PAKISTAN: All international aid must be tied to remedying rights situation

At the 34th Session of the United Nations, on 14 March 2017, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) held a joint parallel event in partnership with Right livelihood Award foundation, World Sindhi Congress, UNPO, UKPNP, Baloch Sindhi Forum and the Baloch National Movement. Mr. Baseer Naweed Researcher at the Pakistan Desk of the ALRC moderated the Side Event.

The organizations were represented by Mr. Sharan Sinivas, Director, Research and Advocacy, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Ms. Rubina Greenwood, Chairperson World Sindhi Congress, Ms. Nicolleta Enria, UNPO, Mr. Sardar Shaukat Kashmiri, Chairperson, UKPNP, Mr. Lakhumal Lohano General Secretary, Baloch Sindhi Forum, and Mr. Hatim Ali Baloch, Baloch National Movement.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Baseer made the following speech:

“To state that the state of human rights in Pakistan is dismal would be an understatement. The analogy, one step forward and two steps backward, could not be better suited to what is happening in Pakistan, where human rights defenders are being increasingly targeted for speaking out.

Branded traitors and foreign agents, these agents of change are ostracized and blacklisted. Sadly, despite the valiant efforts of human rights defenders and that of civil society, the human rights situation has not changed much. Pakistan continues to top all the wrong indexes on gender disparity, infant mortality, and the number of executions.

Year after year we find incessant rise in torture in custody, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, persecution of religious minorities, violence against women, honour killings, child labour, strong laws against the freedom of expression, denial of labour rights, increase in poverty, increase in infant mortality, denial of education and health facilities, and huge corruption at all levels.

The State has ratified different mandates of the UN, including ICCPR, ICESCR, and UNCAT in 2010, and pledged on many occasions that local laws will be amended according to UN obligations. However, no law of the country has been changed since. Instead, the government of Pakistan has blatantly violated Article 6 of ICCPR by withdrawing the moratorium on executions.

The right to life as enshrined in the Constitution has been denied to the people of Pakistan in many ways, be it through enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, or executions. With more than 400 hangings since the lifting of the moratorium on execution on 27 December 2014, Pakistan ranks third in the number of executions behind Saudi Arabia and China. Given serious fair trial concerns, executions are travesties to justice. Insufficient access to lawyers and endemic police torture to extract confessions severely undermine due process and fair trial.

The relentless rise in trends extrajudicial killings, custodial torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests by the State speak volumes about the state of human rights in the country. Ostracized by the State itself, vulnerable citizens are unable to survive in the country. Each day thousands of lives are lost due to illegal State action, honour related crime, violence against women, militancy and attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

On the custodial torture front, despite its obligations under UNCAT to enact an anti-torture law, the Pakistani government has been dragging its feet in promulgating such an Act. The ALRC, and its sister organization the Asian Human Rights Commission, has been very vocal on the conspicuous absence of the law and have been lobbying for enactment for quite some time. Sadly, due to the lack of political will, the Draft Bill has not received presidential consent. The Bill against custodial torture has been pending before the National Assembly since 2015.

The Inquiry Commission for Missing Persons has released its report for the year 2016, which states that 1276 persons are still reported missing; the report states that, of these, 65 persons were traced to be in the custody of law enforcement agencies.  According to unofficial sources, particularly different NGOs working on enforced disappearances, nationalists, political and religious groups, about 693 persons have gone missing following their arrest by uniformed or plain-clothed personnel. The breakup of those missing from the provinces is as follows: from Balochistan 390, Sindh 73, FATA 98, Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa 74, and Punjab 58.

The World Rule of Law Index has scored Pakistan at the bottom in terms of order and security, i.e. 113 out of 113, whereas on the scale of fundamental rights, Pakistan has scored a measly 101; overall Pakistan has ranked 106 of the 113 countries surveyed by the Index.

The State of Pakistan should introspect on the state of human rights, law and order, and justice. Why is it that despite a lapse of 10 years Pakistan has been unable to emerge as a rising democracy on the world map? Why is it that year after year Pakistan slides in its international rankings in human development and rights? The lack of political will coupled with collapsing civil institutions has brought the country to the brink of becoming a failed State. The government of Pakistan will have to take serious actions in earnest if it wants to restore peace and tranquility in the State. A destabilized and militarized Pakistan is not favorable for the whole region, indeed the whole world.”

At the Side Event the speakers passed a resolution on the following:

They urged the government to abolish all the discriminatory laws against non-Muslims, women, and other vulnerable sections of society in Pakistan. They asked the international community to put pressure on the Pakistan government to regulate the uncontrolled spread of madrassas in Pakistan and focus on much needed educational reform to bring more children to proper schooling.

It was emphasized that the government must stop forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Sindhis and Baloch workers and political activists, and that the UN international instruments should be more explicit on the connection between discrimination against minority religions and the minority girls being forced into Muslim marriages.

The speakers stated that international aid must be tied to the improvement of the human rights situation in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh and Baluchistan. This includes Pakistan’s policy of building of anti-people and anti-environment projects such as the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The speakers also agreed readily in calling on the international community to undertake impartial investigation of China’s unfettered appropriation of Pakistan’s (especially Sindh and Balochistan’s) natural resources, and asking the international community to support progressive forces within Pakistan fighting against religious radicalization, which would include supporting groups voicing national self-determination.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-020-2017
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Freedom of expression, Impunity, Right to life, Rule of law,