Activists express concern over human rights violations
KARACHI: Human rights activists have expressed serious concern over human rights violations in Sindh and stressed the need to make collective efforts to resolve the issue. This was asserted during a consultation workshop on “Pakistan’s International Commitments and Status of Compliance in Sindh” held on Tuesday, jointly organised by Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and Democracy Reporting International (DRI) in Karachi.
“Despite concerted efforts by the governments, the human rights and civic freedoms situation in the country is deteriorating,” said Justice (r) Majida Rizvi, head of SHRC. Rizvi underlined the need to educate people to enable them to exercise their rights and protect them.
She said that SHRC had addressed more than 400 complaints of human rights violations and was ready to handle more such complaints. She said that the commission was also willing to provide a platform for dialogue between all stakeholders to work together for better compliance and an improved situation of human rights. In her view, lack of education and awareness were the main causes of human rights violations. The issues of child marriages and forced marriages, missing persons and labour rights were discussed at length.
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Executive Director Karamat Ali referred to a World Bank report and said that nearly 80% of Pakistan’s population lived below the poverty line ($2 a day) whereas around 25 million children do not go to a school, less than 1% of the workforce enjoy their right to association, 73% of children are stunted and 70% of the women are anaemic.
Ali expressed serious concern over the violation of a range of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. According to him, Article 6 about high treason should be invoked against those involved in human rights violations.
According to Ali, people were deprived of their fundamental right of association and collective bargaining. He said that only 1% of the labour force was associated with trade unions in Pakistan, which is a serious situation. The law for trade unions, which was first drafted by Indian Imperial Legislative Assembly in 1926, was scrapped by the dictator, Ayub Khan. Ali said that the law had been passed due to the efforts of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was heading the Postal Staff Union at that time.
Sindh Chief Minister’s Adviser on Law, Anti-corruption and Information Barrister Murtaza Wahab, however, said that collective efforts of the government, civil society, business community and human rights institutions were imperative to ensure provision of human rights and to initiate social reforms.
Wahab added that Sindh was ahead in making laws pertaining to human rights and creating institutions like SHRC. He said that the Sindh provincial government had made a record number of laws regarding human rights and labour rights.
“Sindh government is the first provincial government in Pakistan that has a fixed minimum wage of Rs16,200. Furthermore, minimum wages in 41 categories of skilled workers are being fixed,” he said.
Barrister Wahab also said that the provincial government was open to the proposals of the civil society and SHRC to further work on human rights reforms.
MNA Mahesh Kumar Malani claimed that the provincial government had made laws to protect the rights of minorities. The Sindh Human Rights Department Secretary Riaz Soomro, Zulfikar Shah of PILER and Child Rights Activist Iqbal Detho talked about providing relief to people.