Harassment of human rights defenders flayed

HYDERABAD: The representatives of Sindh’s civil society on Monday expressed concern over the harassment of human rights activists and especially picking up and murders of the human rights defenders and civil society activists. Civil society’s representatives were speaking at the Sindh Convention of Pakistan Civil Society Forum (PCSF) held at Hyderabad Press Club. They said the current state of affairs is affecting the human rights, dignity of citizens, peasant labour rights, right of organisation, minorities rights and freedom of expression in the province.

Suleman G. Abro (SAFWCO), Karamat Ali (PILER), Ghulam Mustafa Baloch (SPO), Prof. Mushtaq Mirani (Sindh Democratic Forum) Mahnaz Rahman (Aurat Foundation), Anwar Rashid (OPP), Punhal Sariyo (Sindh Hari Porhiyat Council), Shahnaz Sheedi (SAP-Pk), Asad Iqbal Butt (HRCP), Javed Soz and others spoke on the occasion.

A resolution was passed on the occasion which expressed concerns about the present situation where civil society is facing harassments and unnecessary disturbances in the welfare and charity work they do. “This forum unconditionally supports the democracy and its principles, however, we condemn the lawlessness and violation of human rights particularly assassination of Perveen Rehman of Orangi Pilot Project, Sabeen Mehmood of T2F and picking up of Saeed Baloch of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and the union of Fishermen’s Cooperative Society.”

Karamat Ali, Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) said the process of usurpation of rights to association and information actually started during Martial Law regime of General Ziaul Haq. There was a complete ban on the rights based organisations and students union and he resorted to violation against those who were raising their voice.

“Only women rights association gave a challenge to General Zia’s regime, which gave strength to other organizations including political parties and MRD movement emerged from it,” he added. Suleman G. Abro said that the Forum will hold a national convention in Islamabad to discuss challenges to the civil society. Punhal Sariyo said that the workers are facing hardship and they don’t have rights. Only one percent of the workers are organized in the trade unions.

Prof. Mushtaq Mirani said it is responsibility of the state to provide rights to every citizen but in Pakistan the state has failed to fulfil its responsibility. “When the government violates the constitution, the civil society has to challenge the government.” He pointed out that Council of Common Interests (CCI) needs to meet after 3 months, but after 9 months they do not meet, which is a violation of the constitution. The government is not doing anything for recovery of the missing persons, he added. Unfortunately, he regretted that the present opposition is not playing its role.

The speakers said minorities in Pakistan, especially in Sindh are being discriminated on a number of fronts but the situation of forced conversion particularly of the under-age Hindu and Dalit girl children and converting them by kidnapping of them and marrying them against their match has become very serious.

The murder of women in the name of Karo Kari has been rampant and Jirgas are being held unlawfully, which this forum condemns and calls upon the state to curb this menace immediately by invoking the right laws and their followings. Since the census is being held in March this year, therefore, the Civil Society Forum demands complete transparency and trustworthy process so that no any loopholes are left in the process, the resolution added. The forum condemned that the attempts to make new laws to control the civil society functions, which is against the existing laws under which the civil society is registered and being monitored. “We demand that such laws should not be framed without proper participation and consultation of civil society organizations.”

The forum asked the National Assembly, Senate, and Provincial Assemblies to support for passage and ratification of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants & Other Rural Workers, realize the Right to Food & Nutrition for all citizens, which requires, implementation of UN Guidelines, including: Right to Food & Nutrition; Responsible Governance of Tenure; Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, adoption of Agrarian Reforms based upon principles of Food Sovereignty through Agro-ecology to enable Climate Justice and ratification and Implementation of the Optional Protocol to the UN Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights. A complete legal and financial autonomy be given to the local governments to implement environmental protection for health and livelihoods as a priority.