Human Rights Defenders Coalition: Rights organisations join hands to confront threats
HYDERABAD: Threatened by the killings of a number of rights activists in the country in the last three years, representatives of rights and advocacy-based non-profit organisations have joined hands to form the Human Rights Defenders Coalition.
Following a consultative meeting attended by over three dozen representatives, a 12-member interim committee was formed to strengthen the human rights network in Sindh.
“Rights activists are confronted with threats arising from state actors as well as feudal lords, militant wings of political parties, extremists and land mafias,” noted Ali Palh, the chief executive of Rights Now Pakistan, which organised the event in collaboration with Strengthening Participatory Organisation on Thursday.
He explained that activists working for land, women, labour and political rights as well as others faced security challenges in both the rural and urban areas. The coalition’s primary objective, he added, was to develop district- and region-based networks of human rights defenders, comprising two or more rights activists and a journalist each.
Palh said that the network will instantly take up any threats, assaults or harm caused to activists with the relevant government authorities, as well as holding protests and bringing the issues to the attention of international rights organisations.
Discussing enforced disappearances, Zulfiqar Halepoto, who heads the Centre for Social Change, claimed that there was a sudden rise in these cases after 9/11. “During the investigations into the Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan case, even military officers were subjected to such disappearances,” he pointed out.
Observing that the European Union (EU) had added the issues of enforced disappearances and bonded labour to its 27 conditions for granting Generalised System of Preferences Plus status to Pakistan, Halepoto urged activists to report violations to the EU.
“The formation of this coalition means we are preparing to take state actors head-on. Do we realise how the threats will escalate and what the repercussions will be?” asked Punhal Sariyo, the head of the Hari Porhiyat Council. Responding to his concerns, Palh said that the coalition would establish itself through compromise and coordination rather than confrontation.