“The commission’s Executive Council notes with great dismay the addition of several alarming dimensions to the many human rights challenges faced by Pakistan since the council last met in April,” a statement issued at the conclusion of a two-day autumn meeting of the HRCP council in Quetta said.
According to the commission, the political situation, characterised by sit-ins, has diverted attention away from other more important issues.
“One of the outcomes has been strengthening of sectarian forces; the people hope and expect the government would remain mindful of its obligation to address the pressing concerns of the people, especially the human rights concerns, even as it tries to find ways to reach out to the parties engaged in dharnas,” the commission said.
HRCP observed there has been an unchecked rise in religious extremism and the situation has worsened for religious and sectarian minority communities.
The commission said a sequence of attacks on Sikhs in Peshawar, assaults on Hindus in Umerkot and on temples elsewhere in Sindh, the target killing of an Ahmadi doctor in Mirpur Khas, killing of Ahmadis in Gujranwala, of Zikris in Awaran and attack on a blasphemy convict in Adiala prison are just some of the manifestations of increase in fanaticism and intolerance.
“Many of those charged under the blasphemy law have become all the more precarious as it has become almost impossible for them to defend themselves at their trial,” HRCP said, adding that the murder of slain advocate Rashid Rehman for daring to defend a blasphemy accused and complete lack of interest of authorities to go after his killers has further encouraged impunity.
Commenting on the ongoing Rangers-led Karachi operation, the commission said the exercise has not been effective as complaints of people being picked up regularly surface and are not adequately addressed.
“The judicial process in this respect is very slow; sectarian and targeted killings continue in the city and statistics including killings suggest that the operation has failed to achieve success,” the commission said, blaming stakeholders for their little commitment to improve law and order situation in the city.
“Poor governance has aggravated the challenge; kidnapping for ransom has become an industry and failure to nab the criminals has created an environment of fear,” the statement said.
HRCP said targeted killings are also regularly being reported in Balochistan, where incidents of enforced disappearance and dumping of mutilated bodies continue, though the number of such incidents appears to be on the decline.
On the killing of journalists in Balochistan, the commission said it was disturbing how these murders were getting little attention in the country.
“The attacks must be investigated and the killers brought to justice,” HRCP demanded.
Violence against women
The commission expressed concern over rising incidents of violence against women and minor girls all over Pakistan despite enactment of seven laws over the past decade, and called upon all provincial governments to enact stronger laws, as well as taking effective measures for their implementation.
It also asked public and private media to adhere to its Voluntary Code of Gender-Sensitive Ethics, adopted over a decade ago.
The Executive Council expressed concern over Pakistan’s inability to combat polio and its negative impact on the economy and the country’s international standing. The commission also condemned the continued target killing of polio vaccinators, especially those struggling to immunise the most vulnerable children in far-flung and conservative rural areas of Pakistan.
It demanded federal and provincial governments to urgently provide increased and more effective security cover to these vaccinators, particularly in Fata, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Karachi, and other focus areas.
The commission further stated that the situation of detainees at internment centres deserves urgent attention. “Lack of meetings with family members and health-related issues must be addressed without delay and each death in custody should be independently investigated,” it said.
HRCP also said it continues to denounce law on Action in Aid of Civil Power enforced in Fata and Pata.
The law violates basic human rights principles and provides cover to illegal acts of security forces in matters of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance, the commission said, adding that those living in Malakand Division are suffering the most under this law.
HRCP said the undoing of many positive changes in the curriculum of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and slogans such as ‘Hum sab Musalmaan’ in Sindh are going to fuel more intolerance and extremism in Pakistan.
It urged provincial governments to ensure that the curriculum promotes humanity and positive values rather than discrimination and exclusion.
The council also termed Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai a source of pride for the nation and an inspiration for peace and education, especially for girls.
This news was first published in The Express Tribune.