Call to protect human rights

Hyderabad: Civil Society Working Group Sindh on GSP Plus on Sunday asked the provincial government to address the rights gap in the province by making relevant laws, establishing and empowering related institutions and creating a more citizen-centric atmosphere for the people of Sindh.

Speaking at a press conference at the Hyderabad Press Club today, the Group members including Punhal Sario, Zulfiqar Halepoto, Javed Soz, Sattar Zangejo, Abdul Jabbar Bhatti, Akash Ansari and Naubahar Wassan expressed concern over the human rights situation in Sindh. They gave a set of recommendations for the Sindh government for effective implementation of the 27 international conventions that come with the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status for Pakistan allowing duty-free exports to European market.

The CSWG-Sindh appreciated that the Sindh province has made important strides as far as legislation is concerned. This includes establishment of the Sindh Human Rights Commission in 2013 under the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act 2011. The Commission headed by the first woman judge of High Court Retd Justice Maida Rizvi, has powers including taking suo moto action on petitions of human rights violation or negligence of such an act by a public servant.

Like other provinces the CSWG pointed out that a Treaty Implementation Cell has been established in Sindh to develop coordination mechanism with the federal government for compliance of UN Conventions on Human Rights as required under the UN treaties and conventions signed and ratified by the Government of Pakistan. However, the Cell continues to struggle with staff and resource constraints despite the passage of over a year since its establishment and over two years since the GSP+ was granted to Pakistan.

The Civil Society activists expressed their distress over reported extra judicial killings and disappearances in Karachi and other parts of the province. According to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, out of 1,273 cases of enforced disappearances in Pakistan, 186 belonged to the Sindh province (reported in the media in Feb 2015).

The Group noted that in terms of social rights, access to education, healthcare and basic facilities is very dismal in the province. There are 1.8 million out of school children in the province. Poor access to healthcare is not only reported in the below-standard state of government-run healthcare facilities but also in the inability of the Extended Immunisation Programme to protect children from diseases such as polio and hepatitis. The Thar crisis is also a reflection of the inadequacy of healthcare facilities in underdeveloped areas. With infant mortality rate at 81 per 100,000 births and maternal mortality rate at 314 per 100,000, the province’s state of health indicators are one of the worst in Pakistan. The same figures for Pakistan are 78 and 276 respectively. Such factors reflect the provincial government’s non-seriousness in protecting the right to life and healthcare of the province’s citizens.