Disappearances, religiosity, lawlessness overwhelming challenges: HRCP
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed alarm at growing intolerance and abuse of belief, continued incidents of enforced disappearance and illegal detention of citizens in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, proliferation of sectarian violence and a general breakdown in law and order in the country and called these overwhelming challenges to the citizens’ right to life and freedom to practise their religious belief.
A statement issued at the conclusion of the HRCP Council meeting on Sunday said: “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is disappointed at the continued enforced disappearances and illegal detention across the country, especially in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This endemic malaise has proliferated in conjunction with the plague-like spread of sectarian violence in Pakistan, which is both widespread and systematic.
HRCP views with acute anxiety the rising intolerance and extremism on the basis of religious and sectarian identity, as a result of growing pandering to religiosity. All aspects of life, including education and the justice system, are being affected. All this amounts to making a mockery of the majority’s belief as well as mocking others’ religious beliefs and indeed the very right to hold these beliefs. Instances of religiosity in state institutions are growing. The recent order by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to make the grant of bail to an alleged brothel owner conditional to her attending a madrassa one hour daily for a month is baffling and has no basis in law. The impact such decisions by the high courts have on judges of subordinate courts does not bode well. Such precedents should be singled out and condemned unreservedly.
Nothing short of single-minded reform and sustained education and awareness drives will stem this destructive tide. The use of blasphemy law to persecute religious minorities should also be highlighted and exposed. HRCP calls upon the authorities to dismantle all sectarian organisations hobnobbing with militant elements and ensure effective implementation of the ban on militant organisations. Unlike the prevailing practice, the investigation and prosecution of cases of sectarian violence must be given due priority.
Reiterating its view that the future of democracy and the state’s integrity depend on the holding of free and fair elections, HRCP calls upon all political parties, media and civil society organisations to play their part in ensuring peaceful and free elections, particularly in Balochistan, and help the Election Commission of Pakistan in discharging its onerous responsibilities, as the present state of disorder and lawlessness poses a serious threat and undermines the prospects of peaceful elections. HRCP welcomes the Election Commission’s decision regarding re-polling at the polling stations where less than 10 percent of the registered women voters cast their ballots. This decision must be implemented as it would increase women’s participation in the electoral process and also prevent the illegal pacts made by candidates and political parties to bar women from voting. The Commission reaffirms its longstanding demand for an end to the discrimination against the Ahmadis and to ensure the inclusion of their names in the joint voters’ list.
HRCP calls upon the government to fulfil in the same term the promise it made regarding conversion of capital punishment into life imprisonment.
The dangerous work conditions for industrial and agriculture labour appear to briefly get attention of the authorities and the media only when disaster strikes, as it did in a horrific blaze in a factory in Karachi last month and in the collapse of a factory in Lahore in February. In industrial and agriculture undertakings, profit clearly trumps safety and welfare of workers, who are entirely justified in concluding that no one is watching out for their interests.
It is unnerving how the authorities now take in their stride the general and pervasive breakdown in law and order across the country, which is denying the citizens of the whole gamut of rights, not least the right to life, but also the right to work and to education among many others. There are well founded fears that the situation will deteriorate further leading to and during the forthcoming elections. It is high time that the authorities respond to the omnipresent paralysis of law and order through well thought-out and concrete measures and not through mere rhetoric.
Unfortunately, the plight of flood affectees in Sindh and Balochistan continues to be compounded by a lack of government response.
HRCP expects and calls upon the civil society and the media to actively play a more responsible role as watchdogs for people’s rights and in continuously reminding the authorities of their obligation towards all human rights of all citizens without exception.”