ISLAMBAD: It is a grim thought that people’s rights in Pakistan have been dangerously abridged by both state and non-state actors, Senator Farhatullah Babar said ahead of the Universal Periodic Review by the UN of the global human rights situation.
Senator Babar, the PPP spokesperson, said that on Monday, member states would present national reports on human rights situation in their respective countries in Geneva and also explain measures taken to implement promises made at previous reviews.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif will lead the delegation, comprising officials of the human rights ministry.
Warning against falsifying human rights situation in Pakistan, he said that international community would be “sympathetic towards any shortcomings in view of challenges we face, but it will never condone if we tell downright lies at the review”.
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This year, he said, members of the National Commission on Human Rights and independent bodies would also be present at the conference and falsification of data would be far more difficult than before.
Reminding that national trade, especially with the EU, depended on the country’s human rights record, he said that at the previous review, Pakistan agreed to criminalise enforced disappearances, but the report was silent in this regard.
According to him, it would be best to make a categorical announcement at the review that enforced disappearances would be criminalised before the end of this year.
Similarly, he said, claiming that blasphemy laws were non-discriminatory and no one had been punished under them was “patently false”.
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“It will be honest to admit that fair and just implementation of blasphemy law presents challenges that the state is trying to address,” he said.
“The professed commitment to promote freedom of expression is easily belied in the face of misuse of the Cyber Crimes Act of 2016 to stifle dissent in the name of national security as in the case of a Baloch man who was recently charged with endangering the integrity of federation for his post on social media.”
He said that death penalty was not mentioned in the government’s report. But continuing executions of convicts other than terrorists, and recent calls to send more cases to military courts and internment centres on the pattern of Guantanamo Bay “will continue to haunt us”.
He proposed a three-step formula. “Initiating a wider national debate on death penalty, criminalising enforced disappearances and making public full details of inmates of internment centres — before the end of this year — will help improve human rights record as well as Pakistan’s image [abroad],” he said.
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