January 2, 2024

Staff report


ISLAMABAD

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed concern over the deteriorating state of human rights in the country.

In Monday’s press briefing at the National Press Club in Islamabad, HRCP Co-Chair Munizae Jahangir said that the ongoing crackdown on political workers and the mass rejections of nomination papers of aspiring electables associated with certain political parties is alarming.

The Commission demanded that all parties be provided a level playing field, and that ensuring this is essential to maintain electoral integrity.

“The purpose of elections is that the people convey their problems to their nominees. However, the people have been rendered silent through the imposition of section 144. The election atmosphere has been destroyed and this will weaken democracy,” she said. “We are concerned that there will be doubts as to whatever government is born out of this. If the state does not want a doubt to mar the elections, it needs to ensure transparency.”

The HRCP also called for an end to enforced disappearances and the immediate recovery of all missing persons.

“We are with the Baloch women protesters at the sit in and we demand that the state resolve the issue of missing persons by producing them before the court,” Jahangir asserted.

Vice-Chair HRCP Islamabad Nasreen Azhar denounced state violence against Baloch women protesters, and held that such a policy is alienating the Baloch from the state.

“They were baton-charged, they were sprayed with cold water. Does the state think that the Baloch will side with it after all this oppression?” she posited. “The Balochistan issue has been a long standing one, they are part of Pakistan and their issues must be resolved. Enforced disappearances are a terrible crime – accused persons should be presented in a court of law. Enforced disappearances is a penalty for the entire family, not just one person.”

Veteran Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) politician and HRCP council member Farhatullah Babar stated that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances headed by Justice (Retd.) Javed Iqbal has failed.

“The Commission has failed in unveiling the people behind [disappearances], despite the fact that the law which established the Commission empowers it to identify and prosecute those responsible,” he declared. “The HRCP and some political parties urge that the Commission be disbanded and a new commission under a new chairperson be established.”

Senior leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) and former HRCP Chair Afrasiab Khattak pointed out that state neglect is exacerbating the disgruntlement of citizens in Pakistan’s remote and peripheral regions.

“The periphery and the remote regions of the country, which includes Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s border areas and Gilgit-Baltistan, their people’s frustrations are boiling over,” he said. “Baloch women led a massive rally for the freedom of missing persons and to protest against enforced disappearances. But when they came to Islamabad, they were picked up which proved that the abductor is Islamabad.”

Veteran journalist and former Secretary-General of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Nasir Zaidi, stated that Pakistan’s media is currently in the grip of severe censorship.

“The media is prey to severe censorship. We know better that there are restrictions on editorial content, and that there is an attempt to control media through their owners. The owners are not rendering their due responsibilities necessary for press freedoms,” he held.

The HRCP urged the upcoming elected government to address these issues on a priority basis, as well as ensure the protection and respect of the rights of all residents of Pakistan.

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