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Tuesday April 16, 2024

Live screening of Pakistan’s UPR session

By Myra Imran
January 31, 2023

Islamabad:Member states of United Nations Human Rights Council recommended Pakistan to strengthen human rights intuitions, protect the rights of vulnerable groups, abolish capital punishment, sign the international convention on enforced disappearance and investigates all reports of intimidation and violence against journalists and human rights defenders.

The recommendations were made in the Pakistan’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the 42nd session of UPR Working Group in the UN Human Rights Council held on Monday.

The session was live screened at an event organised jointly by National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights (PCHR).

The live screening was held in the presence of prominent civil society activists, diplomats, journalists, students and government representatives. To maximise social media outreach of the session, the event also featured live tweeting with a hashtag #UPRPak besides providing a space for informal discussions among relevant stakeholders. A simultaneous screening event also took place in Lahore.

In addition to that, the participants also expressed their opinion through posters inscribed with emojis of smile and tied lips, and signs such as ‘Danger: High Voltage’ and ‘Just Do It’, etc. Participants displayed posters of ‘Danger: High Voltage’ and started hooting in response to comments from Indian delegate. The public interest in the process resulted in the hashtag #UPRPak trending on the twitter at the end of the session.

Chairperson of the NCHR, Rabiya Javeri Agha opened the live screening event with a keynote address. She briefed the participants about the country’s international human rights obligations and the value of the UPR review process for promotion and protection of human rights. “Struggling with the advancement of human rights in Pakistan is a bit like playing snakes and ladders because sometimes we take two steps forward and go one step back,” she said.

Her speech was followed by remarks from MNA Mehnaz Akbar Aziz. She said that Pakistan’s Parliament has a history of raising voice for vulnerable. “Pakistan is one of the four countries with the Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights,” she added.

In a three and a half hours UPR session, Pakistan was given 30 minutes to explain progress it has made in realising human rights since the last review. The presentation was followed by 140 minutes of Human Rights Council member states making recommendations and asking questions. The sessions ended with another 40 minutes given to Pakistan for answering the questions and addressing issues raised during the session and making the final comments. All the recommendations from states would be presented to Pakistan one months after the session.

From Pakistan’s side, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabanni Khar presented Pakistan’s case in her usual comprehensive and articulate manner, stating that human rights lie deep in the foundation of Pakistan and appreciating the UPR process. She was joined by Senator Walid Iqbal and Secretary Ministry of Human Rights Ali Raza Bhutta.

The Pakistani delegation briefed the member states about the legal and institutional measures taken by the Pakistani government for promotion and protection of human rights. State Minister said that Pakistani government and the Parliament is committed of safeguarding the human rights of the people of Pakistan. She said that Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights functions under Paris Principles of Independence and all human rights institutions in Pakistan are headed by women. She said that human rights management system has helped the government craft an evidence-based policy and implement treaty body reports.

Delegates from different countries commended Pakistan for their efforts of ensuring human rights despite COVID19 and devastating floods. They congratulated Pakistan for passing Anti-Torture Bill. They recommended Pakistan for adapting mitigation and adaptation measures to address climate change issues.

The delegates urged Pakistan on shifting more focus towards SDGs; abolishing capital punishment; ensure protection of the rights of minorities women, children and juvenile; sign the international convention on enforced disappearance; strengthen national institutions on human rights; enact domestic violence bill, ensure registration and safety of women voters; and investigates all reports of intimidation and violence against journalists and human rights defenders.

At the end, State Minister Hina Rabbani Khar thanked all the delegates and expressed how much Pakistan has benefitted from the UPR. She listed the policies, laws, mechanisms, and institutions formulated to address the issues raised by the member states.

Having signed and ratified seven of the nine core UN human rights treaties, Pakistan has undertaken a wide range of human rights obligations to its people. The UPR serves as a peer-review mechanism wherein other states provide recommendations to the state under review on how to improve its human rights situation.

The 42nd Session of the UPR Working Group saw Pakistan reviewed for the fourth time on the 30th of January, 2023. Pakistan’s third UPR in 2017 saw it receiving 298 recommendations from various UN Member States, out of which it accepted 168 - a marked improvement from the 2nd cycle when it rejected 7 out of 166 recommendations.