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World|politics|August 31, 2023 / 11:41 AM
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan raises questions about attacks on minorities, weakening of political parties

AKIPRESS.COM - The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) during a conference on Monday raised concerns over the condition and incidents of attacks on minorities as well as the hybrid plus state model weakening the political parties in Pakistan. The conference was organised to mark 50 years of the 1973 Constitution, the HRCP press release stated. The HRCP secretary-general Harris Khalique said that this was an opportunity to take stock of the Constitution as a social contract between citizens and the state, My Press reported.

HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani said that the Constitution could function as a living document only if Parliament had the wisdom and foresight to ensure that it evolved along with society and the state. During the first session, HRCP Council member Nasreen Azhar pointed out that the Objectives Resolutionas part of the Constitutionhad marginalized religious minorities, the release stated.

Researcher and constitutional expert Zafarullah Khan said that the Constitution should be considered a user manual of statecraft. It should be reviewed and reconciled with its original spirit and evolving polity, which includes incorporating international human rights law into the chapter on fundamental rights, he said.

Moderating the session, academic Naazir Mahmood said that the Constitution needed to reflect the rights of children, youth and persons living with disabilities, the release stated. Journalist Asma Shirazi, while moderating the second session on the relationship between the Constitution and federalism, said that a 'hybrid-plus state' had weakened the political parties.

Former senator Afrasiab Khattak explained that the contradiction between the de jure and de facto state and 'majoritarian tyranny' had marginalized 'peripheries' such as Balochistan and former FATA. Public policy expert Abdullah Dayo said that a second charter of democracy was required that involved both mainstream and smaller nationalist political parties to build trust in and commitment to federalism, the release further stated.

The third panel assessed how far the Constitution protected the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized. Moderating the session, HRCP member Fatima Atif said that it was important to separate religion from the state.

Transgender rights activist Nayyab Ali said that, although the Constitution protected the right to dignity and equality, it did not expressly specify that these rights applied to gender minorities, the release stated. Rehman Bajwa, the chief coordinator of the All Government Employees Grand Alliance (Pakistan), added that the Constitution did not expressly protect the rights of informal labour.

Researcher and gender rights activist Saba Gul Khattak said that the Constitution did not protect refugees' right to livelihood, while Pritham Das Rathi, president of the Islamabad Hindu Panchayat, criticized its failure to protect religious minorities from violence.

As Tong Ghori, an activist with the National Commission for Justice and Peace, pointed out, Jinnah's 11 August speech on the rights of religious minorities should be made part of the Constitution, the release added. In the fourth session moderated by local government specialist Fauzia Yazdani, journalist Munizae Jahangir questioned the restrictions on freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Pakistan Constitution.

Former National Assembly member Daniyal Aziz criticised the role of the judiciary in supporting constitutional transgressions and recommended that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) be strengthened through parties' consensus. Asif Khan, chief executive of the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation, suggested that left-of-centre parties should take the lead in strengthening constitutional protection of labour rights.

Former senator Farhatullah Babar concluded the session by pointing out that, while the May 9 violence should be condemned by all political parties, it should not be used as an excuse to cede space to undemocratic forces, the release stated. Meanwhile, Pakistan has a terrible record in human rights. The year 2022 was a dreadful year for Balochistan as the forcibly disappeared record touched 629, extra-judicially killed 195 and tortured 187 people, according to the annual report released by Paank, the human rights organization of the Baloch National Movement.

In April, earlier this year, Pakistan vernacular media Urdu Point reported that a protest rally in Quetta was organised by 'Voice for Baloch Missing Persons' against fake encounters and forced disappearances. The protesters called for the recovery of missing people. The report highlights the human rights situation throughout the year with infographics. According to this, in January 2022, there were 92 forced disappearances, 15 murders and one person was tortured by the Pakistan army.

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