LAHORE: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed its grave concern at efforts to roll back the 18th constitutional amendment, evidenced by remarks made reportedly by state institution representatives as well as elected members of the National Assembly.
HRCP’s Council (governing body) said it condemns any such efforts adding that the 18th Amendment is integral to Pakistan’s identity as a federation and a democracy. Equally worrying is the increasingly thin veneer of civilian government in the country, which seems to indicate that the “creeping coup” has not lost any significance since the elections, it said.
The Council also noted that HRCP remains apprehensive about the continuing judicialisation of politics in Pakistan, stating that we should not look to judicial activism to address political controversies and public policy questions. The democratic system must be allowed to take its course, it said.
“The unabated curbs on press freedom in Pakistan are a cause or serious concern. Journalists, media house owners and distributors remain under pressure in the form of intimidation, harassment, abductions and violence. Under no circumstances can allegations of treason against journalists who are guilty of nothing more than doing their jobs be allowed to become a convenient tool to suppress freedom of expression and dissent,” it said.
HRCP also demanded that the state revisit the situation of political prisoners in Gilgit-Baltistan promptly and cease using the Fourth Schedule to stifle dissent.
It added, “HRCP takes serious note of reports from human rights defenders in the field that enforced disappearances continue, with no accountability of those perpetrating and facilitating these disappearances, despite reports that some people have returned home. We reiterate our call for the state to criminalize enforced disappearances under the Pakistan Penal Code. HRCP also urges the state to focus on training and equipping its law enforcement agencies as pro-community institutions whose first duty is to the public. The trigger-happy tendency of the police has resulted in two minors being killed in Karachi: this pattern must be eliminated.”
‘The state’s duty to protect people’s fundamental right to life also means it must address the malnutrition-related deaths of at least 50 children in Thar in September alone, the alarming frequency of mining accidents – primarily in Balochistan – and the rising number of suicides among women in Gilgit-Baltistan. Equally, while upholding economic and social justice is an essential duty of the state, it is critical to acknowledge and enable other actors that are attempting to alleviate poverty and protect human rights. The expulsion of 18 international aid groups from the country and subsequent vilification campaign against them in the electronic media serves Pakistan ill, given that most of these allegations are baseless and absurd. In protecting human rights and upholding social justice, the state needs all the allies it can get.’