The country’s top rights watchdog has raised alarm over the deteriorating state of human rights and underlined the need to ‘urgently address’ pressing concerns, especially the escalation in religious and sectarian violence.
Chiding the ‘official apathy’ towards minorities and the appeasement of extremists, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a statement on Sunday demanded the government abide by its promise to protect people from religious vigilantism.
It called upon the government to launch and sustain a robust effort by civilian and military authorities to respond to the growing menace, especially with regards to the oppression of minorities.
At the same time though, the HRCP welcomed pro-women rights legislation and said “it will keenly monitor their implementation”.
“The country is passing through a critical phase where the democratic experiment is on trial, and it is imperative that the political process is respected and reinforced,” the commission noted.
It stressed the importance of concerted efforts to improve the Constitution, especially to reinforce fundamental rights and suggested a four-year parliamentary term in order to enhance the government’s accountability and to allow for emergence of fresh leadership.
The rights watchdog voiced concern over wide-ranging issues that included increasing incidents of religious and sectarian violence, oppression of minorities, breakdown of law and order, especially in Balochistan and Karachi, and the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The bleakest assessment was reserved for Balochistan where, the commission said, “it is hard to find a silver lining … victims of enforced disappearance remain missing or their dead bodies are increasingly discovered.”
At least 173 bodies were found in 2011, the watchdog noted, adding that unless political means are used to address an essentially political problem, things are bound to get worse.
Among other recommendations, the HRCP called for ending “impunity for the security agencies,” and stressed that the Baloch people must have a decisive say in all affairs.
The HRCP also urged that the government pay heed to ‘early warning signs’ in Gilgit-Baltistan and put an end to sectarian violence.
Karachi continues to be a sore spot, the agency noted, adding that nothing has been done to prevent the regular cycles of violence.
The commission also noted that the recent amendments to the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) “have brought virtually no change to the system of governance.” It aired concern at “the vacuum that exists in the enforcement of human rights in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata)” and demanded that a mechanism for such be created without further delay.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2012.
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Great advice from one of the most respectable and neutral organizations working in Pakistan.