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Security-centric approach ‘damaging’ human rights

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called for the government and the judiciary to take more interest in protecting the citizens’ rights and ensure that the state distinguishes itself by promoting rights and does more to prevent violations.

A statement, issued at the conclusion of the HRCP Council and annual general meetings (AGM) on Sunday, stressed the need to address several concerns on priority basis. It stated: “HRCP is deeply concerned over the increasing security-centric nature of the state, which is leading to multiple human rights violations and concerns. We hope that in this transition to democracy the judiciary will play a more proactive role in protecting the rights of the people.

“Cases of enforced disappearance pending with the government-constituted commission of inquiry do not seem to be going anywhere. The commission seems helpless and ineffective in either locating and freeing victims of disappearance or ending absolute impunity for the perpetrators. Many cases of disappearance are even now not reported to it for want of confidence in it.

“HRCP strongly urges the government to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and also sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). It also stresses that international human rights treaties that Pakistan has already ratified must be properly implemented.

“Women, members of religious minorities and children continue to be vulnerable to violence. Efforts to alleviate their suffering must not remain reactive only.

“The internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have recently returned home have gone back to destroyed houses, infrastructure and livelihoods. Forgetting their plight will not be wise.

“Discrimination on any ground must be severely dealt with. Accounts of racial profiling on account of ethnicity must be investigated and appropriate training and other measures introduced wherever needed.

The HRCP also called for revival of elected student unions and healthy political activities in educational institutions and an immediate end to gangs wielding influence on campuses through threats, harassment and attacks on students.

“HRCP is inherently opposed to institutions and issues being considered sacred and immune to scrutiny and the newest one seems to be the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The whole country welcomes the economic opportunities of being part of regional trade routes, but it is vital to ensure effective mechanisms for transparency and fair distribution of benefits. It is also important to ensure that this does not have any negative impact on the rights of the people in the regions through which the corridor will pass.

“Setting up military courts—whose judges are neither trained in law nor amenable to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court—to try civilian suspects is a cause for grave alarm. Revival of these courts despite widespread complaints of lack of due process and safeguards indicates that in the future also little effort will be made to improve the performance of regular courts.

“Regarding any military coalitions that Pakistan agrees to be a part of, HRCP believes that these matters should be discussed and decided in parliament and that the country should cultivate a position of neutrality and use that to play its part in resolving issues and conflicts rather than risking any measure that could be construed as having a partisan or sectarian angle.

“At a time when the responsibilities of human rights activists and organisations have increased because of the declining rule of law and diversions from the due process, pressure on and threats against them have also increased. HRCP has also received several reports of NGOs being visited by intelligence agency personnel, including those making queries that are not in any way related to any aspect related to security. These tactics lead to intimidation/harassment and must be discontinued.

“Another grave concern is vigilantism that often seems to be supported by certain elements within the state, and the vigilantes harass and threaten voices of sanity that want Pakistan to be a strong and peaceful country, with good relations with all its neighbours and promoting people-to-people contacts in the region. HRCP particularly wishes to express solidarity with human rights defenders and those in the media who are routinely facing intimidation and death threats for the sole crime of having a liberal bent of mind.”

Reporter. Security-centric approach ‘damaging’ human rights. The Nation, April 3, 2017.

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