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

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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

HRCP welcomes Fakhruddin Ebrahim’s selection as CEC

Lahore, July 10: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has welcomed the selection of Justice (retd.) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim as the new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) following parliamentary consensus and hoped that under his leadership the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would work independently for holding free, fair and democratic elections and resolving all election-related issues.

HRCP said in a statement issued on Tuesday: “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan welcomes the parliamentary accord on the appointment as CEC of Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, who is highly respected for his independent mind and impeccable integrity. It is indeed a positive thing that the political parties have eventually found a way out of the deadlock and it is hoped that the spirit of meaningful consultation and cooperation endures and expands. The appointment to the office of the CEC is also significant because such an important post cannot and must not remain vacant for long. HRCP notes that under the new scheme of things the CEC’s role has shrunk somewhat and the bulk of the electoral process is to be carried out by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that Justice Ebrahim is given a good team to work with and receives complete support from each member of the Election Commission. Once should like to believe that each ECP member shares the new CEC’s passion for justice, transparency and democracy. It is imperative for the smooth running of the ECP and for holding free and fair elections that the CEC and all ECP members stay on the same wavelength, for if they are at cross-purposes at this crucial juncture in the country’s history then Justice Ebrahim’s appointment would not make much of a difference. It is hoped that the CEC’s appointment would be followed by other positive steps required to promote confidence in the Election Commission’s ability to ensure free, fair and transparent elections.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson

 

HRCP slams killing of civil society activist in FATA, ‘mob justice’ in Bahawalpur

Lahore, July 5: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the assassination of Farida Afridi, who worked for an organisation working for women’s welfare, in Jamrud, Khyber Agency, as well as reports of a man accused of desecrating religious texts being snatched from police custody and burned to death.

In a statement on Thursday, HRCP said: “It is a matter of grave concern that the risks facing human rights defenders and those working to ameliorate the lot of marginalized segments remain very high across the country. HRCP is shocked at the targeted killing of Farida Afridi, whose only crime was working for the uplift of women in the area. Two armed men riding a bike shot her in the head and fled. The threats to human rights defenders in FATA are as worrisome as the impunity the killers enjoy. On December 8, 2011, Zarteef Afridi, a well known human rights defender and HRCP coordinator in Khyber Agency, had also been shot dead by two men on a motorcycle. His killers remain at large.

“HRCP would like to remind the government of its obligation to provide a safe working environment to human rights defenders all over the country, but particularly more so in the FATA region, which faces about the worst turmoil in the country. In such places, journalists, human rights defenders and workers of civil society organisations who strive to provide essential needs or awareness to the people at personal peril, have faced perils only because of their role in promoting rights or highlighting violations.

The killings of journalists, rights defenders and civil society activists in FATA is the latest addition to the prevailing hurdles for those working in the region for the uplift of the marginalized people, especially women.

“The threats human rights defenders face are well known and government officials are expected to do more than turn up at a rights defender’s funeral, pray for the departed soul and condole with the bereaved family. The government must prioritise protection for them in FATA and elsewhere, given that they face more serious threats that other citizens. It must take more interest in not only highlighting the contribution that human rights defenders make to society but also in investigating the attacks and bringing the culprits to justice. Civil society must also keep reminding the government of its obligation to protect and facilitate the rights defenders’ work.

HRCP also strongly condemns not only the burning to death of man in Bahawalpur, who had been accused of desecrating pages of the Quran, but also the authorities’ failure to prevent a horrendous crime that was not at all unexpected. A credible inquiry should be launched and its findings made public. The government must not only compensate the family of the deceased for its failure to protect the life of a man in police custody from ‘mob justice’, but also take concrete measure to avoid such unfortunate incidents in the future. HRCP welcomes the registration of a case against members of the mob and demands that the killers and all others are held to account for their role in the coldblooded murder.”

Zohra Yusuf

Chairperson

Shia pilgrims’ killing exposes state’s criminal negligence

 

Lahore, June 29: The killing of Shia pilgrims in Balochistan on Thursday again demonstrates that terrorists persist with their vicious and systematic campaign to target citizens on account of their religious beliefs as state has either been unwilling or increasingly unable to prevent the blatant killings, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Commission said: “HRCP shares the grief of the families of those killed and injured in Thursday’s terrorist attack in Quetta that targeted a bus of Shia pilgrims. After the brazen attack on a bus of Iran-bound pilgrims in Mastung district of Balochistan last year, it was certain that unless the culprits were brought to justice they will strike again. They did so on Thursday. This time the bus had a police escort and yet, as in the Mastung attack, neither the attack could be foiled nor perpetrators captured. About the only difference was that those dead and injured were taken to hospitals relatively quickly. The number of Shias killed in systemic and targeted attacks in Balochistan in 2012 alone has exceeded 60. Everyone knows who the perpetrators are. With each attack, allegations of the attackers enjoying sympathy and support among the security forces gain more credence, at least in the views of the targeted community. In the circumstances, the Shia population of Balochistan, and the Iran-bound pilgrims in particular, understandably feel like sitting ducks. Little wonder then that many young people from the community are prepared to take their chances to flee the country in search of safety, often risking travel in rickety boats in shark-infested waters to do so. At least 70 young men from the community had drowned in one such attempt in Indonesian waters in 2011.

“HRCP unequivocally condemns the attack and is shocked by the authorities’ inability or unwillingness to act against terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has repeatedly claimed responsibility for these attacks. The promised probe into the attack must also look into charges of support for the terrorists among the security agencies. It has also been alleged that the Iran-bound pilgrims targeted on Thursday were originally sitting in various buses but the authorities asked them all to go in one bus, which was later targeted. Some members of the community have interpreted that as proof at least some elements in the law enforcement agencies working hand in glove with the terrorists. HRCP cannot vouch for the veracity of this claim but that too should be investigated. The government should try and imagine the plight of the community whose systematic targeting is now little short of naked persecution. HRCP is sure that unless unambiguous will of the state to bring the killers to justice is demonstrated Pakistan will become an even more unlivable place than it already is.”

Zohra Yusuf
Chairperson