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PAKISTAN: The stereo-type statement of the foreign minister

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-ART-107-2012
November 2, 2012
An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: The stereo-type statement of the foreign minister during the UN UPR made her a laughing stock
Zulfiqar Halepoto
Introduction:
In the second round of the 14th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the foreign minister of Pakistan, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar presented Pakistan's national report on promotion and protection and mentioned that Pakistan staunchly supported the promotion and application of human rights universally. She added that establishing the National Commission on Human Rights and passing bills for women and children rights was a remarkable move made by the government.
Government of Pakistan's Stand:
Pakistan's foreign minister Ms. HRK concludes her 54 bullet point speech with the following passage. "We are mindful that the promotion and protection of human rights is a continuous process that must be reinforced by strengthening democratic institutions with the support of civil society and media. At the same time, we are also aware of the challenges that we face in the realm of human rights. But these challenges are not due to discriminatory government policies or lack of commitment to protect and uphold human rights. The government and people of Pakistan remain committed to democracy, freedom, justice and the rule of law. We remain committed also to vigorously protecting and promoting human rights of our people as well as fulfilling our all international obligations including on human rights."
Response of International Community, HR bodies and Diaspora Forums:
This stereo-type statement was more than a laughing stock for those people, forums, organizations and states who have been thoroughly reviewing the worst human rights situation in Pakistan at state level.
Leading international reports on HR including the Asian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch have termed the running 2012 year 'disastrous' for religious and ethnic minorities, weak and vulnerable groups and marginalized communities of the country. The reports revealed the facts that the there was a rapid increase in religious extremism and fundamentalism, increase in the cases of blasphemy, forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam, increasing militant attacks on progressive and secular civilians, increase in poverty due to privatization and corporatization of state owned public utility institutions, millions of people are homeless, under severe food insecurity crisis due to floods and rapid rise in inflation.
On the other hand military and intelligence agencies have a strong control over security and political affairs and the democratic government is weak on the issues of enforced disappearance of political workers and failed to stop the killing of those people who are raising their voice for freedom especially in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan.
Those HR organizations and individuals who attended the 14th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council in Geneva have countered the tall claims and rosy facts presented by Pakistan's FM and said that in Pakistan religious minorities were persecuted, that dissent was often brutally suppressed by the army, and that little was done to tackle human trafficking.
HR defenders from Pakistan said that the shooting by Islamic radicals of Mallala, a girl educational activist and riots against Christians, Ahmedis, Hindus and Dalit are open secrets of Government non-compliance of international code of protection of HR of all citizens of Pakistan without any prejudice.
During HRK's presentation, delegations of some Western countries and international HR bodies including World Sindhi Congress (WSC) and World Sindhi Institute (WSI) (leading Diaspora HR and political think tanks prompting the right of self determination of Sindh and Baloch people) have shown serious concerns about the human rights situation in Pakistan including army operations, aimed at silencing dissent in the rebellious province of Baluchistan and demanded that Pakistan should ensure that those guilty of torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings must be prosecuted, while laws often used to justify discrimination against religious minorities should be reformed.
Some speak about the misuse of blasphemy law by some vested interest groups, which provides for a range of harsh penalties up to execution for any act deemed to offend against Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Reaction of Civil Society of Pakistan:
On the other hand over a dozen CSOs and networks in Pakistan working on HR issues have issued a joint statement as a rejoinder to the official report and said that they are deeply disappointed to read the government's version of the state of human rights in Pakistan. "It’s a glossy document that does not reflect the ground realities at all. Instead of presenting the true picture of the status of human rights in the country and sharing an action plan to face the challenges, the government has relied on the old bureaucracy rhetoric of 'all's well' and 'we remain committed'. This may never help to address the blatant violations of human rights taking place in everyday life in the country."
This report supported by the entire civil society forums, alliances, and organizations of Pakistan concluded it CSOs report with the following remark "The State report overlooks fundamental rights violations in the everyday lives of the citizens. There needs to be stronger commitment for protection of human rights in Pakistan accompanied with measureable action plan to address the existing gaps in legislative and law enforcement order of the country and in the political will of the state itself."
List of HR Challenges during January 2012- to date:-
External issues:
Hostile Relationship with neighbouring countries including Afghanistan, Iran, India on cross-border terrorism and import of religious militancy and fundamentalism
Internal Crises:
• Military Operation in Baluchistan
• Religious Minorities (persecution of Christians, forced conversion of Hindu girls, migration of Hindus from Sindh, sponsored targeted persecution of Ahmadis)
• Women’s Rights
• Militant Attacks and Counterterrorism
(Suicide bombings, armed attacks, and killings by the Taliban, al Qaeda, and their affiliates targeted nearly every sector of Pakistani society, including journalists and religious minorities, resulting in hundreds of deaths.)

• Over Weaponization and Ethnic Terrorists Outfits in Karachi
• Freedom of Media
• Disappearance of Political Leaders and Workers of Sindh and Baluchistan

Conclusion:
It was Pakistan's second review since the council was set up in 2006 and the report comes at a time when it has been under severe criticism by Pakistan based HR bodies over the gross violation of human rights in the country. This report is presented at the time when the international community is concerned over the militarization of the state and increase in religious extremism, terrorism and fundamentalism.
The feedback of HR bodies has exposed Pakistan's position and it comes at a time when Pakistan is planning and hoping to be appointed as a candidate of Asian countries to full membership of the council. Pakistan is already an official voice of the 56-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
If this state of affairs continues Pakistan may not be treated as a suitable candidate failed to head off a clear majority vote for its membership in the UN General Assembly on November 12, 2012.

About the author: The writer is a peace activist and human rights defender from Sindh, Pakistan,

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