Militancy, intolerance undermining rights: HRCP

Lahore, December 9: Increase in militancy and intolerance has heightened threats to human rights in Pakistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Thursday. A statement issued by HRCP on the eve of Human Rights Day said, ”December 10 is an occasion to reflect on the challenges and opportunities for realization of human rights in the country.

This year growing militancy, extremism and intolerance have posed the main threat to the people’s rights. Many of the old challenges to human rights in Pakistan have remained, as new ones, such as clandestine detentions and enforced disappearances, seem to have taken a firm root. For the second year in a row, the number of internally displaced persons in Pakistan was higher than refugees. Extrajudicial killings and torture in jails and police stations continue. Unmanned drones also continue to be used for extrajudicial killings in FATA with no accountability and in complete absence of official statistics on the number of innocent civilians killed. Among the positives this year, Pakistan ratified a number of important international human rights treaties, thus becoming a party to all key human rights instruments, and the 18th Amendment was a good start in making much needed changes to the Constitution.

However, efforts to implement the 18th Amendment and create a specific machinery for implementing international human rights treaties leave much to be desired. Towards the year’s end, sentence of death to Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges and a cleric’s announcement for reward for her murder underlined the threats to citizens on account of bad laws and selective application of law, which in this case meant lack of action under the law despite incitement to murder. In 2010, journalists continued to pay the price for freedom of expression with their lives in all parts of Pakistan. The country’s prisons are at bursting point as alternatives to imprisonment continue to be overlooked. Little headway has been made on the government’s promises on abolition of the death penalty, although the informal moratorium on executions meant that no death penalty convict was executed this year. However, continued award of death sentence pushed the number of death row prisoners above 8,000.

 The worsening economic conditions have taken their toll on the people’s ability to access basic needs and the country’s largely illiterate labour force has been the hardest hit amid growing unemployment. December 10 also marks the second anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. HRCP reiterates its call for Pakistan to ratify the optional protocol, which will not only ensure access to justice for victims of economic, social and cultural violations at the international level, but will also strengthen national systems to do the same. Much needs to be done to realize the commitment to maintain and improve all human rights of all people.

 The array of challenges would no doubt be difficult to overcome soon but meaningful and sincere efforts are bound to start making a difference straightaway. Finally, the theme for Human Rights Day for 2010 is ‘human rights defenders who act to end discrimination’. There is an urgent need to recognise and prevent the great personal risks that rights defenders are exposed to because they speak out against abuse and violations. The day should serve as a reminder to the government of Pakistan of the primary responsibility it has to enable and protect the rights defenders’ role in the country.”

Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

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