HRCP wants early opening of educational institutions

Press Release, 21 October 2009

LAHORE– Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called upon the government on Wednesday to take steps to open the country’s educational institutions at the earliest to defeat terrorists’ foul designs of paralysing normal life in the country.

HRCP’s full statement reads as following:

In the wake of military operation in South Waziristan, the nightmarish apprehensions of possible terrorist attacks on academic institutions were proved correct with the two blasts at the International Islamic University Islamabad on Tuesday. These dastardly and utterly outrageous attacks once again prove that the terrorists respect neither mosques nor places of learning and that their objective is to paralyse normal life. As a result, the education institutions all over the country have been closed down indefinitely on the government’s orders. Obviously, the students stand to lose their precious education time. Already, our children are suffering from the effects of terrorism on their minds with their exposure to gruesome scenes of bloodshed that are being beamed into homes through pervasive media and the talk of terrorism that has become an essential part of our daily conversation.

While the closure of educational institutions as an immediate measure is understandable given the panic among parents and students, it cannot be a permanent solution to the menace of terrorism. The terrorists can bide their time till the educational centres re-open and meanwhile strike elsewhere. The government may not keep educational institutions shut down indefinitely without risking the career of students and future of Pakistani nation. The educational scene is already quite depressing in Pakistan and a long suspension of educational activity would make it bleaker. Besides, such closure will convince the terrorists of the success of their foul design.

Ironically, while the mainstream public and private educational institutions have stopped working, thousands of religious seminaries, many of which provide ideological support and in some cases board and lodging to militant and terrorist organisations are working normally. This fulfills the objective of the fundamentalists to stop from working the moderate educational institutions not adhering to their brand of Islam. Thus, the situation is much more complex than what meets the eye.

The current state of affairs calls for some medium- to longer-term steps in order to resume and continue the education. First of all, it must be recognized that schools and colleges need to be re-opened sooner than later after taking necessary precautionary safety measures.

The role of media in this situation is also a crucial factor. Terrorists seem to have so far benefited from the competition-driven electronic media’s way breaking news and showing live coverage of the terror incidents. The media needs to strictly follow the universal broadcast ethics while showing the terror images. Following a voluntary code of ethics in this regards would not only spare the viewers from gory scenes and panic but also help the media maintain its independence and freedom.

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

HRCP questions voluntary nature of refugees’ repatriation

Press release, 24 June 2009

Lahore: The repatriation of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan does not meet the required standard of voluntarism deemed mandatory by international refugee law, a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

The report entitled ‘Push Comes to Shove’ – whose publication coincided with the World Refugee Day, June 20 – studies the trends and patterns of repatriation of Afghan refugees through 2007 and 2008 to determine whether the process was voluntary.

The study conducted by HRCP’s Peshawar chapter says that even though many Afghan refugees in Pakistan signed up for repatriation, large numbers did so not because they thought that it was safe to return, but because they believed they had no choice in the matter.

Refugees interviewed from camps slated for closure spoke of harassment by police, lack of security, basic infrastructure, education, health and livelihood opportunities in Afghanistan as the main reason for their hesitation to return.

All Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan were required to leave by the end of 2009. Those living in camps slated for closure could opt to relocate to another camp. An overwhelming majority of refugees declined relocation to another camp, not because they were keen to return to Afghanistan but said they would not want to be uprooted again when the December 2009 deadline arrived. That deadline has now been extended to 2012.

According to the report, outside the camps slated for closure, “an environment of persecution and intimidation was created by checking movement of refugees and harassment at the hands of police. In camps, houses were razed and businesses locked, often resulting in confrontation between the authorities and the refugees.”

Repatriation may be the preferred solution for all concerned but adhering to the principle of voluntarism must not be ignored and the needs of refugees with additional vulnerabilities must be considered, the report said.

“Any attempt to repatriate Afghan refugees must take into account their willingness to return and the conditions back home, especially security and shelter,” it added.

I.A. Rehman

Secretary General

Talban are the greatest threat

Press Release, June 2, 2009

The kidnapping of 500 students of the Razmak Cadet College by the Taliban is hair raising. It is yet another barbaric act, which shows, without any doubt that the Taliban and their allies are the greatest threat to peace within Pakistan. They have crossed all limits and there cannot be any reconciliation with militant forces that terrorize and hurt innocent children. HRCP calls upon all educational institutions to express their solidarity with the missing children so that the Taliban and their supporters realise that their inhuman acts are revolting and repulsive.

Asma Jahangir, Chairperson

Fresh attacks on Pakistan schools- BBC

BBC – Fresh Attacks on Pakistan Schools

A school destroyed by militants in Saidu Sharif in SwatTaleban militants have blown up another five schools in north-west Pakistan, officials say, despite a government pledge to safeguard education.

The schools were destroyed in the town of Mingora in troubled Swat district. The Taleban issued an edict in December that private schools must close by 15 January as part of their campaign to ban education for girls.

Meanwhile the Khyber route for supplies into Afghanistan was temporarily closed on Monday after a militant attack.

‘Scared’

The attacks in Mingora took place despite a curfew. No-one was hurt as the winter holidays had begun. A government official, Shaukat Yousafzai, told Reuters: “Attacks on troops are understandable but why are they destroying schools?”

The militants have destroyed more than 150 government schools over the past year, most of them for girls.

The Taleban want to impose their austere interpretation of Islamic law and oppose education for girls – which they say is un-Islamic.

Winter holidays began on 1 January but some private schools stayed open to catch up with lost classes.

But school owners in Mingora have now complied with the ban and say that the schools will not reopen until the Taleban revoke it or the conflict in Swat is resolved. They say that even if they keep the schools open, parents are unlikely to send their children in view of the Taleban threat.

Mr Yousafzai said teachers were refusing to work. “I try to convince them but they’re scared. They doubt the government’s ability to protect them.”

In her diary for the BBC Urdu service, a seventh grade schoolgirl from Swat says there was little excitement about the winter school holidays – which for her began on 15 January.

She writes on 14 January: “Since today was the last day of our school, we decided to play in the playground a bit longer. I am of the view that the school will one day reopen but while leaving I looked at the building as if I would not come here again.”

There are close to 2,000 schools in Swat district. Some 1,600 of them are run by the government, including more than 500 girls’ schools, education officials say. The rest are privately owned.

CSOs’ Joint Statement

A large group of civil society organisations and concerned citizens of Pakistan have called upon the governments of India and Pakistan both to resist any temptation of violating one another’s territorial integrity. These organizations have demanded that both governments must give priority to: elimination of poverty, provision of food, shelter and jobs to all, ensure security of life and guarantee essentials such as water, gas, electricity and social services. As for terrorism it will be overcome by better understanding and constructive action rather than confrontation between states. The government of Pakistan must no longer stay in a state of self-denial. India too must bear in mind that militant groups and extremists thrive in a state of conflict and polarization. Both governments must sincerely redouble their efforts at addressing the rise of militant groups in the region. This may well be done through the composite dialogue that must be resumed forthwith. At the same time, the joint statement urges the Pakistan government not to miss the opportunity of devising an effective strategy to overcome the menace of terrorism that is posing a greater threat to this country than any other nation.

A joint statement issued by the CSOs says:

We condemn the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai and extend our heartfelt condolence and sympathy to the victim families. Likewise, we condole and sympathize with the victims of terrorism in Delhi, Kabul, Swat, other parts of NWFP and FATA. Pakistan’s civil society is alarmed at the loss of life, denial of education to girls and large-scale displacement of civilians in FATA and Swat. The militant groups are acting without any effective challenge by the government. Regrettably, there appears to be a total absence of a cohesive policy by the government of Pakistan to protect its own citizens or any strategy to challenge militant outfits that operate with impunity within and outside the country.

We regret that the media in both India and Pakistan failed to present the Mumbai outrage in a proper context and, instead, used the event to fuel hostility between the two countries. It aided warmongers on both sides to whip up a war hysteria. Quite ironically, terrorism, which should have brought India and Pakistan together to defend peace and people’s security, pushed them to the brink of a mutually destructive war. Confrontation between these two closest neighbours has never had such a puerile basis.

Mercifully, the tension between India and Pakistan seems to have abated somewhat and this is some relief. But the danger of an armed conflict persists and we call upon both the governments not to take peace for granted. Better understanding and constructive action rather than confrontation between states will discourage militant groups that are growing in strength in both countries. The government of Pakistan must no longer stay in a state of self-denial. It must not miss the opportunity of devising an effective strategy to overcome the menace of terrorism that is posing a greater threat to this country than any other nation. India too must bear in mind that militant groups and extremists thrive in a state of conflict and polarization. Both governments must sincerely redouble their efforts at addressing the rise of militant groups in the region. They need to quickly compose their differences over ways of dealing with terrorism. This could be done through the composite dialogue that must resume forthwith because neither country can bear the cost of keeping defence forces on alert and suspension of normal peacetime duties.

We should also like to caution the government of Pakistan against lapsing into its traditional complacency with the disappearance of the war clouds. Blinking at the existence of terrorist outfits within the country, some open and others disguised, will amount to self-annihilation and greater isolation from the comity of nations. The state’s commitment to root out terrorist groups must be total. It must ensure, as far as possible, that Pakistan is not even accused of allowing cross-border terrorism by any group, alien or indigenous. But everything must be done within the canons of law and justice. Killing of innocents and extra-legal excesses will not end terrorism. They will only fuel it.

Islamabad must also repudiate the suggestion that its firmness in the ongoing standoff with India has contributed to national cohesion, revived the Kashmir issue, and enriched the national coffers. Nobody can forget the cost paid by the country for unity behind Yahya Khan in his war on fellow Pakistanis, for the financial windfall during Zia’s agency for the Afghan war, and for the ‘revival’ of the Kashmir issue through adventurism is Kargil. The hazards of living in a make-believe environment are all too clear.

Success neither in the fight against terrorism nor in defending the nation’s integrity can be guaranteed by arms alone. The way to end the abuse of belief for politics or for terrorism, there being little difference between the two, is going to be long and hard. The task cannot be accomplished without the whole-hearted support of a fully informed and wide-awake society. The returns on investment in people’s food security, education, shelter, health cover, creation of adequately rewarding employment for both men and women and ensuring regular supply of water, gas, petrol and electric power will be infinitely higher than on resources expended on guns and explosives. This can be best achieved through regional cooperation and trade liberalisation.

It is these pre-requisites to national unity, solidarity, and survival that we urge the state to address and the people shall not fail it. Pakistan can beat off all challenges but only through people’s fully mobilized power.

HRCP wants GCU-students row resolved quickly

Press Release, November 3, 2008

  

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged immediate resolution of the current dispute between the Government College University (GCU) administration and protesting students, against two of whom cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) had been lodged.

 

In a statement issued on Monday, the HRCP said: “While the HRCP wishes that the disagreement between the GCU authorities and the students had not taken the turn it did assume, it finds there is much to be said on both sides. The action taken by the administration was clearly not the only one available, nor was it the most appropriate choice. However, this in no way suggests that truancy and indiscipline among students should be tolerated or the academic tradition of any institution violated.

 

HRCP is relieved to note that the matter is moving towards a resolution now and emphasises that it should be resolved forthwith.”

 

Iqbal Haider

Co-chair, HRCP

HRCP appreciates seats for disabled students at UET Taxila

Press Release, September 3

 

HRCP appreciates seats for disabled students at UET Taxila

 

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has welcomed the creation of two seats for disabled students at the University of Engineering and Technology, Taxila from session 2008 and reiterated its demand for implementing the government quota for disabled students at all educational institutions.

 

The commission had recently drawn attention of the Punjab governor and the chief minister to a number of colleges and universities in the province who were not allocating seats for disabled students as per government policy. It has again called upon them to reserve seats for special students in all institutions in the province.

 

The HRCP said in a statement: the Punjab government should ensure that all disciplines in educational institutions implement the quota for disabled students. Expeditious action would be crucial as admissions to educational institutions are underway and would be completed by the middle of September.

 

The government should also enforce a 2006 decision to waive fees for disabled students to afford them opportunities to access and continue education to fulfill its basic responsibility of providing education for all. 

 

Iqbal Haider

Co-chairperson