Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed its alarm and serious dismay over Pakistan voting last week against a United Nations General Assembly resolution that called for recognising the role of human rights defenders (HRDs) and the need for their protection.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Commission said: “HRCP welcomes the passing of the UN General Assembly resolution, titled ‘Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection’, by 117 votes on November 25. It is unfortunate that the resolution had to be put to vote this year and could not be adopted by consensus as had been the norm in the past.
“At the same time, HRCP must express alarm and great disappointment that Pakistan chose to be one of the 14 nations that voted against the resolution. “It is ominous that all 14 countries opposing the resolution are from the Afro-Asian region, as is the predominant majority of the 40 states that abstained from voting. The HRDs in the region work in such perilous circumstances that the hope was for the states to be more enthusiastic about protecting them and facilitating their work. It seems that the rights defenders are going to have a rough time in Asia and Africa in the coming days.
“While regretting Pakistan’s decision to oppose the resolution, the civil society is entitled to ask what rights defenders have done to deserve this step-motherly treatment. It is unfortunate that the government wishes to see civil society as an adversary. The civil society cannot, and must not, surrender its role as a watchdog for people’s rights because that constitutes an entitlement, by virtue of citizens’ social contract with the state, and not as a concession.
“HRCP also stresses people’s right to know through an explanation in parliament the reason why the government chose to deny the need for protection for HRDs, who include, besides human rights groups, journalists, lawyers, political and social activists.”