HRCP voices concern over FSC verdict

Lahore, December 25: The Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed alarm at the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) decision that seeks reversal of several provisions of the Women’s Protection Act, 2006.

In a statement on Saturday, the Commission said it would issue a detailed comment on the implications of the FSC decision later but was “alarmed that the verdict seeks reversion to provisions of the 1979 Hudood Ordinance which were highly discriminatory to the rights of women. HRCP considers the decision a setback to efforts to ensure equal protection of law for women. HRCP’s serious concern emanates not least from the fact that the FSC decision seeks to undermine the legislative authority of parliament, encroaches upon its power to translate people’s demands into laws, and subverts the functioning and authority of the mainstream judiciary. In a way, the verdict provides a decisive argument for the abolition of Federal Shariat Court.

It is distressing that December 22 will be remembered mainly for the disappointing FSC decision and not for appointment of the country’s first woman ombudsperson to hear complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace.

HRCP urges the government and the civil society to challenge the FSC decision and effectively argue the matter with a view to ensure that women’s rights are not compromised and that rights of all citizens are equal protected. The government must also do everything it can to not only strengthen protection for women in the laws and ensure compliance in practice, but also prevent reversal of pro-woman laws.”
Dr Mehdi Hasan

HRCP alarmed by HRD’s ‘disappearance’

Lahore, December 21: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed alarm at the abduction by government agents of human rights activist Mr Siddique Eido from Pasni on Tuesday.

Mr Eido was returning from a court hearing along with his brother when, on main Gwadar Road, several men in two vehicles used by the intelligence agencies in the area stopped the van the two brothers were traveling in and abducted Eido. At least four policemen were also traveling in the same van with the two brothers and were reportedly manhandled by the abductors.

Mr Eido had earlier been implicated in a criminal case and had been released on bail. He was returning on Tuesday after attending a hearing of the same case. HRCP has serious concern that Mr Eido may be tortured and that his life is in danger. HRCP has demanded that Mr Eido must be immediately released and the rights of people working as human rights defenders (HRDs) respected without exception.

Mehdi Hasan

HRCP alarmed by killing of journalists, HRD

Lahore, December 14: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed concern at the killing of a human rights defender and three journalists in the country in the last few days.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, HRCP said: “HRCP is grieved at the death of three journalists and a human rights defender (HRD) in the country in the space of one week. Although the fact that journalists and HRD in Pakistan work in a dangerous environment hardly needs to be emphasised further, the recent death of journalists Pervez Khan and Abdul Wahab in a suicide bombing in Mohmand, target killing of Mirpurkhas Press Club president Sultan Mehmood Chandio, and of Mithal Mangi in Khairpur only reiterate the dangers they face.

HRCP expects the government to ensure that all three cases get the attention that they deserve. Pervez Khan Mohmand and Abdul Wahab were killed while performing their professional duties as journalists. The government and the two journalists’ employers’ must give proper financial compensation to their families. HRCP also calls upon the government to launch an inquiry into the murder of the Mirpurkhas Press Club president in order to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Mithal Mangi was apparently murdered because of his work as a human rights defender. In that case, the government need to ensure implantation of the statements it made on December 10, International Human Rights Day, where the theme this year was human rights defenders. HRCP must emphasise once again the urgent need to recognise and prevent the great personal risks that HRDs are exposed to because of their work against abuse and violation of rights and protect the rights defenders’ role in the country.”
Dr Mehdi Hasan

HRCP dismayed by executive’s response to police violence

Lahore, December 13: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed shock and dismay at a lack of government response to the wanton use of violence by police against students and teachers in Lahore.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission said, “It is regrettable that the government is yet to take note of the poor policing and the wanton use of violence by police against students and teachers protesting in Lahore. The fact that the high court has taken notice of the use of force against the protesters does not prevent the executive from taking action. Regardless of the merit of the protesters’ demands, HRCP condemns as absolutely unwarranted the merciless baton-charge on the students and teachers by the police and reminds the government that overlooking such infractions would send the wrong signal to the police and encourage similar abuse of the people’s rights in future.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan

Pakistan’s Jahangir receives UNESCO Prize for promoting human rights

December 10 is the International Human Rights Day. Other than the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded this year to Liu Xiaobo, numerous prizes for human rights activists are awarded on this day all over the world. 58-year-old lawyer Asma Jahangir, recipient of UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for 2010, is the current president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the country’s leading independent human rights body. ‘It increases one’s responsibilities’ She is a brilliant speaker and a relentless champion of people’s rights. And yet, there are moments when even Asma Jahangir seems tired: when she talks about how much still remains to be done in Pakistan despite some improvements. Asma Jahangir laughs heartily and admits that she too is a normal human being with strengths and weaknesses. She is happy about the international recognition that comes with the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize. “It is indeed a matter of happiness and pride, but at the same time it increases one’s responsibility. People expect more from you. One has to strategize more, keeping in mind one’s integrity. It draws a ‘red line’ for you.” The journey Asma Jahangir was born in a rich family in Lahore. When the Pakistani government suppressed the independence movement in the late sixties in East Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh, Asma’s father protested and was repeatedly jailed or put under house arrest. Asma Jahangir believes this experience has truly formed her. Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Asma Jahangir has been campaigning for human rights for several decades “What I have learnt is that you are no longer materialistic after that. The way my father worked altruistically, and the manner in which he used to go behind bars and come back home smilingly was inspirational. He passed away when he was only 61. He had cancer, and we knew he would leave us soon. I remember my sister and I were sitting at his deathbed, and he looked at us and said, ‘I am not going to die, I will live through you’,” reminisces Jahangir. Asma Jahangir followed his words. With her inheritance she founded a women’s forum in 1980 together with her sister, Hina Jilani, a lawyer herself. In her numerous jobs, for example as chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, or as United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, she has raised her voice against the discrimination of religious minorities, against “honor” killings, or the treatment of minors in Pakistani jails. It has not been easy for her. “Women face difficulties at all levels. They face hardship in society and at the workplace. Women also have to struggle within their households. Therefore, if any woman asserts herself, people find it difficult to accept. They can also be very cruel towards that woman,” opines Jahangir. She remembers that her own in-laws also found it difficult to accept that their son had married a woman who was not a typical Pakistani wife. But with time, both her family and society have accepted her achievements. Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: A demonstration for minority rights in Pakistan Dreams for a better Pakistan For Pakistan, Asma Jahangir has many dreams. “Firstly, I want to see economic prosperity in Pakistan. The indignity of poverty makes me despair. Pakistanis are a very dignified people. They have suffered a great deal. They have resisted oppression. And yet, the image of Pakistan projected in the world is mostly negative. The positive side of Pakistan is not shown. I think Pakistan has wasted its human capital.” She has learnt to suppress her anger, even when she is being accused of blasphemy or treason. But Asma Jahangir emphasizes that a life in anger is not worth living. Author: Priya Esselborn (tb) Editor: Shamil Shams

President wants blasphemy law reviewed

President wants blasphemy law reviewed`

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Dec 11: President Asif Ali Zardari has desired that the blasphemy law be reviewed and necessary action taken, said a minority member of the Sindh Assembly at a meeting on Saturday.

MPA Pitanbar Sewani, speaking at the meeting on `Communities vulnerable because of their beliefs`, organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said the president had responded to a point raised by him during a meeting held at the Sindh Chief Minister`s House.

He said he had raised the issue with the president that the blasphemy law was being misused and was a cause of harassment to the minorities and that it might be amended. He said the president said: “The federal government may examine it and take necessary action.” And that action on this was to be taken by the federal law minister.

Mr Sewani also circulated a copy of the minutes of the meeting issued by Mohammad Ishaque Lashari of the President`s Secretariat (Public) at Aiwan-i-Sadar, Islamabad.

Earlier, I. A. Rehman of the HRCP said that though the HRCP issued a report regarding the status of human rights – which also covered the issues related to the minorities — in the country every year, it was being felt that the issues were of grave nature and could not be fully covered in just a portion of a report, so it was decided that a separate report regarding the status of the minorities in the country would also be published.

He said a series of meetings were being organised where minority communities were invited to discuss their issues and after this process was completed, a report would be prepared that would depict the picture of the minorities in the country.

Minority MPA Saleem Khokhar said at the meeting that under the separate electorates the minority representatives had to contest elections so they took care of their electorate, knowing that he would have to go to them again in next polls. But now under the joint electorate system, the political party chief had the power to nominate anybody he liked. So if he selected his peon and nominated him for the seat, he would become a parliamentarian.

He said a major drawback of this system was that in many cases the voters did not know their representative and the parliamentarian might also not be paying due attention to the electorate, knowing that he had become a parliamentarian because of his party chief`s blessing and not because of his voters` wishes.

Other speakers raised the issue of forced conversion of minor girls and their marriage with Muslim boys. They demanded that in case of minors, they be reunited with the families till their adulthood and if they still wanted to convert, they be allowed to do so. They said more than 45 Hindu girls had been forcibly converted in Sindh in the past couple of years.

They demanded that the Minorities Commission, working under the federal Social Welfare Ministry, be abolished and an autonomous and financially independent commission, which should be a statutory body, be constituted. And it should have the powers to receive complaints, investigate them, give recommendations on laws, and should present its report to parliament annually.

Stressing curriculum reforms, they demanded that textbooks be free from portraying the superiority of one community to another, and if the injecting of religious teachings was necessary, it should comprise tolerant sections from each religion preaching peaceful coexistence of all people in society.

They alleged that the ruling party in Punjab was showing sympathy to and alliance with a hate campaign launched by some religious groups against the Ahmadis, and attacks against that community were on the rise. They said till the time laws were reviewed/ changed, the situation could be improved through administrative orders.

They also expressed concern over a stay granted by a Lahore court as the petitioner feared that the president might grant pardon to a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy. They said the government and the judiciary should not succumb to the wishes of extremist views held by a small number of people.

A speaker alleged that when he had applied for a job in an Atomic Energy Commission institute at Tando Jam, he was told that non-Muslims were not recruited in the institute.

A speaker said that though a five per cent employment quota was allocated for the minorities, it was not being implemented judiciously. Most minority members were recruited for low-level jobs such as sanitary workers, peons, etc. They demanded that the implementation of the quota be made compulsory in every grade.

They also urged the media to accommodate liberal religious scholars in their talk shows.

Ghazi Salahuddin, Roland deSouza, Asad Iqbal, Dr Sabir Michael, Shamsher Ali, Kalpana Devi, Munawwar Shahid, Kersasp Shekhdar, Rochiram, Badar Soomro, and others also spoke.

RESOLUTION passed at the PIPFPD Annual Convention held at Jammu

The Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) expresses its deep concern regarding the current stalemate in talks between India and Pakistan. There is an apparent breakdown in the peace process since attacks on Mumbai on November 26 2008.

The leaders of both the countries, however, have had quite a few meetings on the sidelines of various summits in the last two years. The last meeting of Indian External Affairs Minister Mr. S M Krishna and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi held in Islamabad in July 2010, particularly had generated quite a lot of hope for restoration of the full dialogue process. Unfortunately, there was no breakthrough. Both the Foreign Ministers decided to meet again by the end of the year. But, now it seems that substantial progress will not be achieved in the near future.

We are reminded of Indian PM, Dr Manmohan Singh’s oft-made statement that ‘dialogue is the only way’ while Pakistan has been concerned about substantial gains from the process. We urge both the governments to immediately resume the full peace process. It is noteworthy that prior to attacks on Mumbai, we had four rounds of composite dialogue and fifth was on. The resumption of peace process will help not only citizens of India and Pakistan but whole of South Asia.

We also urge both the governments to revive the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners set up by the Foreign Ministries. We also appeal that the unanimous recommendations of the Judicial Committee be implemented. The release of innocent fishermen and other civilian prisoners will help as a big CBM. We have verified list of 51 Pakistani nationals incarcerated  in the Central Jail, Amritsar. Some of them have been in this jail since 1997. We are in possession of names of 50 Indian nationals in Pakistani jails. Among these is a person, who has already spent nearly 24 years in Central jail, Mianwali.
The forum further urges both the governments to liberalise the visa regime and make it stress-free in order to promote people-to-people interaction which will in turn make peace enduring.

The situation in Jammu & Kashmir is a matter of concern for all us. The protests movement spearheaded by the youth since June 2010 has been largely peaceful, It is unfortunate that stone throwing young boys have been shot and killed. During the past six months about 120 persons have been killed. While appreciating Government of India’s decision to appoint a team of three interlocutors, we urge the government to take more concrete steps like reducing the presence of security forces from the valley, removing the larger number of security bunkers from the urban areas and release all the persons arrested since June unconditionally. The Government needs to begin the process of punishing the erring members of the army and other security forces who have been implicated in enforced disappearances, custodial killings and torture. These steps will go a long way in reducing the mounting tension in the valley and in facilitating a meaningful dialogue the people and the interlocutors.
A meaningful involvement of the people of Jammu & Kashmir will be possible only when human rights violations in the region are stopped and justice issues are addressed. A peaceful and democratic initiative to resolve the Kashmir dispute is the urgent need of the day.. We further urge the government of India to resume dialogue with all sections of the Kashmiri society without pre-conditions. We also urge the Government of Pakistan to take immediate steps to stop militants from crossing the LoC and initiate a transparent and a democratic dialogue with the peoples of Azad Jammu and Kashmir so that their views and aspirations for the future of Kashmir may be freely articulated.

The Forum reiterates its position on the Jammu & Kashmir that ‘it is not a mere territorial dispute between India and Pakistan; the people of Jammu & Kashmir should be involved on both sides of the LoC in any dialogue process’.