HRCP grieves passing of Minhaj Barna

Lahore, January 15: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grief at the passing of Minhaj Barna, veteran journalist and a leading member of journalists’ trade unions.

A statement by the Commission said: “HRCP is shocked and grieved at the passing of Mr Minhaj Barna, a former president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and All Pakistan Newspaper Employees’ Confederation (APNEC). His services for the promotion of freedom of expression and the economic rights of the journalist community can never be forgotten. Mr Barna was also one of the founder members of HRCP and remained a steadfast defender of people’s basic rights all his life. HRCP extends heartfelt condolences to the late Brana’s daughter and other members of his extended family.”

Dr. Mehdi Hasan


HRCP wants journalist’s killers brought to justice

Lahore, January 14: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed sorrow and alarm at the murder of TV journalist Wali Khan Babar in Karachi and demanded a full investigation to bring the killers to justice. A statement issued by the Commission on Friday said: “HRCP is grieved and alarmed at the murder of yet another journalist in Pakistan.

We express our condolence to the family and colleagues of Wali Khan Babar, who was shot and killed in Karachi in what could only be described as premeditated murder. That Babar was the second Pakistan journalist killed in 2011 underlines the great challenges and perils Pakistani journalists continue to face on a daily basis. Pakistan was declared the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2010 by international media advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists.

All indicators suggest the dismal trend will continue. While the motives for Babar’s murder are yet to be established, any hope of finding and bringing to justice his killers depends entirely on the importance the government attaches to investigating the murder fully. Otherwise, the long record of impunity for those killing and assaulting journalists in Pakistan seems set to continue. At least seven other citizens also lost their lives in the latest spree of violence in Karachi on Thursday. More killings were reported in the city on Friday. This recurring pattern of death is a stark negation of the most basic of rights that the state is under an obligation to protect. The state needs to take a long, hard look at its shortcomings in crucial areas even in the country’s main cities, particularly in Karachi, and share with the people its plan to improve the situation.

The task of the law enforcement agencies must be more than merely delivering dead bodies and injured to hospitals and claiming to be on high security alerts after the fact.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan

HRCP condoles murder of Justice Iqbal’s parents

Lahore, January 12: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed deep shock and grief at the murder of parents of Justice Javed Iqbal, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, and condemned the killing as “absolutely unconscionable”.

A statement issued on Wednesday said: “HRCP is shocked at the brutal murder of Justice Javed Iqbal’s aged parents in a locality that is considered safe from criminal activities. We condole with the bereaved family. HRCP would not like to comment on the motives behind the absolutely unconscionable killing until the matter has been thoroughly investigated. However, if there is even the slightest indication that this is some kind of a message to the judiciary, that would be an even more sinister incident than the ghastly murders.

The incident only underlines the state of disorder and lawlessness and the extent of perils to life and liberty even in the country’s main cities. Such incidents strain the people’s sense of patriotism to the breaking point and cast doubts on the government’s ability and entitlement to rule. Mere apprehension of the culprits would not do. The people must be given due assurances that guarantees of life and liberty are more than mere words.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan

HRCP for staying execution

Lahore, January 11: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has noted with concern the issuance of death warrants for a man in Sukkur jail and demanded withdrawal of the order, calling upon the government to continue with the informal moratorium on the death penalty in place since 2008.

A statement issued by the Commission on Tuesday said: “HRCP is concerned at the issuance of death warrants for a man detained in Sukkur Jail whose hanging is scheduled for 6:30 am on January 12. This is contrary to the policy followed since 2008. We call upon the government to urgently withdraw the warrants and also demand that the government issue another notification staying execution of all death penalty convicts in Pakistan, as the notification issued by the president in August last year had suspended executions until December 31.

The informal moratorium on the death penalty has created a great deal of goodwill at home and abroad and that must not be allowed to go to waste. HRCP reiterates its view that work to turn the informal execution moratorium into a permanent one should be expedited.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan

HRCP and labour criticise new Punjab law

Lahore, January 7: A meeting of representatives of trade unions organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has deplored the lack of regard for labour rights and international conventions while adopting new labour laws following the transfer of the subject to the provinces under the 18th Amendment.

The labour representatives took exception to the provision of the 18th Amendment that abolished the system of labour legislation at the national level, a provision they have already challenged in the Supreme Court. National legislation was necessary, they said, to facilitate workers’ organisations on the national scale. They said that several provisions of the new Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2010 were in conflict with the country’s international obligations under International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and the recently ratified International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). They deplored the fact that the rights available to the workers even in the colonial era before Pakistan’s creation had been curtailed or abolished by the new law.

The meeting expressed hope that the Punjab government will not be happy at lagging behind other provinces in respecting workers’ rights. The meeting noted with concern that workers in major public sector enterprises were not consulted before crucial decisions that had a bearing on the terms and existence of their employment and viability of the organizations that employed them.

The following recommendations were jointly endorsed by the trade union leaders and HRCP:
·                     The meeting expressed surprise that the National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) had chosen to curtail its tenure. There is an urgent need to clarify the position of all-Pakistan trade unions registered before the 18th Amendment came into force. Law and equity demand that such bodies should be allowed to continue.
·                     Section 3 (1) of the Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2010, which abolishes the workers’ right to form a union in an establishment where less than 50 workers are employed, violates ILO Convention 87 and Article 17 (1) of the constitution. This section must be repealed. Workers of around 4,200 brick kiln in Punjab are likely to be excluded from the ambit of the law and from forming lawful unions.
·                     The new Punjab labour law reduces the number of outsiders in a union’s executive from 25% to 20%. This is contrary to the workers’ right to derive strength from the society wherever a union lacks expertise.
·                     The appointment of presiding officers of labour courts and tribunals by the provincial government without reference to the High Court will undermine workers’ confidence in labour courts. All appointments to labour courts must be subject to the High Court’s approval.
·                     The trade unions regret the failure of the Punjab lawmakers to define the role and obligations of ‘contractor’. They also protested against the fact that the law approved by the Punjab Assembly is less friendly to labour than the Ordinance it was asked to debate and turn it into an Act.
·                     The trade unions regret that the points raised by them at the consultation held by the Punjab government, especially regarding revival of labour inspection system, have not been heeded. There is no hope of due enforcement of the minimum wage in the absence of a system of labour inspection.
·                     A tripartite mechanism of workers, employers and the government used for resolution of labour disputes has not found a place in the Punjab law. It is a matter of concern that a proposal to that effect by workers and employers prior to the enactment of this law has been ignored. Workers’ councils that had representation both from workers and from employers have also been abolished. Both mechanisms must be restored to give the workers and employers sufficient say in resolving work-related disputes. The meeting demanded that all matters concerning labour must be decided after due consultation with all stakeholders as laid down in ILO Convention 144.
·                     The meeting agreed that the right to work, to a fair wage and social security are essential for paying due respect to the right to life and called upon all authorities to conform to the ILO conventions and fulfill the state’s obligations to the workers under the recently ratified ICESCR.
·                     Instead of a collective bargaining agent (CBA), the new law allows the management to deal with workers directly and individually. The meeting expressed concern that this arrangement is bound to undermine workers’ rights and would lead to exploitation.
·                     Workers have serious concerns that funds for workers’ welfare, such as EOBI, which are now to be handed over to the provinces, are being squandered on excessive salaries and perks for bureaucrats and whatever facilities were available to workers through these funds may diminish as a consequence.
The trade union leaders who attended the consultation included Mr Khurshid Ahmed (general-secretary of Pakistan Workers’ Federation), Mr Khalid Bhatti (president of Progressive Workers Federation), Mr Muhammad Yaqub, Mr Hanif Ramay and Mr Altaf Baloch (Muttahida Labour Federation), Syeda Ghulam Fatima (Bonded Labour Liberation Front), Zulfiqar Sarmadi (Hotel and Restaurants Employees Federation), Shaukat Ali Chaudhry (Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz), and Yousaf Baloch (National Trade Union Federation).
Dr. Mehdi Hasan

HRCP slams murder of 2 missing persons, wants activist released

Lahore, January 6: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed alarm at the recovery of dead bodies of two missing persons from Turbat and demanded that both cases must be investigated and the culprits brought to justice and that HRCP activist Siddique Eido abducted by state agents from Pasni on December 21 must be released immediately.

A statement issued by HRCP on Thursday said: “HRCP has noted with grave concern the recovery of dead bodies of Qambar Chakar and Ilyas Nazar from Turbat, who had reportedly been abducted by state agents on November 25 from Turbat and December 21 from Pasni, respectively.

The recovery of the bodies is devastating not only for the families of the two victims, but has also increased distress of families of other missing persons who have pinned their hopes on courts for the safe recovery of their loved ones. These include Siddique Eido, the HRCP coordinator in Pasni, who was abducted by state agents on December 21. Several witnesses of the abduction, including at least four policemen, had seen Mr Eido being taken away by individuals in FC uniforms. It is alarming that even after a fortnight Mr Eido has neither been released nor produced in court. HRCP demands that the government must ensure immediate release of Mr Eido and all other citizens in illegal and unacknowledged detention of the security agencies. An independent and transparent probe must be held not only into the killing of the two persons whose bodies were found on January 5 but in all such cases in Balochistan. The volatile situation in the province is all the more reason why the government must make sure that its agents strictly adhere to due process of law and respect human rights.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan

HRCP condemns Punjab governor’s assassination

Lahore, January 4: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, expressing grief and alarm at his murder and calling it a manifestation of growing intolerance in society.
A statement issued by the Commission on Tuesday said: “HRCP is saddened by the murder of the governor, which must be condemned by all sane people, and is alarmed at the ever growing shadow of intolerance and violence in society. A thorough inquiry to establish the motives of the killer must be held so that people do not jump to conclusions. It would be exceedingly unfortunate if it turns out that the governor’s call for sanity following the death sentence of Asia Bibi’s on charges of blasphemy or differences with political opponents in any way led to his assassination. The fact that the killer was a policeman is a matter of acute concern and shows the extent to which the services have been infected by intolerance.”
Dr Mehdi Hasan