Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced concern at the absence of clarity and direction in dealing with the many pressing crises confronting the State. In a statement issued at the conclusion of its autumn meeting on Sunday, the HRCP executive body said: “The Executive Council of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expresses serious concern at lack of clarity and direction in dealing with the multidimensional crisis confronting the State.”
It said the expectations are evaporating that the state would be able to regain the ability to discharge its responsibilities to the citizens in the conflict-hit parts. HRCP is opposed to drone attacks anywhere in the world, but this alone is not the root cause of terrorism in Pakistan. The fact remains that Pakistanis are being killed in drone attacks and many more are being killed in cold blood, often in gruesome manner, by the militants and that is not being seriously addressed by the political leadership.
It said the changes being considered in the law, particularly the amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), have led to serious concern that they would undermine fundamental rights. Electronically gathered data means that there would be surveillance, eavesdropping /bugging and threat to the right to privacy. There is also the risk of the record being tampered. The discourse on these changes must not be closed to the people. The decision must be made in a transparent and inclusive manner.
It said the government must not yield to the temptation to take extrajudicial or unlawful measures to control lawlessness and must not compromise human rights in the quest for security. HRCP said it is exceedingly unfortunate that Pakistan has not been able to move away from the illegal practice of enforced disappearance. The matter remains stuck in Balochistan and disappearances in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and to a lesser degree in Sindh are causing growing concerns. HRCP is of the opinion that impunity for the perpetrators in Balochistan is encouraging the spike in such violations in other provinces.
The Commission urges the government to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It said the escalating cost of living is depleting the people’s ability to access basic rights, including health, education and food. They have been particularly hit hard by the rise in power tariff and inflation. It is vital that the wages must be raised forthwith, otherwise poverty would lead to crime, more suicides and mental illness.
It said the people of Pakistan have made great sacrifices for democracy and deserve infinitely better governance than they have seen so far. That the parliament is not playing its role is becoming more apparent by the day. This trend must be reversed. It is hoped that the federal and provincial governments would be able to set aside their differences and pull together to get out of the quagmire. Threats to human rights defenders (HRDs), and for HRCP and other rights organisations continue without a challenge in all parts of Pakistan. HRCP would like to remind the government again of its responsibility to ensure a safe environment for HRDs.
As lack of peace and security afflicts Balochistan, FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, not enough attention has been paid to the impact of conflict on people’s lives. Measures to address their plight should no longer be afterthoughts.
HRCP calls upon the media to exercise restraint while reporting terrorism and expects that it would continue to fulfil its responsibility to inform the people not only by breaking news but also following up.