efforts to prevent distribution of newspapers.

HRCP may not be able to join those who are gloating over the hurling of shoes at the country’s president and it has its own views on the continuance of unseemly partisan politics even as the country is devastated by the worst flooding of its history. However, the Commission cannot but condemn any form of interference with the media’s freedom of expression in as strong words as possible. Besides, such actions are always counterproductive. The government must take to task all perpetrators of Sunday’s attacks and back up its professions of commitment to freedom of media by taking resolute action to end harassment of journalists, cable operators and newspaper vendors.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan

Norway provides USD 5 million to help flood victims in Pakistan


Date: 3 August 2010       

Norway provides USD 5 million to help flood victims in Pakistan 

In solidarity with the Pakistani people, the Norwegian Government decided Tuesday to allocate USD 5 million to help flood victims. This is the worst flood that has hit the country in 80 years.

Norway has already provided 1,5 million dollars to the UN emergency fund (Central Emergency Response Fund). In addition Norway is allocating 3,5 million dollars to UNICEF, OCHA’s Emergency Response Fund and the Pakistani Red Crescent /The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC).

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre says Norway will follow developments in Pakistan closely.

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HRCP report highlights human rights concerns in Swat

Lahore, August 5: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Thursday launched the report of a fact-finding mission to Swat, acknowledging improvement in the law and order situation in the militancy-hit region, but raised several concerns including situation of detainees and performance of courts, expulsion of families of suspected militants from towns and reports of excesses by the security forces. Preliminary findings of the fact-finding visit had been released to the media earlier.

The fact-finding report, entitled ‘Swat: Paradise Regained?’, also highlights the specific concerns for women and children in the region, especially their psychological needs, and the need for compensating citizens whose properties have been taken over by the security forces and those who have been ordered not to cultivate their lands as they desire.

The report notes concerns of the local population that the Taliban leadership continued to be at large and could stage a comeback once the army was withdrawn from Swat.
The HRCP team learned that 1,000 to 2,600 individuals were in the security forces’ custody in Swat and had not been produced in any court. ”The government must increase the number of courts in the conflict-hit area to try the detained suspects in an expeditious manner and enhance the number and capacity of its investigators to increase the likelihood of perpetrators of human rights violations being brought to justice,” the report adds.

The detailed report can be accessed at:
I. A. Rehman

HRCP demands political parties join hands to end Karachi mayhem

Lahore, August 4: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed serious concern on Wednesday over the spree of killings unleashed on Karachi after the assassination of a lawmaker, and called upon all political actors to do everything within their power to end the bloodshed in the city and settle their differences in a non-violent manner.In a statement issued on Wednesday, HRCP said: “Karachi has once again descended into the now familiar mayhem, with nearly 70 people dead and another 200 injured. As the murders, torching of vehicles, shops and pushcarts continue, the citizens have been left to fend for themselves.

The assassination of Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Raza Haider is condemnable indeed, but the subsequent killings on the streets of Karachi are equally unpardonable. While MQM’s grievances are understandable, their tendency to blame one party for anything that goes amiss would not help. It is now painfully obvious that there are many actors, including terrorists trying to fish in troubled waters, who can start mischief and then sit back as Karachi degenerates into violence.

 The government has responded in what has become a typical and a stereotyped manner, naming names first and ordering investigations later. It appears that the government considers its primary obligation is not to protect the lives and property of the people but to issue statements listing possible offenders after the crime has been committed. Little wonder then that the aggrieved parties have not taken the official assertions seriously and have proceeded to go after the perceived perpetrators.

 It is an undeniable fact that all parties and groups in Karachi are armed to the teeth and have developed a taste for slugging it out at the slightest provocation. The government’s capacity, rather the abject lack of it, has been totally exposed. The only thing that can redeem the situation is an agreement and an unequivocal commitment by the political parties that they will not resort to violent means, nor display their firepower and street power to settle disagreements.

 They also must move to ensure an across-the-board de-weaponisation drive in the port city and somehow try to make up for the utter inability of the government to protect the most basic of human rights of the people.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan