Monday, March 19, 2012

HRCP alarmed over deteriorating state of human rights

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Sunday voiced alarm over the continued deterioration in the state of human rights across the country, emphasising the institutions and authorities concerned to urgently address the pressing issue of violations of human rights across the country.

Speakers at the HRCP’s annual general meeting said, “The HRCP urges the government to pay immediate attention to the early warning signs and unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan, and urges action to address people’s political and socio-economic concerns and an end to sectarian violence. There has been no improvement in the situation in Karachi and nothing has been done to prevent the regular cycles of violence. A new wave of targeting political activists in Sindh, through abduction and murder has added to the sufferings of the people,” said the speakers while expressing their concerns over the situation in Gilgit-Baltistan and Karachi.

The speakers said, “The country is passing through a critical phase where the democratic experiment is on trial and it is imperative that political process is respected and reinforced. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan considers it important that the process of improving the constitution continues until all accretions of dictatorship are thrown out and the issues of fundamental rights are resolved. In HRCP’s view, a four-year term for parliament may also be considered to enable the people to exercise their democratic rights more frequently, and to hold the government accountable. It will also create space for the emergence of fresh leadership.”

“The HRCP is acutely concerned over escalations in religious and sectarian violence and urges the government to launch and sustain a robust effort by civilian and military authorities to adequately respond to the growing menace, especially the oppression of the Ahmadis, killings of the Shias, kidnappings for ransom and forced conversion of minorities. At least part of the focus must be on stemming intolerance in society,” said the speakers in the meeting.

They said it was time to improve vigilance against any form of extra-democratic intervention in the forthcoming general elections, by military, extremists or any special judicial process. People’s anxieties on that count must be given due weight and urgently addressed, emphasised the speakers.

Expressing concern over the situation in Balochistan, they said, “It is hard to be optimistic about Balochistan, where victims of forced disappearances remain missing or their bodies are increasingly discovered. At least 173 bodies were found in 2011. Unless political means are used to address an essentially political problem, things are bound to get worse. Impunity for security agencies must be ended, law and order improved and the rise in the incidents of kidnappings for ransom brought under control. In the final analysis, the people of Balochistan must have a decisive say in their affairs.”

The HRCP condemned threats to rights activists, saying, “Threats to human rights defenders have continued unchallenged and three HRCP activists have been killed in 2011 alone. The state must ensure protection for those defending others’ rights and provide an environment conducive for them to work without threats to their lives. The HRCP general body condemns the degree of freedom allowed to certain groups to circulate malicious material against individuals like Asma Jahangir. Such acts must be investigated seriously and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

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