HRCP seeks end to authoritarian governance
LAHORE, March 30: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has underscored the need for a complete break from the authoritarian form of governance for resolving the crises being faced by the country.
Welcoming the prime minister’s 100-day reform and relief package, in particular lifting of ban on student and trade unions, review of the Pemra Ordinance and the Frontier Crimes Regulations, incentives to women workers, relief to farmers, increase in the minimum wages and expansion of employment opportunities, the HRCP described it as an encouraging declaration of purpose and policy.
The commission held its Annual General Meeting here on Sunday, with Asma Jehangir in the chair. Calling for a forward-looking approach, it recognised that the government was facing serious economic challenges which required its utmost priority, but these challenges could not be met unless the rights of the people were guaranteed.
The HRCP general body stressed the need for establishing a democratic and responsible government which fully respected human rights and protected its citizens. It believed that while a large number of reforms were required, some initial steps were vitally needed to pave the way for an atmosphere where human rights could be respected.
It was of the view that the government should become a party to the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratify the Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights as well as the UN Convention on Involuntary Disappearances and the Convention against Torture. Over 1.5 million internally displaced people were in dire state in Pakistan. The government must seek cooperation and assistance from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in this regard.
The HRCP general body asked parliament to set up a permanent and independent election commission at the earliest and dissociate the sitting judges from the electoral process. The judiciary must be restored to the Nov 2 position and all criteria of its independence be adopted so that the selection and accountability of judges could be made transparent. Amendments to the Pakistan Bar Councils Act should also be repealed, it demanded.
It pointed out that there were thousands of Pakistanis incarcerated in foreign jails; over 10,000 are languishing in Gulf countries alone. The HRCP urged the government to depute a human rights officer in missions in the countries where Pakistani prisoners are suffering.
“A large number of Pakistanis continue to suffer imprisonment in India despite court orders that they should be repatriated and there are many others who have already served their sentences.”
A number of people were still on the list of the disappeared and their cases were pending with various courts for over a year. The superior judiciary, too, could not get these individuals freed from the illegal detention made by security and intelligence agencies of the country. The new government should order their release and record their statements so that the perpetrators of the heinous crime could be brought to justice, was another demand by the HRCP.
The AGM observed that no political government could survive nor could people’s rights be protected unless the working of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies was made transparent and they were made accountable to the elected authorities. Parliament should identify the laws under which the intelligence agencies of the country operated and were made accountable. A clear message must be sent out that abuse of citizen’s rights and excesses against them, by security and intelligence agencies would no longer be tolerated.Yet another demand the rights body made was that a moratorium should be immediately issued on the execution of death penalty and in the meanwhile a parliamentary committee should review the application of this form of punishment. “Over 7,000 prisoners are on the death row at present, 134 convicts are executed and 309 new ones awarded death penalty,” it revealed, adding that the number of people awarded death penalty and the executions were among the highest in the world.
The HRCP research had shown that international safeguards and restrictions on the application of death penalty were almost never observed. Capital punishment was irreversible and there was strong evidence that it was being applied in the country without regard for due process.
The general body was of the view that the prime minister must take a pledge from all political parties to denounce militancy and ensure that no political party armed itself.