Archive for March 23, 2011

March 24, 2011

The President of Pakistan

Asif Ali Zardari

Aiwan-E-Sadar

Islamabad

Honorable President,

RightsNOW Pakistan appreciates the steps taken by the current democratically elected Government of Pakistan under your leadership for showing good gestures in the international human rights regime by ratifying the two key international human rights treaties: International Convention on Civil Political and Cultural Rights (ICCPR) and Convention on Torture (CAT). Ratifications of other key treaties: the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and Refugee Convention 1951 would bring Pakistan closer to the list of countries which have ratified most of the international treaties on human rights and justice. We hope your Government will show the similar political will and commitment regarding these conventions as you did in the above two. However, despite the appreciation for steps your Government has taken for the ratification of these conventions, we wish to raise our serious concerns over the implementation of conventions to which Pakistan is a party. The situation of human rights in Pakistan is deteriorating day by day where minorities are living in a constant fear of persecution and fleeing the country whenever they get the opportunity and by whatever means possible.  

President of Pakistan-Asif Ali Zardari

Recently, hundreds of Ahmadiyya Pakistanis, including men, women and children, fled from Pakistan and sought refuge in Thailand[1] due to fear and threats of persecution in Pakistan. This happened after around more than 93 people from Ahmadiyya were killed in a Lahore mosque attack.[2] Ahmadiyya minorities are not the only victims of religious extremism in Pakistan. Other minorities have also been targeted by the religious extremists from time to time. Other religious minorities including Shias and Hindus have also been threatened, harassed, abducted and killed because of their beliefs. Hindu businessmen and their family members in Sindh are being abducted for ransom. This situation has placed a veto on the free and fearless celebration of Hindu community’s rituals and limited their freedom of movement in Sindh, Baluchistan and other parts of the country.[3] The assassination of Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, ShahBaz Bhatti in broad daylight in the capital of Pakistan just two months after the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own guard, in the same city, shows the lowest level of protection of religious minorities and those who raises voice for them or/and defend them in Pakistan. Attacks for the highest officials of the Government reveals the short arm of the law further adding to the fears and insecurity of common public.  

The illegal detention, torture and disappearance of human rights activists is another issue plaguing Pakistan’s human rights record at both national and international levels. The exact number of disappearances is not known due to different factors including the secret detention by Pakistani agencies without trial. Even when asked by relatives, agencies deny knowledge of the whereabouts of the detained, despite eyewitness testimony of their detention or arrest. Despite these hindrances and challenges, however, 8000 cases of missing persons have been reported since the start of the war on terror from all parts of the country. This situation has led to where Pakistan now ranks amongst the world’s worst perpetrators of forced disappearances as a result of domestic and international conflicts.[1] Disappearance causes enormous suffering both to the direct victim as well as to his or her family and friends. It violates human rights and in some cases, is even a crime against humanity.[2]

 In Baluchistan province alone, over 4000 persons are reportedly missing and disappearances continue to be perpetrated. The sad side of it is that paramilitary forces are accused of committing it. In Baluchistan, on one side a hand of reconciliation is being extended by the Government while on the other side bullets riddled dead bodies of Kidnapped Baloches are being found from different desolated places in the province. In Sindh province, Sindhi nationalists are being targeted. Over 100 Sindhi nationalists are believed to be held in secret detentions and have been disappeared.[3] Recently few cases of disappearances have been reported in the province of Sindh including Muzaffar Bhutto, senior member of a Sindhi nationalist political party in Pakistan, who has been abducted for a second time allegedly by plain clothed state actors.[4] His wife fears that he might be tortured or/and killed.[5] Since the beginning of the War on Terror, huge numbers of disappearances has also been reported in the Khyber Pakhtun Kha and Punjab provinces.  

 Despite ratification of Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) the   honor killing cases and other serious women’s rights violations are still being reported from different parts of the country at the similar extent.[6] Pakistan’s implementation of Economic Social and Cultural rights is not showing any improvement in masses lives. Recently, Sindh Education Contract Employees, who were nonviolently protesting for their restoration and regularization, were severely beaten by the Police in Karachi.[7] The Police’s unruly and inhumane treatment of teachers categorically shows how much we have respect for this respectable profession and how much police respect human rights in Pakistan.

This kind of situation collectively is tarnishing the image of Pakistan at an international level, spreading fear, insecurity and chaos within our society, creating discontent and despair among patriot Pakistanis both within and outside Pakistan and forcing religious minorities to leave or flee the country.

At international level, countries are concerned about both our human rights and security situation and some of them are reluctant to issue visas to Pakistanis who intend to go to these countries for education, employment and other legitimate and genuine purposes. Foreign tourists and investors are afraid and unwilling to come to Pakistan and those who are already in the country either plan to leave or have already left the country. This kind of situation will seriously affect the already deteriorated health of Pakistani economy. We believe and know that no one else can better understand about these human rights violations than you because in past you yourself have experienced torture during your imprisonment in Pakistan and your family has also suffered at the hands of extremism.

We hope the Government of Pakistan led by you will take substantial and comprehensive measures and translate its commitment to human rights by ratification of treaties into practice by their implementation on the ground to eliminate the threats to religious minorities and provide them legal and physical protection. Offer fair trials and due process to the accused, uphold the rule of law and accountability, improve the safety and security of human rights defenders, and make genuine efforts to accommodate the concerns of political minorities in the country in order to eliminate the discontent among smaller provinces.

We reiterate that the goal you have set by ratifying these treaties is not difficult to pursue. It needs political will and genuine commitment. Writing this letter to you shows we believe that your Government will take measure to improve human rights situation and their protection in the country. 

Finally, we thank you for your consideration of our views and look forward to your response to these matters of urgent concern.

Yours sincerely,

 Ali Palh          

 Director/Editor                                                                                           

Sikandar Baloch     

News Editor                                                                                                        

 

 

 


[1] Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Statement, ‘PAKISTAN: Thousands of persons remain missing amid government inaction.’ http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2006statements/2781/

[3]Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Statement, ‘PAKISTAN: Thousands of persons remain missing amid government inaction.’ http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2006statements/2781/

[4]Political activist abducted in Pakistan: Muzaffar Bhutto-https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA33/001/2011/en

[5]Pakistan: Political activist abducted in Pakistan: Muzaffar Bhutto-https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA33/001/2011/en

[6] Pakistan: Three teenage girls buried alive in tribal ‘honour’ killing. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/01/pakistan


[1] Refugee Arrests in Thailand Highlights Struggle For Protection in South-East Asia, Refugee Council for Australia, Press Release, 22 December 2010, Available at: www.refugeecouncil.org.au/docs/releases/…/221210_Thailand_arrests.pdf

[2]Pakistan Ahmadiyyas bury Lahore mosque attacks victims. May 29, 2011.Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10190389

[3] Extremism, kidnappings take gloss away from Holi celebrations, Saturday, March 19, 2011, Pakistan Today. Available at: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/pakistan-news/Regional/18-Mar-2011/Extremism-kidnappings-take-gloss-away-from-Holi-celebrations