“WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY”, 19 AUGUST 2012 – SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN

Dear NGO Representative,

Attn: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

As you may know, 19 August is World Humanitarian Day.  Every day we see and hear images and stories of human pain and suffering – in our own neighbourhoods or in countries far away.  We believe we can all do something about it, and that together, we really can make the world a better place.

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly designated 19 August ‘World Humanitarian Day’: to raise public awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide; to recognize people who risk their lives to help people in need – wherever they are; to mark the day when 22 UN and aid agency workers lost their lives in an attack on the UN offices in Baghdad

Four years later, World Humanitarian Day has become a global celebration of humanitarian action. This year’s ‘I Was Here’ campaign celebrates the collective power of people to help others and leave the world in a better state than they found it. It captures the spirit of ‘people helping people.  This can mean helping a neighbour or volunteering at a local charity.  It could also mean travelling to another country as part an emergency life-saving team or running a major aid operation.  Music superstar Beyonce is lending her inspiring song ‘I Was Here’ and helping to promote the campaign. We urge everyone to pledge at least one humanitarian action on WHD – however great or small – and tell the world about it

Our “goal” this year is also to make the day more well known–like Human Rights Day, or International Women’s Day.  To this end, the United Nations is engaged in a social media campaign, which aims to reach one billion people, with the theme of “people helping people.”

We are turning to you to get your organisation’s support for the campaign.

We are therefore asking you the following:

1. Please ask all your staff to join the campaign to support WHD through their personal Facebook, Weibo, or Twitter accounts.
2.  If your organisation has a Twitter or Facebook account, sign your organisation up to the campaign, using whichever account has more followers. Through the technology of Thunderclap, all your followers will be added to the total number of people reached.

 

 

 

HRCP moot proposes roadmap for democratic Pakistan

Islamabad, August 12: Pakistan’s survival depends on strengthening the democratic process so as to remove the tensions and imbalance in civil and military relations and ensure that all institutions of the state play their role in the well being of the people within their parameters. This was the consensus at a consultation organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) here.

The consultation on ‘civil-military relations and their impact on human rights’ was attended by politicians from across the political spectrum, former military officers, representatives of civil society, noted academics and journalists.

The assembly passed the following resolution at the conclusion of the consultation.

1.     Pakistan’s survival lies in strengthening the democratic process and it cannot flourish without the existence of a strong parliament or an independent judiciary. The country needs both. However, recent events are disturbing as the authority of the parliament has been undermined and its lawmaking power challenged. All laws that are in contravention of fundamental rights ought to be struck down by the courts but they cannot put restrictions on the parliament to enact laws.

2.     An independent judiciary and an efficient system of administration of justice is the backbone to any democratic structure. In order to further strengthen the judiciary’s independent character, political parties should consider the establishment of a Constitutional Court as promised in the Charter of Democracy that was signed by the two major political parties of the country. After the adoption of the 18th Amendment and the creation of new relationships between the federation and the units, establishment of such a court has become imminent.

3.     There is an urgent need for ensuring transparency in revenue collection and use of resources. In this regard all institutions of the State, including the various branches of the executive, the military, the intelligence agencies as well as the judiciary, should be made accountable.

4.     The military’s service to the country cannot be denied. It has hugely suffered in the last few years while fighting terrorism but it must maintain its professionalism, among other things, by winding up intelligence work of political nature and its business enterprises which are not only an unnecessary burden on the economy but also distract the military from its professional duties.

5.     Considerable damage is being caused by the gap in the understanding between military commanders on one side and civilian authorities and civil society on the other regarding the direction that the country ought to take. It is essential that the two sides engage in mutual discussions and find ways to move forward.

6.     The situation in Balochistan is extremely critical and offers the most grave example of imbalance in civil-military relations and their impact on human rights. It is vital that political leadership of all shades addresses this critical situation seriously and with due diligence and sobriety.

  1. For harmonious civil and military relationship and promotion of human rights, it is absolutely essential that the political parties contribute to the growth of democratic culture by democratising their own party apparatus.
  2. It is vital that political parties address human rights issues more seriously, especially enforced disappearances, oppressive laws in FATA and PATA, and the widespread acceptance of torture. The political parties must take a holistic view of parliament’s sovereign rights by giving priority to the people’s needs and aspirations, addressing foreign policy issues, and accepting ownership of and responsibility for allpolicies and decisions.

9.     Legal cells may be created in all political parties so that they can better perform their legislative responsibilities and enable the parties to take their task more seriously.

10.   All political parties must ensure that the forthcoming elections are held in a free atmosphere and that no agencies, not even security and intelligence services, interfere in this process. It is equally important that political parties do not invite unnecessary interference of the judiciary in the election process. All political parties should pledge that women will not be restrained from exercising their right to vote and the parties will not be part of any scheme to deprive women of their right to franchise.

11.  The state, the political parties and civil society should have zero tolerance for any form of militancy. No one should remain silent where it becomes evident that any state functionaries or political elements are throwing up, protecting or colluding with militant elements.

12.  The practice of doling out discretionary funds to parliamentarians should cease. This has corrupted politics and given rise to nepotism. The politics of giving plots to bureaucrats and judiciary must also be discontinued.

13.  It is regrettable that Mr. Farhatullah Babar’s bill on the need for regulating the functioning of intelligence agencies that was submitted to the Senate had been withdrawn. The measures visualized in the bill need to be debated by political parties and consensus developed on regulatory frameworks which the state needs more urgently than ever. Equally important is the establishment of an efficient accountability mechanism which can oversee the working of all institutions of the state.

14.  It is necessary for the development of healthy political traditions that the political parties that have in the past supported dictatorial regimes should own their mistakes and offer apologies to the people.

15.  The adoption of the 18th and the 19th constitutional amendments does not mean that the process of constitutional amendment has been exhausted. Constitutional reform should be continued until the 1973 constitution is revived in its original form. There is need to delete articles 62 and 63 inserted by General Zia-ul-Haq, which allowed decisions to be taken on subjective considerations. It is also necessary to streamline the provisions/regime of the Supreme Judicial Council and continue the process of recognising more rights of the people as fundamental.

  1. A parliamentary committee on trade should be established to make the parliamentarians more aware of and more involved in dealing with the economic challenges facing Pakistan.

At suggestions from the audience the conference agreed that all vacancies of judges in all high courts should be filled on merit.

While the resolution was supported unanimously by participants, the representative of the Jamaat-e-Islami exercised his right to dissent from the clauses referring to the judiciary and the demand for deletion of articles 62 and 63.

Zohra Yusuf

Chairperson

HRCP’s outrage at minorities’ flight

Lahore, August 10: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed alarm and a strong sense of outrage at the continued exodus of religious minority communities from Sindh and Balochistan and said that the state has consistently failed to allay the concerns of these communities despite repeated reminders by the civil society.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said: “The state of anger and panic caused by the reports that several hundred Hindu citizens from Sindh and Balochistan were migrating to India has subsided somewhat by the disclosure that they were on a pilgrimage. Most of them said they would return to Pakistan while some said they might not.

“In any case, reports of Hindu citizens’ migration to India have been coming form Sindh and Balochistan fairly regularly. Some spokespersons of minorities have argued that vested interests are threatening and frightening the non-Muslim citizens with a view to forcing them to migrate. Some of these elements are said to be religious extremists while others have plans to grab the minorities’ property. In any case there is little doubt that the minorities have been driven to despair.

“Religious minorities’ continued migration from Sindh and Balochistan is a reflection of the state’s failure to save these citizens from violence, discrimination and disgusting excesses such as forced conversion of young women. The live telecast of a recent conversion of a young Hindu man on television is a particularly reprehensible and indefensible manifestation of the attitude towards non-Muslims. 

“HRCP desperately hopes that the government shares its distress in this respect and reiterates its call for the state to address, in consultation with the communities in question, the reasons forcing religious minorities to flee the country. HRCP also urges civil society organisations and the media to keep the spotlight firmly trained on the raw deal these communities are getting. Ahead of the forthcoming elections, the political parties also have an opportunity, through their manifestos, and more than that through their actions now, to articulate their vision for religious minorities in Pakistan.”

Zohra Yusuf

Chairperson

HRCP condemns killing of KP cops in Lahore

 

Lahore, July 13: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly condemned the killing of nine trainee prison staff from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in a terrorist attack in Lahore on Thursday, blasted the lack of security for the victims and called for an efficient probe to apprehend the killers as well as for the soul searching that such attacks call for but which has been missing so far.

 

In a statement issued to the media on Friday, the Commission said: “HRCP is saddened by the brazen attack in Lahore in which nine trainee jail wardens from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were killed and is utterly shocked by the ease with which terrorists managed to storm the wardens’ hostel and walked away unchallenged afterwards. The administration has conceded that the staff did not have security and the police chief says that he was not aware that the trainee staffers were lodged there. The terrorists clearly have better intelligence than the police. The attack raises a lot of very disturbing and not wholly new questions. It is impossible to think that such an attack could have been launched without considerable local support and might well have been solely the work of local militants. It has been quite a few months since terrorists have struck in Lahore, may be they do not look at the provincial government benevolently any more. This was a botch up at many levels in which no one looks good, but the provincial government had the obvious responsibility to ensure adequate security for the trainees. Without the negligence of the administration, it is unlikely that the killers would have achieved their designs with such ease. HRCP is not qualified to offer advice on matters of security but it must say that this attack demands a lot of soul searching and much more than the usual response to terrorism, which has been confined to condemnation and rhetoric.

 

“It is far from reassuring to see the finger pointing and point scoring by politicians following the killings. It is hoped that sanity will prevail sooner rather than later and politicians will not fall for the terrorists’ ploy of stirring up ethnic tensions. Instead of indulging in blame games, the federal government and the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab should invest their energies in bringing to justice the perpetrators of Thursday’s attack. The investigators must also probe and expose local networks of terrorists and militants who are bent on destabilizingPakistan.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

HRCP slams expanding violence and impunity

 Lahore, July 11: The increasing incidents of wanton violence and bloodshed across the country, including the recent killing of at least 18 people in Dasht, this week’s attack on an army camp in Gujrat and the daily killings in Karachi, not only expose a propensity by all concerned to resort to violence at the slightest excuse but also a consistent failure of the state to address inclination towards violence and to bring the perpetrators to justice, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Wednesday.

The commission said in a statement, “HRCP is extremely perturbed at the growing incidence and extent of violence in all parts of Pakistan. As many as 18 people were killed by gunmen in Dasht area of Balochistan close to the Iranian border last week. It must be investigated whether the motive for this attack was sectarian or ethnic. The claim of responsibility by a little known organisation must also be probed and the people informed what the official investigation has found. Condemnation of such senseless killing of innocent citizens by all political parties that carry influence in Balochistan will go a long way in exposing and alienating the extremists. Then there is the attack on an army camp along the Chenab bank in which seven soldiers and a police personnel were killed. This is a serious issue and the identity of the attackers should not be a mystery. Violence in Karachi has become such a regular occurrence that killing of six or seven people in the metropolis every day no longer appears to get the authorities’ attention. In another aggravation, faculty members of Sindh University, Jamshoro, were shot at and one of them, Amar Sindhu, also received bullet injuries. The teachers have been calling for addressing the deteriorating law and order situation in the university and apprehending and prosecuting the killers of fellow faculty member Professor Bashir Channar in January.

“All these incidents have two things in common: one, that the attackers are never apprehended, which emboldens them and others to continue; and second, that the entire country is overcome by a propensity for violence to the extent that a reasoned and peaceful discourse has become all but extinct. The discourse in parliament itself and in the media betrays increasingly bellicose tendencies. The most worrying thing is that nothing is being done to address either of these reasons, which cannot be addressed by the police or Rangers alone.

“When the people see regular and excessive resort to torture and violence by police and security personnel, emulating a similar approach may not appear as abhorrent to them as it should. That the perpetrators of all acts of bloodshed must be brought to book is of course the most elementary of things. But scientific methods of investigation rather than beating confessions out of people offer a better way to achieve this objective. Most importantly, steps must also be taken to root out violence from people’s psyche. Civil society and political parties with influence must not shirk from condemning bloodshed unequivocally, and from playing their role in challenging the trends of violence and brutalization of society.”

Zohra Yusuf

Chairperson