ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar on Saturday said that it was a grim thought to realise, on the eve of human rights review by the UN, that citizens’ rights had been violated by both state and non-state actors in Pakistan.
At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva on Monday, member states will present national reports of human rights situation in their countries and also explain the measures taken to implement the promises made at previous reviews. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif will lead the Pakistani delegation which will also include officials of human rights ministry.
Warning against falsifying human rights situation in Pakistan, Senator Babar said that the international community will be sympathetic towards any shortcomings in view of the challenges Pakistan face but it will not pardon if the delegation told downright lies.
He added that the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and independent bodies would also be present at the review conference this year and any falsification will be far more difficult than in the past. Moreover, Pakistan’s international trade, particularly with European Union (EU), hinges on its human rights record, he said.
Farhatullah Babar said that at the previous review Pakistan had agreed to criminalise enforced disappearances but the report is silent on this issue.
It would be best to make a categorical announcement at the review moot that enforced disappearances would be criminalized before the end of the year, he said.
The Senator added that the claim that blasphemy laws are nondiscriminatory and that no one has been punished under it is patently false. It will be honest to admit that the fair and just implementation of blasphemy law presents challenges that the state is trying to address, the PPP Senator added.
He said that the professed commitment to promoting freedom of expression is easily belied in the face of misuse of the Cyber Crimes Act 2016 to stifle dissent in the name of national security as in the case of a Baloch person recently charged with endangering the integrity of federation for his post on social media.
Farhatullah Babar said that death penalty was not mentioned in the government report. But the continued execution of convicts other than terrorists, the recent calls to send more cases to military courts and the “Guantanamo Bay-style” internment centres will continue to haunt Pakistan, he said.
He also proposed a three-step formula of initiating a wider national debate on the death penalty, criminalising enforced disappearances and making public full details of inmates of internment centres before the end of the year to improve the human rights record in Pakistan.