Saturday, 16 March 2013

Human rights situation in Pakistan Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar arranged by CIRAC&ICRAC during the 22 session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Human rights situation in Pakistan
Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar arranged by CIRAC&ICRAC during the 22 session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva
Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues aslamo alaikam and good afternoon
It is unfortunate that whoever speaks about problems of Pakistan is immediately declared as ‘anti-Pakistan’ and ‘agent’ of some country; and intimidated and harassed and in some cases killed. Let me declare that I am not anti - Pakistan; however, I am seriously concerned about what goes on there, as it also concerns me and my countrymen.
I want Pakistan to be stable, democratic and responsible country that promotes peace and tolerance; and that protects all citizens of Pakistan irrespective of their religious and ethnic background. It is sad that those who run affairs of Pakistan have different agenda. Their agenda seems to be promotion of religious hatred, extremism, and terrorism; and this policy has come to haunt Pakistan, hence the present chaos and terrorism which is tearing Pakistani society apart. I and many others strongly believe that destruction and disintegration of Pakistan is not in the best interest of people of South Asia, so we should help to make Pakistan stable and democratic.
It is prime responsibility and duty of the State to protect life, liberty and property of the people. However, in Pakistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan, secret agencies and those religious and terrorist patronised by them have a licence to kill and torture innocent people.
Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides that “all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”. Reality, however, is that only some people benefit from this law; and majority of people feel unsafe in Pakistan. This is the country that was established in name of Islam and for Muslims; what to talk of rights and protection of minorities when even Muslims are not safe there.
Situation is so bad that every other day incidents of violence and terrorism take place and valuable human lives are lost. Members belonging to ethnic minorities or certain religious groups are systematically targeted and killed. Even places of worship are also attacked and destroyed. People in Balochistan, FATA, Gilgit Baltistan, so called Azad Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan are subject to massive human rights abuses.
Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on its mission to Pakistan (10 to 20 September 2012), and presented to the UN Human Rights Commission on 26 February 2013, during 22 Session says and I quote:
‘Pakistan has endured several periods of military dictatorship throughout its history, which have resulted at times in massive violations of human rights. The perceptions of different groups in society of not being treated on an equal footing with others created frustrations and demands that were often countered by violent means and further inequalities’. Page 5    Unquote
It is good to note that Pakistan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; but question is what has changed since this ratification. Killing of innocent people has increased, and different sects of Islam are targeted and killed mercilessly. Apart from that members of ethnic minorities are regularly attacked, their houses burnt, and at times, forced to convert or killed.
Pakistani officials claim that because they are fighting terrorism and that result in strict procedures and some abuse of human rights. First thing is who created and promoted these terrorist groups. One CIA report asserted that Pakistani agencies are God Father of the Taliban and groups that promote religious hatred and terrorism. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, titled: Pakistan – The Taliban’s God Father claim that and I quote:
 ‘State Department cables and U.S. intelligence reports describe the use of Taliban terrorist training areas in Afghanistan by Pakistani-supported militants in Kashmir, as well as Pakistan's covert effort to supply Pashtun troops from its tribal regions to the Taliban cause in Afghanistan-effectively forging and reinforcing Pashtun bonds across the border and consolidating the Taliban's severe form of Islam throughout Pakistan's frontier region’. Unquote
In other words they established these groups, used them to advance their agenda; and now in name of security and terrorism create environment that lead to further human rights violations; and perpetrators have a licence to kill and torture innocent people. Pakistani establishment is so sincere in export of terrorism and religious hatred that despite acute economic problems they somehow find funds to help these groups which promote religious hatred, extremism, violence and terrorism.
The Working Group heard many reports about the situation in Balochistan, where, according to some reports hundreds of people are missing; and some of those who were missing since 2010, their dead bodies were found with signs of torture. Some dead bodies were decomposed so badly that their relatives were unable to identify them.
The Working Group heard similar reports from the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where relatives were asked to collect dead bodies and ‘ordered to bury them within 30 minutes’, which practically meant not all relatives could see the dead person and mourn his death or give the dead person last bath and religious prayer before burial. The authorities know how important it is for a Muslim to be given the last bath and hold a prayer for the deceased, but in the land of pure not all are entitle to this last ritual.
Mr Chairman
Religious fanatics have become too powerful in Pakistan and in areas of the State of Jammu and Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. Because of the official patronage they call the shots and continue to harass and intimidate people and some cases kill and torture them. According to a report of The Asian Human Rights Commission, one human rights organisation, which operated in Gilgit Baltistan and advanced the rights of women and children, was banned due to the pressure of Muslim extremist group.
The Association of Global Humanists and Ethics (AGHE) was registered in 2005 under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control Ordinance1961 (XLV OF Pakistan). Its registration number (2005) JC-16 (91) and was registered on September 26, 2005. The AGHE worked in various districts of Gilgit Baltistan on the issues of tolerance in society, women rights, and education of girls. How religious fanatics with tunnel vision could tolerate education of girls and promotion of rights of women. They started a campaign against this, and the government of Gilgit Baltistan could not handle the pressure; and in order to appease the fanatics, who have killed many innocent people in sectarian violence, decided to ban the activities this human rights organisation.
No matter how many International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights Pakistan may sign, their policy and treatment is unlikely to change. Who know better than us people of Jammu and Kashmir who are forcibly divided and are subject to inhuman and degrading treatment? Mohammed Ali Murtaza lived in district Kotli which is part of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. He went to visit his sister who lived in a village near the Line of Control. Pakistani Security men abducted him and took him away to their torture cell.
I agree that area near the LOC is perceived as sensitive, and the secret agencies have to keep watch for terrorists and infiltrators. However, the man they arrested and tortured was not a suspect. He was not doing anything suspicious. He had his Identity Card with him that clearly showed who he was and where he lived. He had his mobile phone with him as well. The secret agency people could have proved his credentials within minutes if they wanted; and he could have been released.
Instead of doing the obvious, they stripped him naked, tortured him by hammering nails and drilling various parts of his body. After killing this innocent man with inhuman torture brave soldiers of Islamic republic of Pakistan ordered the relatives of the deceased that the body could only be released if they tell people that he entered red zone and got killed by the Indian bullets in cross firing. Also they told them the body must be buried immediately at night without opening the coffin; and that they must not complain against this. They did not forget to give threat to grief- stricken family that it is in your own interest that you follow these instructions and keep your mouths shut.
Mr Chairman
Due to shortage of time, I had to skip certain details about the case of Ali Murtzaza. Also I cannot give you details of other forms of human rights abuses that are taking place in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. I request the UN Human Rights Council to send a fact finding mission to the area; and help us to get our fundamental rights including right to determine our own future.
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir

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